Search Flights Search Vacation Packages Search hotels Search Private car service Search Activity
Search Flights Search Vacation Packages Search hotels Search Private car service Search Activity

Spring Fling: Discover the Culture and Color of Japan’s Spring Festivals

Everything a traveler should know about spring festivals in Japan, including traditions, how to get there, and more.
Spring fling: Discover the culture and color of Japan’s spring festivals

Each year during the spring festival season, millions of people travel from around the world to see Japan’s iconic cherry blossoms. 

And while the beautiful, pink-hued sakura certainly attracts a vast number of visitors, and for good reason, there’s much more to see and experience during Japan’s spring festival season. 

Whether you’re seeking unique cultural experiences or outdoor adventure, these springtime festivals might just be exactly what you’re looking for. 

Why you should attend a spring festival: captivating culture, fresh experiences, and colorful traditions

Why you should attend a spring festival: captivating culture, fresh experiences, and colorful traditions

Many of the spring matsuri, or spring festivals in Japan, are grounded in cultural traditions. This includes the Ushibuka Haiya Festival. Throughout the festival, people sing along to folk songs that have been passed down from generation to generation and take to the streets to dance in festive parades. 

Across the globe, the arrival of spring widely signifies transformation and new beginnings. And this is true across Japan, too. Annually, millions of people visit Hirosaki Park for the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival, which is notably one of the largest Japanese festivals in spring. During the fest, attendees celebrate spring’s time of renewal and make time to pause and ponder the fleeting nature of life. 

Ultimately, Japan’s spring festival experience offers an opportunity to connect with the local communities and provides up-close encounters with time-tested Japanese traditions.

What to expect at a spring festival: pleasant temps, unmatched adventure, and scenic beauty

The spring season in Japan stretches from March into May, leaving ample time to discover all of the country’s best matsuri. 

The temperate climate of the spring season in Japan sets the scene for many of the country's largest outdoor events, including the Beppu Hatto Onsen Festival, the Shirone Giant Kite Battle, and Naha Hari, Okinawa’s largest dragon boat event. 

Remember, as a visitor, it is crucial to be respectful of the cultural traditions that take place at Japanese spring festivals. Do note some matsuri require registration or have customs in place that restrict who is able to participate. While these measures may be in order, most of Japan’s spring matsuri invite participation and are open to visiting travelers.

Lastly, do consider that large festivals attract even larger crowds. Be sure to plan any reservations or bookings well in advance.

Discover the best spring festivals in Japan

From soaking in hot springs to seeing in-season sights, these spring matsuris are some of the best Japanese festivals.

Make a wish at the Jindaiji Daruma Doll Fair

Make a wish at the Jindaiji Daruma Doll Fair

Taking place at Jindaiji Temple, one of the most distinguished and oldest temples in the Tokyo area, the Jindaiji Daruma Doll Fair is one of Japan’s biggest and most popular daruma doll festivals. 

Distinct in nature, daruma dolls are hollow, round, and often painted in a blaze of bright red. These dolls symbolize perseverance and good luck and are regarded as a talisman of good fortune in Japan. In addition to the seemingly endless display of traditional dolls, the festival also features a number of rituals and prayers every hour. 

At the festival, you can browse hundreds of booths where vendors sell daruma and crafts. After selecting a doll, a calligrapher inscribes your wish on the back of the doll. Next, you’ll visit a special stall where a monk will mark a character on the left eye of the doll, indicating that you’ve made your wish. In the following year, fest-goers return with their dolls. And, if their wish came true, a monk fills the right eye with another character, this time indicating that the wish came true. 

How to get to the Jindaiji Daruma Doll Fair: From the Haneda Airport, the Jindaiji Daruma Doll Fair is about a 1-hour 30-minute trip via the Keikyu Airport Line, Yamanote Line, and Keio Line. 

• Location: 5-15-1 Jindaijimotomachi, Chofu City, Tokyo 182-0017
• Date: March 

Soak in a natural hot spring at the Beppu Hatto Onsen Festival

Soak in a natural hot spring at the Beppu Hatto Onsen Festival

In Japan, onsen, or natural hot springs, are believed to be a gift from the gods. There are thousands of natural hot springs across Japan. And natural hot springs have been a staple of Japanese culture and tradition for centuries. 

Each April, more than 100 hot springs across Beppu are open to the public for free for the Beppu Hatto Onsen Festival. The city of Beppu is among Japan’s most popular destinations for natural hot spring bathing. And it’s no wonder why — Beppu’s natural hot spring water output is the second-highest in the world. 

The sheer amount of natural hot springs in the area attracts people from all over the globe who are seeking out the healing properties and relaxing experiences of bathing in a natural hot spring. In addition to soaking in the springs, festival attendees can experience traditional dance performances, parades, and drum concerts over the course of the Beppu Hatto Onsen Festival.

How to get to the Beppu Hatto Onsen Festival: From the Oita Airport, the Beppu Hatto Onsen Festival is about a 55-minute trip via bus.

Location: 7-16 Matsubaracho, Beppu City, Oita 874-0946 
• Date: April

Encounter a world of color at the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival

Encounter a world of color at the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival

Every spring, Japan blooms in hues of pink cherry blossoms, or sakura. Not only are these springtime cherry blossoms beautiful, but the cherry blossom is also considered a symbolic flower in Japan and represents both a time of renewal and the fleeting nature of life.  

The Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the country's largest cherry blossom festivals. Taking place at the picturesque Hirosaki Castle Park, this spring season festival brings out millions of visitors for its unparalleled views of the blooming cherry trees, traditional boat tours, food stalls and local sake, tea ceremonies, and more.  

Hirosaki Castle Park has been blooming for centuries and began with just 25 cherry trees. Today, Hirosaki Castle Park is home to thousands of cherry trees and comprises dozens of unique cherry tree species, making the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival an absolute must-see for sakura admirers. 

How to get to the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival: From the Aomori Airport, the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival is about a 60-minute trip via bus.

• Location: Hirosaki Park, Shimoshiroganecho, Hirosaki City, Aomori 036-8356 
• Date: April-May

Sing Japanese folk songs at the Ushibuka Haiya Festival

Sing Japanese folk songs at the Ushibuka Haiya Festival

Ushibuku is the birthplace of the Haiya Folk song, a traditional song that expresses how much Ushibuka women worry about their sailors while they’re away at sea. From its humble origins during the later Edo Period, the Haiya Folk song spread from Ushibuku to dozens of ports around Japan and has since been passed down from generation to generation. 

Today, the Ushibuka Haiya Festival honors that time-tested melody with a spring season festival dedicated to song, dance, and the fun-loving seaside community. Tourists come from near and far to watch thousands of people dance in an orchestrated parade through the city streets that honors the beloved folk song.

Additional Ushibuka Haiya Festival experiences include a boat parade on the nearby waterway, dance lessons, folk music performances, and the opportunity to savor freshly-prepared seafood cuisines. 

How to get to the Ushibuka Haiya Festival: From the Kumamoto Airport, the Ushibuka Haiya Festival is about a 5-hour 30-minute trip via bus. 

• Location: Ushibukamachi, Amakusa City, Kumamoto 863-1901 
• Date: April

See giant parade floats take over the streets at the Seihaku Dekayama Festival

See giant parade floats take over the streets at the Seihaku Dekayama Festival

For three days, a parade of giant decorated wooden floats fills the narrow streets of the small fishing village of Nanao as part of the Seihaku Dekayama Festival. Held in conjunction with the Japanese holiday Golden Week, the Seihaku Dekayama Festival celebrates the culture and folklore of the Nanao area. 

Truly larger-than-life and considered the biggest floats in all of Japan, the wooden wheeled floats at the Seihaku Dekayama Festival can total up to 20 tons and can be as tall as a telephone pole. A true feat of skill and strength, townspeople and even eager spectators pull large ropes to turn the floats as they journey through town, dazzling crowds of spectators. 

The Seihaku Dekayama Festival was recently registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage and is a must-see for travelers who wish to experience a truly one-of-a-kind spring festival. 

How to get to the Seihaku Dekayama Festival: From the Komatsu Airport, the Seihaku Dekayama Festival is about a 2-hour 50-minute trip via the Ishikawa Railway and JR Nanao Line. 

• Location: Nanao City, Ishikawa 926-0000
• Date: May

Cheer for the dragon boat teams at Naha Hari (Dragon Boat Tradition)

Cheer for the dragon boat teams at Naha Hari (Dragon Boat Tradition)

Dragon boat racing in Japan dates back centuries. And the tradition is alive and well in modern Japan. This is especially true in Okinawa’s Naha City, where hundreds of dragon boat teams flock to the waterways for the spring season Naha Hari festival. 

Regarded as Okinawa’s largest event, the Naha Hari takes place over three days. The Naha Hari features lively dragon boat races where teams compete against one another on the water. On the final day of the festival, participants and locals come together to pray for a rich catch and safety at sea.

More than dragon boat racing, the multi-day spring festival also features sumo wrestling matches, comedy performances, live music shows, up-close encounters with the dragon boats, firework displays, and no shortage of family-friendly entertainment. 

How to get to Naha Hari: From the Naha Airport, the Naha Hari is about a 30-minute trip via the Yui-Rail and bus. 

• Location: Naha Shinko Port, 1-16 Minatomachi, Naha City, Okinawa 900-0001 
• Date: May

Experience Japanese culture and tradition at the Hakata Dontaku Festival

Experience Japanese culture and tradition at the Hakata Dontaku Festival

Drawing in millions of visitors, the annual Hakata Dontaku Festival is one of the largest spring festivals in Japan. Originating some 400 years ago, the Hakata Dontaku Festival celebrates and welcomes the gods who bring happiness in the new year. 

The multi-day festival comprises a series of cultural performances, traditional ceremonies, and live music that take place across the city. Highlights of the festival include its large, colorful parades down Meiji Street that feature thousands of costumed performers, musicians, masked marchers, choreographed dancers, floats, animals, and artfully decorated floral cars. 

The Hakata Dontaku Festival offers something for everyone, whether you want to dance with the locals or sit back and watch the parade wind through Fukuoka. 

How to get to the Hakata Dontaku Festival: From the Fukuoka Airport, the Hakata Dontaku Festival is about 10-minutes via the subway system. 

• Location:  Hakata-Ku, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka
• Date: May

Watch kites fly in the sky at the Shirone Giant Kite Battle

Watch kites fly in the sky at the Shirone Giant Kite Battle

Every spring in Japan, kites are flown in the skies to signify the arrival of the new season and to celebrate the meaningful festivals that take place around the time of the new year. These traditional Japanese kites are often decorated with depictions of mythical characters and samurai. And Niigata is home to one of the largest kite festivals in the world, the Shirone Giant Kite Battle. 

During the festival, hundreds of massive, colorful kites bigger than cars dance in the sky high above the waterway in a series of nail-biting battles. When the kites clash, they fall into the water. From there, contestants engage in a tug-of-war match from the riverbacks until one team’s kite rope snaps, ending the battle. 

Fest-goers can watch the kite battle from the stands on the riverbank or by boat on the water. Or, take part in the action by lending a hand to the kite teams when it’s time for tug-of-war. 

How to get to the Shirone Giant Kite Battle: From the Niigata Airport, the Shirane Giant Kite Battle is about a 2-hour trip via bus.

• Location: Shirone, Minami-Ku, Niigata City, Niigata
• Date: June  

Wear traditional Japanese fashion at the Yukata Festival (Yukata de Kinsai)

Wear traditional Japanese fashion at the Yukata Festival (Yukata de Kinsai)

Traditional Japanese fashion and festival-style fun converge at Central Hiroshima’s Yukata Festival. The annual festival is a celebration of the yukata, a lightweight and often brightly-colored kimono made of cotton that’s commonly worn by both men and women throughout the warmer seasons.

At the Yukata Festival, visitors can rent or purchase their own yukata to wear around the city during the three-day fest. The majority of the festival activities happen around Peace Boulevard as well as Enryuji Temple and include traditional taiko drum performances, choreographed dancing, and the opportunity for commemorative photos.

It is said that the Yukata Festival is the first of its kind. Today, this Japanese spring festival draws thousands of attendees.

How to get to the Yukata Festival: From the Hiroshima Airport, the Yukata Festival is about a 1-hour 20-minute trip via city tram and bus. 

• Location: Naka-Ku, Hiroshima City, Hiroshima 730-0029
• Date: June

Plan your next spring vacation with Japan Airlines today

Japan Airlines is your connection to the best spring matsuri in Japan. Wherever your spring season travels take you, from the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival to the Jindaiji Daruma Doll Fair, Japan Airlines can get you there. 

Book your next trip with Japan Airlines and take advantage of the travel perks that are always included with JAL Japan Explorer Pass, including Wi-Fi on all JAL domestic flights and award-winning economy class seating. 

Our affordable and simple fare offers instant access to over 30 cities across our domestic network, so there will be no unexpected “turbulence” on your next trip.

Getting There