The best Spring festivals in Japan

Hinamatsuri, photo by Ryan Schultz

The Japanese have a special regard for Spring – it is the season of new beginnings when kids and teenagers return to school, it is the season of romantic holidays like White Day, of the Golden Week, and the season for hanami, cherry blossom viewing. Naturally, Spring is one of the bet seasons to visit Japan, and not only because of the above-mentioned events. Spring is also the time for some of the most exciting festivals in Japan. Japanese festivals, or matsuri, are one of a kind. The games, food stalls and carnival-type entertainment are an occasion for people to don their light kimonos, eat festival snacks and watch the fireworks. Here are some of the best Spring festivals in Japan that you’ll definitely love.

Hinamatsuri, March 3

Hinamatsuri, or the Doll’s Festival, is held every year on March 3rd in order to bring good luck and happiness to girls. One of the most distinctive customs of the festival is the placement of elaborate dolls on tiered platforms, each representing empresses and emperors. In the past, the dolls were supposed to contain spirits and they were set out on the sea to float away. The festival is celebrated with liberal quantities of a special type of sake (hirozake) and hishimochi, a colored rice cake.

White Day, March 14

Kodomo no Hi, photo by Rudolf Ammann

Although it isn’t a national holiday or a festival per se, White Day is very important for Japanese youth. In Japan, on Valentine’s Day only the girls give chocolates and valentine cards to boys, but one month later it is time for the favors to be returned. In some cities/towns there will be some special events for White Day, like concerts and festivals, but there is a holiday atmosphere even if no proper event is organized.

Kodomo no Hi, May 5

The Japanese Children’s Day, Kodomo no Hi, is actually a day dedicated to children and it is an occasion to celebrate their personalities. Although in the past it was only a day for little boys, today it is a holiday for both girls and boys. The most important tradition during Kodomo no Hi is the hanging of koinobori (carp shaped streamers) outside houses with children.

Sanja Matsuri, 3rd Sunday of May

Sanja Matsuri, photo by &_yoSanja Matsuri is one of the most important Shinto festivals celebrated in Japan, held in Tokyo’s Asakusa district, and thought to be the wildest and most colorful of all Shinto festivals. Traditional shrines are paraded on the street, there is traditional music and dancing, geisha and taiko performances. The center of the festival is Senso-Ji temple, the oldest and most significant temple in Tokyo. Although Sanja Matsuri is largely a religious event, it has nothing of the somber atmosphere of other such holidays, and it is definitely one of the best Spring festivals in Japan.

 

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