Updated: February 13, 2019
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Haru Matsuri: Here Are The Most Famous Spring Festivals In Japan

From March to May, here are the most important spring celebrations in Japan. These are the so-called, "haru matsuri", which literally means spring festivals.

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Haru Matsuri 春祭り

The words "haru matsuri" in Japanese is made up of the character for spring 春 (haru) and festival 祭り (matsuri), so the expression literally means spring festival, in a general sense. It does not stand for a specific festival. If you are looking to immerse yourself in the spring festival culture of Japan, here are some of the iconic haru matsuri you should know about.

Omizutori - Nara in March

Omizutori(お水取り) is a Buddhist event held annually in March, at Todaiji temple in Nara. For this festival, you will witness the spectacular sight of huge fire torches being lit around the temple. Priests swing around the burning torches with horns blowing and bells ringing. The ceremony is performed for a series of evenings in March and lasts around only 20 minutes.

Hanami - Everywhere in Japan from late March to April

Cherry blossom viewing, called "hanami" in Japanese, is not a matsuri per-se but it is just as if it were. People across the country gather in huge numbers in parks to admire the cherry blossoms while eating and drinking with friends, family, or among coworkers.

Kanamara Matsuri (Penis Festival) - Kawasaki in April

The idea of a penis festival may sound ludicrous, but actually, it's a Shinto religious tradition many conservative Japanese folks take seriously. So there's a solemn aspect to it, but you can also have fun there! The central aspect of the festival is watching the mikoshi floats carrying giant phalli. It's a kind of fertility festival. The festival takes place in Kawasaki, a suburb of Tokyo.

Kanda Matsuri - Tokyo in May

Kanda Matsuri is one of the biggest Shinto festivals in all of Japan. It's held in Kanda, Tokyo, and is hosted by the Kanda Myojin Shrine. The venue is not very far from Akihabara. The highlight of the festival is seeing the procession of mikoshis, which are portable shrines. There are musicians playing traditional instruments and dancers that move along with the float so the atmosphere is quite festive.

Sanja Matsuri - Tokyo in May

Sanja Matsuri is one of the major spring festivals in Japan. It is held in Asakusa on the grounds of the Senso-ji temple. The origin of the festival dates back to the 7th century. It is, in essence, a Shinto festival with religious elements but over the years it has grown into a huge celebration. Around 1.5 million people go to the festival every year. Tourists abound because it is held in the traditional area of Asakusa, the most well-preserved traditional part of Tokyo.

Aoi Matsuri - Kyoto in May

Aoi Matsuri is one of the three main festivals of Kyoto (the other two being the Gion Matsuri and the Jidai Matsuri). It's also called the Kamo Matsuri in reference to the two ancient shrines in the northern part of the city. It is one of the oldest festivals in Japan, dating back to the Heian Era (8th century). It's held every year on the 15th of May. The festival highlight is a procession of about 500 people wearing kimonos of the Heian Era and carrying floats and umbrellas adorned with hollyhocks.
Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.

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