Japan welcomes spring with festivals across nation

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Every March, Japan says goodbye to winter and welcomes spring with a variety of different festivals. With flowers blooming and spirits high, these festivals are a great chance to experience traditional Japanese culture while enjoying the beauty of spring in Japan. Here are some of our recommendations for some spring festivals around Japan.

Spring in Tokyo Midtown: Midtown Blossom 2015

March 20 (Fri) – April 15 (Wed)

Tokyo Midtown gives visitors an opportunity to enjoy the blooming cherry blossoms in the heart of Tokyo. The garden itself has over 45 types of cherry blossoms. Guests can enjoy the cherry blossoms during the day in the park, or at night when the cherry blossoms are illuminated. The Ritz Carlton Hotel and Italian sparkling wine company Martini also take part in Midtown’s spring festivities with the Blossom Lounge, where visitors can enjoy cherry blossom flavored wine and cherry blossom inspired pastries. http://www.tokyo-midtown.com/en/

Kashima Spring Festival (Ibaraki)

March 9 (Sat)

The Saito Festival at Kashima Shrine dates back to the Nara Period when soldiers were sent off to work in Kyushu. Before leaving, they would gather at Kashima Shrine to pray for victory in battle and a safe return home. Nowadays, this tradition has become a festival to pray for a good harvest, with locals dressed in traditional clothing holding poles, dancing Soranbushi around a drummer. http://kashimajingu.jp/

Shonan Enoshima Spring Festival (Kanagawa)

March 14 (Sat) – March 15 (Sun)

Located off the coast of Kamakura, the island of Enoshima welcomes in the spring by holding various events. There will be live music and street performances, as well as a special area just for kids to play. There are also many chances for foreigners to experience traditional Japanese culture such as tea ceremony and haiku writing. http://www.fujisawa-kanko.jp.e.mz.hp.transer.com/event/spring_f.html

The Kingdom of Flowers and Light Tulip Festival in Huis Ten Bosch (Nagasaki)

March 21 (Sat) – April 13 (Mon)

Huis Ten Bosch, a theme park in Sasebo, Nagasaki, celebrates the coming of spring with its tulip festival. With over 700 different varieties of tulips, Huis Ten Bosch boasts the largest tulip collection in Japan. March 21 and April 13 are referred to as “Special Week”, a week where all the tulips on the premises will be in full bloom. Guests can also enjoy the tulips illuminated at night. http://english.huistenbosch.co.jp/event/the_kingdom_of_flowers_and_light_tulip_festival/

119th Mito Plum Festival (Ibaraki)

February 20 (Fri) – March 31 (Tue)

In late February, the plum trees in Kairakuen began to bloom. There are 1,000 trees that include over 100 different variations of plum blossoms. The festival itself takes place over a month, with special culture events such as tea ceremony every weekend. The festival’s finale includes yosakoi dancers and taiko performances. http://www.mitokoumon.com/festival/ume.html

Omizutori (Water-Drawing) Festival (Nara)

March 1 (Sun) – March 14 (Sat)

Omizutori has been held annually since 752 at Nara’s famous Todaiji and is one of Japan’s oldest festivals. Each day, large torches are lit outside Nigatsudo Hall at Todaiji in a spectacular fire show. At the festival's peak on the 12th at midnight, 11 special priests (Renhyoshu) draw water from the temple well between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m. (omizutori). http://www.todaiji.or.jp/contents/function/02-03syunie3.html

Sagicho Festival (Shiga)

March 14 (Sat) – March 15 (Sun)

The Sagicho Festival takes place in Omi-Hachiman City and dates back to the 16th century with the death of Oda Nobunaga and the subsequent burning of his castle. The 13 neighborhoods where the old castle used to stand prepare intricate platforms of straw. At the climax of the festival on Sunday evening, all of the platforms are set on fire. http://www.biwako-visitors.jp/search/event_801.html

33rd Higashi Village Azalea Festival (Okinawa)

March 1 (Sun) – March 22 (Sun)

Okinawa’s Higashi Village also joins in Japan’s spring festivities with what it claims to be Japan’s earliest azalea festival. The festival, which takes place in Azalea Park about 500 meters away from the highway, boasts 50,000 azalea blossoms. The festival itself is spread out over a month with various events scattered throughout the festival period. http://yanbaru-hanameguri.jp/guide/higashi.html

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Thanks, JT - just in time for my six-week tour of the country.

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