April in Japan: Traditional Annual Events

March 20, 2012 by

Festivals & Events, Local Recommendations, Things To Do

Floats in Takayama.

Floats in Takayama. Photo courtesy of robertpaulyoung via Flickr.

The highlight in Japan in April has to be the visually stunning Takayama Festival (April 14-15) with its colorful, musical parade that features floats from the Edo Period. Read on for more traditional festivals during April.

April 8 – Floral Festival (Hana-Matsuri) – All over Japan
To celebrate the birth of Buddha on April 8, small Buddha shrines are erected at temples and decorated with flowers. Worshippers honour Buddha’s birth by sprinkling the holy brew, ama-cha, over his figurine, which is placed inside the shrine.

Second & Third Sunday – Kamakura Festival – Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture
The Kamakura Matsuri (Festival) features street parades and a traditional dance (shizuka no mai) which was performed during the samurai era. Incredibly skilled archers also demonstrate the dying samurai skill of shooting arrows at a target while riding a galloping horse. The main events take place at the historic Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine.

April 14-15 – Takayama Festival – Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture
This huge matsuri is considered to be one of the most beautiful festivals in Japan. A large traditional procession featuring costumes, music and special yatai (floats) parades through Shiroyama, displaying the incredible skills and craftsmanship that existed during the Edo Period (17th-19th Century). If you miss the festival you can see some of the floats at the Takayama Yatai Kaikan museum and watch a video of the parade.

April 16-17 – Yayoi Festival – Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture
This festival dates back to the 8th Century and signals the arrival of spring in Nikko city. Twelve floats (hana-yatai), representing each town in the area, parade towards the city’s shrine, Futarasan Jinja. Many of the temples and shrines in Nikko are designated World Heritage Sites and there are a number of waterfalls and lakes worth visiting not far from the city center.

- Emma McMahon

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