12 Spring Festivals in Japan
Spring steadily sweeps northwards all through Japan from the months of mid/late January to early April. Giving you a good window to explore the timeless beauty of this nation full of scenic panoramas, ancient traditions and festivals that instill a sense of life in onlookers! To make things all the more favorable is the best time to visit Japan that falls in the same time frame. That being said, a good mix of two key factors- best time to visit and some exhilarating festivals to experience, Japan beguiles at the onset of Spring. Apart from the best things to do in Japan, here is a list of twelve spring festivals in Japan that will enrich your Japanese sojourn!
1. Sanja Matsuri
One festival bringing to you a dynamic blend of the old and new, the Sanja Matsuri is a music festival, but with the essence of Shinto festivals. The Shinto Festivals are peculiarly those having roots dug in Japan’s Shinto region. Although holding religious significance of paying an ode to an ancient Buddhist temple of Sensō-ji’s three founders, this festival has earned is one of the biggest and wildest spring festivals in Japan.
2. Hana Matsuri
One of the most iconic of all the Matsuri festivals in Japan, the Hana Matsuri is a huge celebration of spring flowers! In essence, this festival is an activity of rights performed all through the nation acknowledging the birth of the founding figure, Buddha! What you can look forward to during this is flowers, a lot of flowers! Almost every temple and structure is adorned with flowers and miniature idols of Buddha are placed inside them. One sight that is simply spiritually delightful!
Also monikered as the "girl's day" along with "doll's festival", the Hinamatsuri is one of those Japanese festivals in March that are certain to amuse the kids! Best witnessed in local households, this festival sees families dressing up traditional Hina dolls and setting up an eclectic display. There are prayers chanted for the well-being and happiness of daughters. The most looked forward to part, however, are the symbolic delicacies specially made for the day!
4. Hirosaki Sakura-Matsuri
If you are particularly looking for Japanese festivals in April, experiencing the Hirosaki Sakura-Matsuri fits the bill just right. The festival derives its name from the venue of the Hirosaki Park, where it is held. Characterized by a triple moat, this park holds some great photo opportunities. The flowers bloom to their fullest from April to the end of May. The name Hirosaki Sakura-Matsuri literally translates to Hirosaki Cherry Blossom festival.
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5. Miyako Odori
Miyako Odori is a patent on lists of famous festivals in Japan. Carried across the entire month of April, this festival embarks the popular subject of geishas. Locally referred to as ‘geiko’, this festival is where you can see some entertaining dance performance by the usually very obscure and skilled performers. This is a public event, albeit being a highly anticipated one, you may be required to book your tickets well in advance!
6. Kanda Matsuri
This is your chance to witness hundreds of mikosis paraded through the streets of Tokyo. One of the three highly significant Shindo festivals, the Kanda Matsuri holds history dating back to the 17th century. Commenced in order to celebrate the victory of the momentous battle of Sekigahara, this festival today also honors the kami or spirits of the Kanda Shrine. It corresponds alternate yearly with the Sannō Matsuri. Thus, the festivities of this one can be experienced only in odd-numbered years. Several dancers, floats, and musicians elevate the magnitude of this festival.
7. Kamakura Festival
One of the most popular spring festivals in Japan, the Kamakura Festival is a main draw of the Kamakura City. If traditional dance performances are something that you are especially drawn to then the shizuka no mai dance performance here is something that will interest you. Along with dance performances, this festival also holds the event of Yabusame. The Yabusame sees revival of ancient skills such as arrow shooting and even samurai skills.
8. Takayama Festival
Addressing the events and activities of the Spring harvesting season, the Takayama Festival is held in the charismatic old town of Takayama. Having been started in the 16th century during the reign of the Kanamori family, this festival is centered on the Hie Shrine. The festival is also referred to as the Sanno Festival owing to the fact that the Hie Shrine is also knowns as the Sanno Shrine. A fun fact- it is held in the months of Autumn too, so as to pay gratitude!
The Hishimochi is one festival that is certain to have all the foodies looking forward to it. The festival credits the food delicacy of Hishimochi which in essence is a diamond-shaped confectionery. Boasting of three colours that hold representative significance each, the diamonds feature the white, pink and green colours! The white stands for the melting snow. The powder pink colour denotes the tangy Umeboshi or Ume plums that grow in abundance during Spring. The green represents new beginnings and growth! Most households and restaurants serve this delicacy during Spring.
10. Princess Sen-hime Peony Festival
Of the several flower festivals representing the glorious season of Spring in Japan, the Princess Sen-hime Peony Festival deserves a special mention. Held in the majestic Himeji Castle of the Japanese prefecture Hyogo, this festival gives you the chance to wander through sweet smelling peonies. At the festival you can look forward to some lively drum performances, cherry blossom viewing fairs and much more. Don’t forget to carry your cameras! The best time to witness this goodness is from the beginning to late April.
11. Onbashira Festival
Although held every six years only, the Onbashira Festival is one festival that is awaited by several! This festival is often considered owing to the act of pulling down 10 tons of giant fir trees. These trees are then traded over rivers by straw ropes. This activity is a part of the first inning of the festival, called “Yamadashi”. The second part is referred to as the “Satobiki” and sees local men drawing these trees from mountain slopes, which has caused several deaths over the years, and thus garnered its dangerous reputation!
12. Kurayami Matsuri
The Kurayami Matsuri festival has been around for the past 2000 years and literally translates to “dark night”. It is referred to as dark night owing to the practice of dimming lights in the local households on the particular days. This darkness makes way for some super delightful lantern hanging competitions. Along with these competitions the traditional drum playing, mikoshi parades and some great music! This festival draws a huge number of crowds. As many as 300,000 devotees head to the Okunitama Shrine during this festival!
Now with all these festivals, lined up, we hope you are thinking jet-setting already! Let us know in the comments section below which festival did you attend!
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