May in Japan: Traditional Annual Events

April 24, 2012 by

Festivals & Events, Free Things to Do, Things To Do

Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo

Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo. Photo courtesy of SnippyHolloW via Flickr.

Japan is full of festivals, activities and events in during the month of May. If you plan on venturing to Japan, here are some traditional events that you won’t want to miss!

May 3-4Hakata Dontaku Festival, Fukuoka
Join the estimated two million spectators at this ‘citizens’ festival’ in Fukuoka to watch a parade of costumed marchers and dancers celebrate in the streets and city squares.

May 3-4Takoage-Gassen (Kite Fighting Contest), Shizuoka
Watch over 1000 kites being flown over the Nakatajima Dunes, one of the three largest sand dunes in Japan. Kite-fliers must try to cut their opponents kite strings using friction alone. There is also a night-time float parade.

May 11-12Takigi O-Noh (Bonfire Noh performance), Nara
Watch the drama of a Japanese Noh play illuminated by bonfires and performed in front of World Heritage listed Kofukuji Temple.

May 15 (or the closest weekend to this date)Kanda Matsuri, Tokyo
The Kanda Matsuri is one of Tokyo’s most famous festivals and one of Japan’s largest. Expect to see 100 portable shrines and a procession of some 300 people parade through the Chiyoda-ku prefecture in Tokyo.

May 15Aoi Matsuri (Hollyhock Festival), Kyoto
Recreating an ancient procession of court officials who delivered the Emperor’s message and offerings to two important Kyoto shrines, this gorgeous parade is a chance to see exquisite reproductions of the imperial costumes that were worn 1,000 years ago.

May 17-18Shunki Reitaisai (Grand Festival of Spring), Nikko, Tochigi
This festival is a chance to see marchers dressed as samurai warriors as a procession over a thousand strong, march to the World Heritage listed Nikko Toshogu Shrine.

Third weekend in MayAsakusa Sanja Matsuri, Tokyo
Taking place in Tokyo’s traditional quarter, Asakusa, this is Japan’s largest mikoshi (portable shrine festival). The action occurs over three days with each shrine being carried by several marchers.

Third Sunday in MayMifune Matsuri
This festival, containing some 20 boats and many elaborately dressed participants, recreates an ancient boat parade that once carried the Emperor to shore in Ukyo-Ku, Kyoto.

- Emma McMahon

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