What Are the Must-see Festivals in Japan during Spring?

Festivals - people gathering on concert field
Image by Danny Howe on Unsplash.com

Each spring, Japan comes alive with vibrant festivals that celebrate the beauty of the season. From cherry blossoms to traditional performances, there is no shortage of exciting events to experience during this time of year. If you are planning a trip to Japan in the spring, here are some must-see festivals that should be on your itinerary.

**Cherry Blossom Festivals**

One of the most iconic symbols of spring in Japan is the cherry blossom, or sakura. These delicate pink flowers bloom for a short period, usually in late March to early April, transforming parks, streets, and riversides into a sea of pink. To celebrate this natural spectacle, many cities across Japan hold cherry blossom festivals, known as hanami. During these festivals, people gather under the blooming trees to enjoy food, drinks, and the company of friends and family. Some popular hanami spots include Tokyo’s Ueno Park, Kyoto’s Maruyama Park, and Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park.

**Takayama Festival**

If you are looking for a festival that offers a glimpse into Japan’s traditional culture, the Takayama Festival is not to be missed. Held in the historic town of Takayama in the mountainous region of Gifu Prefecture, this festival takes place twice a year, in the spring and autumn. The spring festival, known as the Sanno Festival, features elaborate floats adorned with intricate carvings and beautiful tapestries. The highlight of the festival is the parade of these floats through the streets of Takayama, accompanied by traditional music and dance performances.

**Kanamara Matsuri**

For a festival that is as unique as it is lively, the Kanamara Matsuri, or “Festival of the Steel Phallus,” held in Kawasaki, is a must-see. This eccentric festival, which takes place in early April, celebrates fertility, health, and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. The main attraction of the festival is a large wooden phallus, which is carried through the streets in a raucous procession. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of phallus-shaped souvenirs, snacks, and decorations sold by vendors along the festival route.

**Shizuoka Festival**

If you are a fan of traditional Japanese performing arts, the Shizuoka Festival is the perfect event for you. Held in Shizuoka City in late April, this festival showcases a wide range of traditional arts, including tea ceremonies, flower arranging, and kabuki theater. One of the highlights of the festival is the Yabusame, or horseback archery, demonstration, where skilled archers on horseback shoot arrows at targets while galloping down a track. The festival also features parades, music performances, and street food stalls offering local delicacies.

**Kanda Matsuri**

For a taste of Tokyo’s vibrant festival scene, be sure to visit the Kanda Matsuri, one of the city’s largest and most colorful festivals. Held biennially in mid-May, this festival dates back to the Edo period and is dedicated to the Kanda Myojin Shrine. The festival features processions of portable shrines, called mikoshi, carried through the streets by enthusiastic participants dressed in traditional attire. Spectators can also enjoy traditional music and dance performances, martial arts demonstrations, and a variety of food and drink stalls.

**In Conclusion**

Spring in Japan is a time of celebration, renewal, and vibrant cultural experiences. From cherry blossom festivals to traditional processions, there is no shortage of exciting events to enjoy during this season. Whether you are a fan of traditional arts, eccentric celebrations, or simply want to soak in the beauty of the cherry blossoms, Japan’s spring festivals offer something for everyone. Plan your trip accordingly to ensure you don’t miss out on these must-see events that will leave you with unforgettable memories of your time in Japan.