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5 must-see charming spring festivals in Japan

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By Adam Douglas

Spring is undoubtedly one of the best times of the year to travel in Japan. With warm temperatures at last, the flowers are in bloom, and it feels like the whole country has come out to celebrate. Of course, hanami (flower viewing) is a big part. After you’ve got your sakura (cherry blossoms) on, there are plenty of festivals to visit, with seemingly every neighborhood bursting into the streets, dancing and partying.

Shinto shrines are no exception; many have their biggest festivals in April and May. Of course, Tokyo-ites will already know about Asakusa’s Sanja Matsuri (festival) and Kanda Matsuri at Kanda Myojin. Still, here are five shrine festivals in other parts of the country for those who are after something a little more charming. From period costume parades to a sacred procession under the cherry trees, there’s something here for everyone.

1. Inuyama Festival (Aichi)

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The floats are spectacular at night. Image: iStock/ Masaru123

Inuyama is a cute little town in northern Aichi Prefecture. It’s known for its castle, Inuayama-jo (the country’s oldest extant castle), cormorant river fishing, and Inuyama Festival. Taking place the first weekend of every April, it sees the town area just below the castle transformed into a parade route for 13 massive floats.

Held every year since 1635, the parade begins at Haritsuna Shrine, at the base of the castle hill. Called yama, the triple-layered floats — each more than eight meters tall and weighing a whopping five tons—are pulled through the town accompanied by the beat of taiko drums and the trilling of Japanese flutes. At the top of each float stands a karakuri, a Japanese mechanical automaton. The festivities continue into the night, with each float illuminated by 365 lanterns.

2. Tejikara Fire Festival (Gifu)

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Some like it hot. Image: Gifu City

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© GaijinPot

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