【2018 Edition】Top 10 Things to Experience in Japan from Spring to Early Summer
Spring to summer is the time in Japan when numerous plants, including cherry blossoms, bloom, and a variety of traditional events are held. This article introduces 10 seasonal events around the country for experiencing the allure of Japan.
- 1. Kakunodate's Cherry Blossom Festival (Akita Prefecture)
- 2. Ryujin Gorge Koinobori Festival (Ibaraki Prefecture)
- 3. Sakura Tulip Festa (Chiba Prefecture)
- 4. Aoi Matsuri Festival (Kyoto Prefecture)
- 5. The Kawadoko in Kibune (Kyoto Prefecture)
- 6. Moss Pink at Shibazakura Takinoue Park (Hokkaido)
- 7. Takayama Spring Festival (Gifu Prefecture)
- 8. Kanda Matsuri (Tokyo)
- 9. Yanagawa Dolls' Festival Sagemon Meguri (Fukuoka Prefecture)
- 10. Hakata Dontaku Festival (Fukuoka Prefecture)
1. Kakunodate's Cherry Blossom Festival (Akita Prefecture)
Kakunodate in Akita Prefecture is a beautiful historic castle town with old samurai houses and rows of cherry trees. It is a popular tourist destination, with such a great townscape that it is sometimes referred to as the Mini-Kyoto of Michinoku (Tohoku region). Kakunodate’s Cherry Blossom Festival is held during the peak of the cherry blossom season. More than 1.2 million visitors come from around the country to see this town, which will be painted in light pink thanks to the elegant weeping cherry trees on its streets and gorgeous cherry blossom tunnels along the river.
Schedule: Held annually from April 20 - May 5 *May change depending on when the cherry blossoms bloom
2. Ryujin Gorge Koinobori Festival (Ibaraki Prefecture)
Ryujinkyo Koinobori Festival is held annually between late April and mid-May in Ryujinkyo - a valley in Hitachiota, Ibaraki Prefecture. At the festival, you can see approximately 1,000 koinobori* swimming in the air of a beautiful V-shaped valley that’s covered in fresh verdure. A variety of events, including exhibitions and sales of local produce like edible wild plants, which are a special spring treat, are held at the Ryujin Big Suspension Bridge (toll charge of 310 JPY) - the main event site.
*Koinobori is a banner in the shape of koi (carp). There is a custom of raising them outside on Boy's Day (May 5th) to pray for the birth of a boy and his success in life.
Schedule: April 28 (Sat) - May 13 (Sun), 2018
3. Sakura Tulip Festa (Chiba Prefecture)
The Sakura Tulip Festa is held every April in Sakura Furusato Plaza of Sakura, Chiba Prefecture. At the festival, you can enjoy colorful scenery consisting of about 700,000 tulips of 70 varieties blooming in front of Dutch windmills on the shore of Lake Inba-numa. A variety of events are held during the festival, such as renting traditional Dutch costumes, pleasure cruises on Lake Inba-numa, and Dutch street organ performances.
Schedule: April 4 (Wed) - April 25 (Wed), 2018
4. Aoi Matsuri Festival (Kyoto Prefecture)
The annual Aoi Matsuri Festival is held in Kyoto on May 15. It is a festival with an elegance unique to Kyoto, in which a total of 500 people wearing aristocratic costumes from the Heian period (749 - 1185) parade down the streets. If you want to have a good view, sit in one of the viewing areas (2,700 JPY) in Kyoto Gyoen National Garden or Shimogamo Shrine. There are plans for seats with English guides.
Schedule: May 15 (Tue), 2018
5. The Kawadoko in Kibune (Kyoto Prefecture)
If you are going to Kyoto in the early summer, why not experience "kawadoko" at Kibune in northeastern Kyoto? Kawadoko started when teahouses put stools out by the river to keep customers cool during the hot season. Today, many restaurants build "kawadoko" decks near Kibune River so that customers can listen to the sound of the river and feel the refreshing breeze coming through the trees while enjoying their meals. Kawadoko are usually open from early May to late September, with schedules varying depending on the restaurant.
Schedule: May 1 (Tue), 2018 - Late September
6. Moss Pink at Shibazakura Takinoue Park (Hokkaido)
Shibazakura Takinoue Park is on a small hill in Takinoue, Hokkaido. At this park, you can see shibazakura (moss pink) covering an area of 10,000 sq.m., which is the largest in Japan. The shibazakura have sweet-smelling, tiny, bright pink flowers. The Shibazakura Festival is held when the flowers are in bloom, between early May and early June. There are stage performances and helicopter rides during the festival.
Schedule: May 5 (Sat) - June 10 (Sun), 2018
Entrance fee (during the Shibazakura Festival): 500 JPY/adult, 250 JPY/elementary school and junior high school students
7. Takayama Spring Festival (Gifu Prefecture)
This is a festival held in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture. It was said to have begun in the latter half of the 16th century or during the 17th century. Two festivals make up the Takayama Festival – the Sanno Festival, which occurs during the spring, and the Hachiman Festival that is held during the fall. The Sanno Festival, which is held on April 14 and 15, is the annual festival of Hie Jinja Shrine. Its highlight is the 12 gorgeously decorated floats, three of which have karakuri hono (marionette performances) that are a must-see. At the night festival held on the 14th, illuminated floats go around the town, creating a mystical atmosphere that is completely different from the daytime.
Schedule: April 14 (Sat) - April 15 (Sun), 2018
8. Kanda Matsuri (Tokyo)
Kanda Matsuri, which is held in Tokyo between early and mid-May, is a grand festival that is considered to be one of Japan's three major festivals. It is a festival of the Kanda-myojin Shrine, which has a history of approximately 1,300 years, and is held over six days. The main part of the festival is the Shinkosai, during which mikoshi (portable shrines) are paraded through Kanda, Nihonbashi, Otemachi/Marunouchi, and Akihabara. The Mikoshi Miyairi, in which 200 large and small mikoshi are carried around the town, is also a wonderful opportunity to be wowed by the energy and excitement of the mikoshi being carried.
Schedule: 2018 schedule to be confirmed (it was held May 11 - May 17 in 2017. For further details, please visit the official website)
9. Yanagawa Dolls' Festival Sagemon Meguri (Fukuoka Prefecture)
Hinamatsuri*1 is held throughout the country on March 3. Customs differ slightly by the region, and in Yanagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture, sagemon that celebrate Hatsu-Zekku*2 have been handed down for years. Sagemon are cloth dolls of cranes, rabbits, and other animals that are believed to bring good luck, as well as balls made with colorful thread, that are put up as decorations together with hina dolls. The Sagemon Meguri began to share this custom with tourists. During the festival, tourist facilities and shops are decorated, and events such as parades are held.
*1: An annual event during which hina dolls and plum blossoms are displayed in homes with girls to wish for their healthy growth.
*2: For girls, it is the first Momono (Peach) Sekku (March 3) after they are born. Sekku is the point that marks the beginning and end of a season.
Schedule: February 11 (Sun), 2018 (national holiday) - April 3 (Tue), 2018
10. Hakata Dontaku Festival (Fukuoka Prefecture)
The Hakata Dontaku Festival, which is held annually on May 3 and 4, is the early summer highlight of Hakata in Fukuoka Prefecture. It has its roots in the Hakata Matsubayashi (an intangible national property of folk culture designated by the government), which has a history of approximately 850 years. The climax of this festival is the 1.27km parade at Dontaku Plaza. It opens with Hakata Matsubayashi, with parade performances by Dontaku teams wearing colorful costumes. A wide range of celebratory events are also held at stages around the city.
Schedule: May 3 (Thu), 2018 (national holiday) - May 4 (Fri), 2018 (national holiday)
If you're visiting Japan from spring to early summer, be sure to refer to this article when making your travel plans!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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- #What to Do During Spring in Japan
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