As the weather starts to get warmer in Japan, local residents of Shizuoka awaken from their Winter slumber and enjoy a number of Spring Festivals to celebrate.
Every station on the Tokaido Bullet Train line provides access to different festivals in Shizuoka.
5 SUPER SPRING FESTIVALS IN SHIZUOKA
Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal as the weather starts to warm, flowers begin to blossom and many wake from their winter hibernation.
Rice paddy fields start to fill with water, the grass turns from brown to green and the sound of frogs and bugs get louder.
To celebrate this time, there are numerous festivals around Japan designed to bring good fortune and bless the crops that are to be planted – here are 5 Super Spring Festivals in Shizuoka worth checking out.
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FUJINOMIYA YABUSAME FESTIVAL – SHIN-FUJI STATION
The ancient practice of horseback archery (Yabusame) dates as far back as the 6th century in Japan when warriors would compete against each other in a way that is reminiscent of ancient jousting duels between knights in medieval England.
The ritual of ‘Yabusame’ evolved from this as a way to encourage the gods to bless the land, people, and new harvest.
The festival is more than 800 years old and the main festival is held on May 5th when the crowds gather to witness skillful riders aimig for the target.
There are many food stalls lined up on the grounds of the shrine to add a festive mood.
HAMAMATSU KITE FESTIVAL – HAMAMATSU STATION
Also taking place during Golden Week each year is the famous Hamamatsu Festival (May 3rd – 5th).
Shizuoka has many different festivals each year throughout the Prefecture but the Hamamatsu Festival is possibly the largest of them all with about 2 million visitors.
The festival is primarily held to pray for the health and good fortune of children (Children’s day is May 5th) and the tradition of flying a kite is said to have started more than 450 years ago when, to celebrate the birth of his first son, advisers of the lord of Hamamatsu castle flew kites with the child’s name on them.
During the day people flock out to the Nakatajima Sand Dunes to witness groups battling against each other with huge kites.
When the sun goes down the festival moves into downtown Hamamatsu City where large colorful floats are pulled through the streets to the accompaniment of drums and flutes.
SHIMODA BLACKSHIP FESTIVAL – ATAMI STATION
Celebrating American Japanese relations over close to 170 years since Commodore Perry first entered the port of Shimoda in 1854.
After Commodore Perry forced the Japanese government to open its borders to trade, the first American consulate was established in Shimoda at which diplomat Townsend Harris was based while negotiating the terms of the first Japan / US bilateral trade agreement.
To celebrate the significance of this time in Japanese and US political history, the Shimoda Blackship (Kurofune) Festival is held over 3 days from the 3rd Friday of May each year.
The festival traditionally kicks off with a fireworks display and sunset concert on Friday night and also includes memorial parades, a number of music and dance performances, an open market, and a re-enactment play.
SHIZUOKA FESTIVAL – SHIZUOKA STATION
As the home of Japan’s most famous Samurai and Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, it is not surprising that Shizuoka City developed some of the Prefecture’s most elaborate festivals.
Held in conjunction with the blossoming of cherry trees on the first weekend of April, this 3-day celebration of spring has been loved by locals and visitors for decades.
The highlight of the festival is the Hanami Parade that was inspired by the story about the legendary Tokugawa Ieyasu who took his retainers to view cherry blossoms. Participants in various costumes parade through the town.
At night, thousands of dancers gather in the main street and dance energetically to boost the mood for Ieyasu’s great blossom viewing party.
A number of ‘yatai’ or temporary outdoor eateries set up around the town will fill up any foodie.
The Shizuoka Festival also has a Spanish flavor – which is said to acknowledge the connection between Tokugawa Ieyasu with Spain – so flamenco dancers and paella also play a role in the Festival.
KANAYA TEA FESTIVAL – KAKEGAWA STATION
The Kanaya / Shimada Area of Shizuoka is situated right in the middle of some of the highest producing tea plantations in all of Japan so it is not surprising that it would hold a Green Tea Festival.
The Kanaya Tea Festival is held every 2 years on the 2nd weekend in April which coincides with the first picking of the new green tea leaves (known as Shin-Cha).
This Green Tea flavored festival includes green tea-themed food stalls, green tea tasting and preparation demonstrations, traditional floats with music, and over 1,000 Kanaya Tea Girl dancers dressed in Kanaya Tea Girl costumes parading through the streets.