Religious festivals in Japan, anything but reverent, often sweep you off your feet with their intensity, rowdiness and diversity. Tokyo's most rollicking are the boisterous and all encompassing Sanja Matsuri in the earthy Asakusa district, the equally vibrant Kanda Matsuri at the Kanda Myoijin Shrine in the Kanda area, and the exciting Sanno Matsuri in Akasaka. In Osaka, the most celebrated of celebrations is the exuberant Tenjin Matsuri at the Tenmangu Shrine, near the Osaka Imperial Hotel. Festivals are happily held at all times of the year, and international guests are invariably warmly welcomed.Festival gear often includes hachimaki, headbands worn as a symbol of effort or determination by the wearer, such as those on the heads of the young ladies pictured left, and typically feature inspirational slogans or motifs such as the rising sun. Revelers also traditionally wear happi coats, handako short pants and jikatabi footwear, while those groups carrying around the portable shrines wear fundoshi loin clothes. Guests will often wear yukata summer kimono, cool jimbei wear and geta or zori sandals, and carry round or folding paper fans stored in one's kimono sash when not used for cooling down.Entertainment at festivals is a major part of the fun. You can snag a handful of goldfish like those pictured right using a tricky, quickly melting net, try the challenging fried octopus balls, funky fried noodles, Japanese pancakes and kakigori shaved ice, which many people assume to have originated in Hawaii. Ring tossing, toy stands and cork guns combine with bouncy, traditional dancing in the summer to enliven the carefree, unstudied exuberance.11CELEBRATE!

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