The spring season in Japan which is usually from March to May is a magical time in the country. It is also quite popular with millions of tourists from different parts of the world who visit the capital city of Tokyo to enjoy a series of festivals taking place during this season. Spring is eagerly awaited by the people who look forward to take part in the numerous festivals. This is also one of the best times to enjoy the good weather and see the awesome sakura or cherry blossom in full bloom.
Japanese people consider springtime to be quite important. They consider it to be a time of new beginnings, change and renewal. The farmers consider it to be auspicious and begin preparations to plant the rice crop. This is the time when the bright pink cherry blossoms start to bloom. This is also a significant time to wish for a good fall harvest, enjoy warm weather and celebrate the end of winter. If you are planning to spend your vacations in Tokyo, particularly during this time, here are some of the best spring festivals for you to enjoy in the city.
The Sanja Matsuri is the biggest and wildest festival in Tokyo celebrated on the third Saturday in May. Nearly 2 million tourists from Japan and other countries of the world are attracted to this 3-day-long festival. This is among the prominent Mikoshi festivals and usually reaches a feverish pitch because of the essential feats of strength and endurance that it endows. Around 100 mikoshi representing neighborhoods around the temple take part in the parade. The weight of some of the mikoshi is approximately one ton. The mikoshi teams bounce each mikoshi up and down for the festival. The festival takes place in a lighthearted atmosphere and is great to watch.
The Kurayami Matsuri is being held in Tokyo for nearly 1,000 years. It is also known as the “Darkness” festival and takes place in early May every year. This one of the most exciting annual festival is usually held at the 1,900-old Okunitama Jinja shrine in Fuchu city, situated in the western part of Tokyo. The evenings of the festival see the traditional dimming of lights in the houses in shrine’s neighborhood. The festival takes place during Golden Week, which is a combination of 4 national holidays starting from April end through early May. This major spring festival attracts more than 700,000 people from different parts of the world. The major highlight of the festival is the carrying of mikoshi or portable shrines in the darkness of the night in early May. Various kinds of dashi or floats are also paraded throughout the town. The festival is also marked by lantern hanging, horse riding and music competitions.
The Sanno Matsuri is one of Japan’s three largest festivals. It is held in mid June every year announcing the advent of the summer season. This festival began during the Edo Period (1603-1867) and being held in the grounds of Edo Castle, along with another spring festival Kanda Matsuri. The festival offers a fascinating sight with nearly 500 people elegantly dressed in Edo-era imperial court costumes parading through the central part of Tokyo, including the front of Diet Building, Ginza and Tokyo Station. The procession consists of mikoshi or portable shrines adorned on roof of dashi floats, with some people on horseback and some of them beating drums. The parade starts from Hie-jinja Shrine early morning at 8 o’clock and returns to the shrine only in the early evening. This must attend festival offers a fascinating glimpse in the traditions and culture of the Japanese people. You can enjoy various Japanese traditions during the festival week such as Ikebana flower show, and savor Japanese tea in the shrine garden.
Kinryu-no-mai and Shirasagi-no-mai
The Kinryu-no-mai and Shirasagi-no-mai are two main events held on March 18 every year. The Kinryu-no-mai or golden dragon dance is held at Senso-ji Temple. The Honzon Jigen-e ceremony is celebrated to commemorate Shokanzeon Bosatsu, the presiding deity in the Senso-ji Temple, for making appearance in this world. Kinryu-no-mai, in fact, is based on the legend proclaiming the arrival of a golden dragon from the sky after the deity made appearance in 628. The Shirasagi-no-mai symbolizes the elegance and charm of the Heian Period (794-1192). During this festival, forty dancers in the forms of “cranes” donning white heron costumes, samurai actors and musicians show their performances while parading through the temple grounds on the second Sunday in April every year.