Spring is for Japanese Festivals!
April to May is perhaps the liveliest two months in Japan: Tourists are flooding the country in pursuit of the beautiful cherry blossoms, and the locals are celebrating fresh beginnings with local Japanese festivals. Some of these matsuri are held to pay tribute to the Japanese Shinto deities, while the other celebrations are just in appreciation of the native flowers.
Here are our top 7 recommended Japanese festivals to catch in Tokyo:
#1 Carp Streamer Display at Tokyo Tower
Date: 5 May 2017
Address: Tokyo Tower (4-2-8 Shiba Park, Minato-ku, 105-0011)
For the Japanese, Children’s Day falls on the fifth of May. To celebrate this national holiday, the iconic Tokyo is decorated with colourful carp wind socks every year. “Leading” the school of carp is a 6m saury fish streamer, which is in support of the reconstruction efforts of Ofunato, Iwate after it was hit by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake in 2011. The decorations are only taken down at the end of Golden Week.
#2 Edo Yoshiwara Oiran-dochu Procession at the Ichiyo Sakura Matsuri
Date: Every second Saturday of April (8 April 2017)
Address: Asakusa Komatsubashi-dori Street, Asakusa 4-chome to Senzoku, Taito-ku
The Ichiyo Sakura Matsuri is named after the yaezakura cherry blossoms which line the streets of this event. But sakura are not the only things worth catching at this exciting festival: To represent the culture of the Edo period, locals will parade down the street as they’re professionally made up and dressed to look like geisha.
#3 Mt Takao Annual Spring Festival
Date: 16 April 2017
Address: Mt. Takao Yakuoin Temple (2177 Takaomachi, Hachioji-shi)
Just a 50-minute drive away from Shinjuku, Mt Takao (Takaosan) is the closest natural sanctuary to Tokyo. Every spring, the Yakuoin Temple holds a celebration with highlights that include the placing of a giant Buddha statue in front of the temple, and a goma fire ritual display. There will also be children parading from the summit station to the temple.
#4 Daidai Kagura Dance Festival
Date: 16 April 2017
Address: Shinagawa-jinja Shrine (3-7-15 Kita Shinagawa, Shinagawa-ku)
The daidai kagura is a religious dance that is traditionally performed for the Shinto gods. During this celebration, dancers will wear historic masks from the Edo period and move to live music.
#5 Earth Day
Date: 22 April 2017
Address: Yoyogi Park Event Square (2-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya-ku, 151-0052)
Sad that you’ll be out of town during the world’s largest eco-conscious festival? Fret not, for Japan celebrates it too! Held at the Yoyogi Park, the celebration will include food (from safe and sustainable sources only), performances, and workshops to educate children about the cause.
#6 “Crying Sumo” Festival
Date: 29 April 2017
Address: The stage in front of the “Shibaraku” bronze statue at the Sensoji Temple (2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, 111-0032)
This is perhaps the strangest celebration in Japan: Once every year, the locals will head to the Sensoji Temple to watch hulk-like sumo wrestlers compete to make babies cry! This practice is actually 400 years old, and is believed to symbolise the coming of age of the participating children. It is also said to help them grow healthy and strong. Wait! Before you start protesting, don’t worry—none of the 100 babies are harmed in the process. They are simply held up and at most, gently shaken. The Nakizumo festival is well-loved and received by the Japanese.
#7 Horseback Archery Showcase
Date: 15 April 2017
Address: Sumida Park (Taito-ku)
This is your best chance to see the traditional sport of horseback archery, as skilled jockeys show off their skills. At the end, there will even be an award ceremony for jockeys who hit at least three targets.
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