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Spring Festivals in Japan

Are you dreaming of spring? When you think of spring in Japan, what sort of images pop into your mind? The classic cherry blossoms and plum blossoms are some of the most popular and anticipated events in the entire season. The many festivals that accompany them during the time are also fantastic events to come and see. But there’s also many other festivities to enjoy during the season. Let’s look at some of the upcoming spring festivals in Japan to get you ready for Japanese spring!

The Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival


The Kawazu cherry blossom variety, also known as the Kawazuzakura, is a type of sakura that flowers quite early compared to other species of cherry blossoms. Especially in the namesake area of Kawazu in Shizuoka Prefecture, you can get your fill of sakura a little bit earlier if you take the short trip out. 

The Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival is normally held in February, and this year lasts from 1 February to 29 February. Late February to early March are usually some of the best times to view the blossoms, and 70% of the blossoms are expected to be out by the 18th of February. Alongside the Kawazu River, there are a plethora of trees that you can admire as you walk the river path. You can even see the first Kawazusakura tree that was discovered not too far away from the trees lining the river. From 18:00-21:00 during the festival, there will also be lights illuminating the trees, allowing you to bask in the early spring time until the night. 

The Izu Peninsula has a huge amount of sights to see, and is not a far trip from major cities such as Tokyo. You can take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Atami where you transfer to the Ito Line and then the Izukyuko Line, getting off at Kawazu Station.

The Tonami Tulip Fair

The tulip fair

Located in the town of Tonami in Toyama Prefecture, every year the Tonami Tulip Fair is held. Imagine walking through fields and displays of 3 million tulips everywhere you look. Well now you don’t have to anymore because you can visit in person! 

The fair lasts approximately 2 weeks and will be held from 23 April to 6 May in 2024. Hundreds of tulip varieties are available to see, including from observation towers around the park. Even if you visit out of season, you can take a wander through the Tonami Tulip Gallery, which has year round displays and some historical information regarding Tonami and its connections with tulips. You can also walk through the ‘Flower Otani’, or flower corridor, stacked 4 metres high. In previous instances, the flowers adorning the walls have symbolised various seasonal and local motifs, such as the large snow walls in the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Various food will also be sold during the fair, including a tulip soft serve ice cream, sounds like a treat! 

To get to Tonami, you can take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Takaoka and then local transportation via the Johana Line to Tonami Station.

The Otabi Festival 

The Otabi Festival floats, credit Ishikawa Tourism Federation

The Otabi Festival, written as お旅 in Japanese, meaning to travel or go on a trip, is a yearly festival held on the second weekend of May in Ishikawa Prefecture. Not too far from Kanazawa City in Komatsu, this festival is characterised by many portable shrines and floats called hikiyama, and various kabuki performances. The festival dates back to over 300 years ago, and some original floats are still preserved to this day! The floats bear resemblance to kabuki stages, some having what is called a ‘hanamichi’, essentially a short walkway that extends from the stage to the crowd. They are paraded around during the festivities and are used on the last day as a stage for a kabuki performance by local children. What makes the last day of the festival even more spectacular is that all eight of the floats come together at night and are illuminated for the performance. 

As Komatsu is not too far away from Kanazawa City, this festival can make a perfect day trip for anyone interested in a festival atmosphere. You can also visit the historic Natadera temple, and the Motorcar Museum of Japan, the largest of its kind in the country. 

Kashima Festival (Ehime)

The Kashima Festival, credit Ehime Local Promotion Association

We depart from the mainland, and head over to the town of Hojo right outside of Matsuyama City in Ehime Prefecture for the next festival. The Kashima Festival is held every year around the end of April or early May. Centred around the small island of Kashima, this festival commemorates the seafaring clans of Japan during the 12th century, more than 900 years ago! Held over the span of two days, the first day of the festival involves what is called the ‘Kaineri Odori’. What is fascinating about this dance is that it is held on boats in between the islands, leaving little room for error. Portable shrines are also loaded onto some boats in the water as well, being pulled behind others. At times, from the rocking of the ships, they are known to capsize into the sea.

The following day, a sacred rope, known as a ‘shimenawa’ is created and hung in between two rocks near the island, known as ‘meoto-iwa’, or ‘stone of couples’. The rope undergoes a ceremony at the shrine on the island, and is then ferried to the rock pair where it is strung up between the two. 

If you are keen to get close to the action, it is possible to ride some sightseeing boats around the area during the festival. It will make for some amazing views!

Takikawa Nanohana Festival (Hokkaido)

Takikawa nanohana fields, credit Hokkaido Tourism Organization

Moving on from Shikoku now takes us up north to the city of Takikawa in Hokkaido, northeast of Sapporo, and near the city of Asahikawa. The Nanohana Festival is held in late May, giving visitors magical views of expansive fields of yellow and the natural Hokkaido landscape. Especially in spring, when the snow has mostly melted, the fields and colours in Sapporo are some of the best places in the country to explore. There is even an elevated platform available to use that will let you have even better views of all the blooming flowers. Various nanohana sweets and foods are also available at the festival, in 2023 there were nanohana inspired mochi given out to some of the attendees. Similar to many other festivals in Japan, there will be an assortment of stalls offering food and drink, so make sure to enjoy them as much as you can! 

There are many different ways that you can reach the festival from the bigger cities, you can take the JR Hakodate Line to Ebeotsu Station and take a leisurely walk or a short taxi ride. 

Spring may not last too long, especially the fleeting sakura season, but there are so many things to see and do in Japan for this lovely time period. This is only a short list of some festivals around the country, there are countless more that you can attend. So keep travelling and exploring, and discover what other magical experiences Japanese spring has to offer!

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