The arrival of the flowering season, the beautiful sunny weather, and needless to say cherry blossoms are blooming, spring is synonymous with celebration in Japan. We call the festivals, matsuri in Japanese (祭り), that is difficult to make a choice among incalculable number of festivals take place nationwidely annoucing the arrival of the beautiful season. Here is a list of festivals you can't miss held from March to May.
March 1 to 14: The Shuni-e ceremony and Omizutori festival in Nara
Omizutori festival adds a touch of wonder to the Todai Ji temple in Nara prefecture, the ancient capital of Japan, one of the most famous wooden temple houses featuring the sculpture of 18-meter high sitting Buddha made of bronze. But Todai ji is more than a single temple since it includes a large part of Nara Park and all the sacred structures at the site. The Omizu festival is the festival of water and fire and it is a Buddhist ritual more than 1200 years old. You can't miss the events held during this festival. The most recommended one is Otaimatsu ritual where long flaming torches are hung on the balconies of the Nigatsu Do Hall complex at nightfall over the crowd.
March 3: Hina Matsuri Festival at Awashima Temple
Located in Wakayama prefecture, the Shinto Awashima Temple is dedicated to women and celebrates the Hina Matsuri, the day of the girls in Japan also known as the day of the dolls. On this occasion, the temple is decorated with hundreds of dolls dressed in kimonos, which are then placed on small boats that will sail on the ocean. This traditional festival called Hina Matsuri is celebrated throughout Japan. Little girls are given little dolls to put on a staircase called Hina kazari on the evening of March 3rd. On this platform are usually represented the emperor and the inspired court of the Heian period.
April: Miyako odori in Kyoto
The month of April is the month of cherry blossoms in Japan, at least in the Kansai region of Kyoto, where we celebrate the flowering of sakura with the rhythm of traditional dances performed by members of Maiko and Geiko. The festival is held at the Gionkoubu-kaburenjo theater (currently at the Minamiza due to earthquake protection renovation) throughout the month of April with 3 performances per day to admire.
2nd to 3rd Sunday of April: Kamakura Festival
The Kamakura Festival is held at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shirine, where portable shrine parades (mikoshi) are held on a background of traditional music. Two major events take place during the festival: the first is the traditional Shizuka no Mai dance, dedicated to Princess Shizuka, who after having declared by a dance her love to Lord Minamoto no Yoshitsune, was imprisoned by the enemy of this one. The second is the Yabusame festival, the art of shooting arrows on horseback practiced in Japan since ancient times. The archer on his horse must reach a target in full gallop on a track of 200 meters.
April 13 to 17: Yayoi festival
The Yayoi festival takes place in Nikko, a region of Japan famous for possessing an exceptional heritage. The festival begins April 13 with traditional dances and music but it is April 17, the day of Tsukematsuri, that the parade of beautifully decorated parade floats just amaze the crowd.
April 19 to 20: Furukawa Festival
May 3rd and 4th: Fukuoka Hakata Dontaku Festival
With Takayama, it is one of the most impressive in Gifu region and perhaps all over Japan. Most of Furukawa festival takes place at night. The first day of the festival is called Okoshi-daiko, the Wadaikos (Japanese drums) woke the locals to attend the festival. It is one of Japan's three biggest nude festivals (a festival where men wear Fundoshi, a kind of traditional underwear). This part of the festival is known for its agitation and its very strong intensity. On the second day, the atmosphere changes completely and the city fills with elegance. During this day, the 9 parade floats 6 meters high gather in the street. The festival added UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list in December 2016.
Clik here to see our furukawa festival tour
This festival takes place during the golden week holiday, famous consecutive holidays in Japan. Thus, many people come to see (sometimes attend) the parades that attendees dressed in extravagant costumes per group and dance around parade floats adorned with flowers.
15 mai : Aoi matsuri Kyoto
This festival represents the aristocracy of the Heian period at the time when Kyoto was the capital of Japan. During this festival, people dressed in the clothes of this era. The pageant parades from Kyoto gosho (the imperial palace) to Kamigamo temple via Shimogamo temple. Hollyhock is the symbol of this festival.
3rd weekend of May: Sanja matsuri in Asakusa, Tokyo
The festival takes place in the Asakusa jinjya, the place is the symbol of the city of Tokyo, and brings together every year an impressive number of visitors attended the parades of mikoshi (portable temples) and parades.