May in Japan: A Guide to the Country’s Most Celebrated Festivals

May is a month of celebration in Japan, with numerous festivals taking place all across the country. From ancient traditions to modern pop culture events, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular festivals that take place in May.

Kanda Matsuri

Kanda Matsuri is one of Tokyo’s most famous festivals, held in the Kanda district every other year. The festival is a celebration of the Kanda Myojin Shrine and features a parade with over 200 portable shrines (mikoshi), along with traditional music and dancing. The highlight of the festival is the O-mikoshi Yatai, a float that carries the shrine’s kami (deity) through the streets of Kanda.

Aoi Matsuri

The Aoi Matsuri is a traditional festival held in Kyoto on May 15th. The festival dates back to the 6th century and is known for its elaborate costumes and processions. The festival begins at the Imperial Palace, where participants dress in traditional Heian-period clothing and ride on horseback to the Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine.

Takayama Matsuri

The Takayama Matsuri is a spring festival held in the city of Takayama, located in the Japanese Alps. The festival is known for its large, ornate floats (yatai) that are decorated with intricate carvings and textiles. The festival takes place over two days in early May and includes a parade with the floats, along with traditional music and dancing.

Nebuta Matsuri

The Nebuta Matsuri is a summer festival held in Aomori Prefecture, but preparations for the festival begin in May. The festival features large, illuminated floats (nebuta) that are made from washi paper and bamboo. The floats depict historical and mythical figures, and are paraded through the streets at night. The festival also includes traditional music and dancing.

Sanja Matsuri

The Sanja Matsuri is a Shinto festival held in Tokyo’s Asakusa district on the third weekend of May. The festival is a celebration of the three founders of the Sensoji Temple and features a parade with portable shrines (mikoshi), along with traditional music and dancing. The highlight of the festival is the Yakuza carrying the portable shrine.

May in Japan is a time of great celebration, with many festivals taking place throughout the country. One of the most popular is the Kanda Matsuri, held in Tokyo every other year. This festival dates back to the Edo period and features a grand procession through the streets, including portable shrines and other colorful floats. The festival also includes performances by musicians and dancers, as well as food vendors and other attractions.

Another notable festival in May is the Aoi Matsuri, held in Kyoto on May 15th. This festival dates back over 1,000 years and celebrates the beginning of the planting season. The highlight of the festival is a grand procession featuring more than 500 people dressed in traditional costumes, including members of the imperial court. The procession begins at the Kyoto Imperial Palace and winds its way through the streets of the city.

One of the most unique festivals in Japan takes place in the city of Shizuoka. The Kite Festival, held every May, features giant kites that are several meters in size. Teams of kite flyers compete to see who can fly their kite the highest and keep it in the air the longest. The festival also includes food vendors, music, and other activities.

For those interested in history and tradition, the Hakata Dontaku Festival in Fukuoka is a must-see event. Held annually on May 3rd and 4th, this festival features a parade of people dressed in traditional clothing, including samurai, geisha, and other historical figures. The festival also includes taiko drum performances, food vendors, and other attractions.

May is also a great time to experience Japan’s natural beauty. The Wisteria Festival in Kitakyushu features more than 1,500 wisteria plants in full bloom, creating a beautiful and fragrant display. Visitors can enjoy a stroll through the gardens and enjoy traditional Japanese tea and snacks. The Azalea Festival in Nezu Shrine in Tokyo is another popular event, featuring more than 3,000 azalea plants in full bloom.

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