This huge float is from the Nebuta festival in Aomori prefecture in northern Japan. Held in the beginning of August, it features huge floats pulled through the streets at night, and traditional dances by the local people. It’s one of the top festivals in Japan.

The National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka might sound like the most boring place in the world, but is actually an incredible cross between a museum, an art gallery, and an amusement park. It’s filled with thousands of artifacts collected from around the world. There are few explanations here, but everything is beautifully displayed: everything from Persian carpets to African masks to didgeridoos. The Japan section is especially interesting, with its huge festival floats, incredible variety of products made from straw, beautiful lacquer work and hand-made dolls. If you go, give yourself lots of time because there’s a huge amount to see.

Editor’s note: this post was originally published in March 2008 and has been updated.