Cherry blossoms, spring festivals, and the promise of summer make April a beautiful time to be in Japan.

No matter where you are in the country, you’re bound to get your fix of flowers and traditional events. It’s also one of the best times of the year to see geisha in Kyoto.

For events in Tokyo and surrounds, have a look at our event listings on Tokyo Cheapo.

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Kansai events

These are events in Kyoto, Osaka, Hyōgo, Mie, and the surrounding areas.

Osaka Nemophila Festival

Two blues meet when a million nemophila flowers bloom in front of Osaka Bay. Depending on the time you go, there may also be some cherry blossoms and tulips to keep you company. Save ¥200 by buying early-bird tickets before April 5.

Heian Jingu Reisai Festival

An annual opportunity to see local geiko and maiko (Kyoto’s geisha and geisha-in-training). The two-day event features musical performances, a tea ceremony and dances, as well as traditional ceremonies.

Kyo Odori

geisha performance Kyoto
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One of the traditional performances held in Kyoto, this dance event features geiko and maiko from the Miyagawa-cho district. It is one of the newer events in Kyoto, and the style is similar to Kabuki theater, with an impressive final act featuring all of the performers.

Miyako Odori

The annual performance of geiko and maiko from different districts, this show is known as the dance of the capital. Enjoy the performance in the newly renovated Kaburenjo Theater, which has hosted the show since 1873.

Hikiyama Festival

This festival is well known for its performances of children’s Kabuki theater, called kodomo kabuki. The floats wheeled through town have stages built into them, and the young children perform as they move through the streets. The festival takes place in Nagahama, Shiga.

Osaka Mint Bureau Cherry Blossom Viewing

Only open to the public for a few days each year, the Osaka Mint buildings have an amazing variety of trees, which are illuminated in the evening. They have a lot of yaezakura (late-blooming flowers with more petals), so it’s great if you are a tad late for the regular blooming period.

Kawanishi Genji Festival

Celebrating the historical text Tale of Genji, this festival features a parade of traditional dress from the Heian period, which was considered to be the height of Japanese culture. One person appears as Genji and rides a white horse; this is the highlight of the procession.

Kemari Festival

Celebrating a traditional ball game, this festival sees local priests enter the shrine and perform a beautiful procession and rituals. The game was played by the Japanese royal family, and is similar to football in that it has a leather ball which must be kept in the air using the players’ feet, but it originated in China. Visitors can explore the shrine gardens and play kemari themselves at the event.

Kanto events

These are events just outside of Tokyo, including Tochigi, Ibaraki, and the surrounding areas.

Ashikaga Great Wisteria Festival

Wisteria flowers at Ashikaga Flower Park
A tunnel of white wisteria blossoms at Ashikaga Flower Park, during the Great Wisteria Festival. | Photo by Phububphapan

Ashikaga Flower Park’s annual Great Wisteria Festival is the place to see pretty purple wisteria — fuji-no-hana in Japanese — in all its glory. And also to see less common varieties in pink, white, and yellow. Basically it’s a really big park with A LOT of wisteria!

Hokkaido events

Matsumae Cherry Blossom Festival

Matsumae Castle is Hokkaido’s top cherry blossom viewing spot. It’s also Hokkaido’s only castle and Japan’s northernmost one. There are over 10,000 cherry trees here, representing some 250 varieties that bloom in succession over the course of a month — from the Somei-yoshino in late April, to the many-petaled Kenrokuen kikuzakura in late May.

Tōhoku events

These are events in Aomori, Miyagi, and the surrounding areas.

Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival

Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival yozakura
The famous view of Shunyo Bridge and the cherry blossoms illuminated at night at Hirosaki Park. | Photo by FENG CHIANG

Hirosaki’s 2,600 trees are late bloomers, offering a second chance to see the famous cherry blossom petals. There will be food stalls and a festival feel, with around ¥500 entry fees required to go into the different grounds. They have row boats to explore the moat, and a loop bus to get you there from the station, so it’s an easy day out in Aomori.

Hiroshima events

These are events in Hiroshima and the surrounding areas.

Hiroshima Mint Bureau Cherry Blossom Viewing

Like Osaka, the normally off-limits Hiroshima Mint buildings have an amazing variety of trees, which are illuminated in the evening. They have a lot of yaezakura (late-blooming flowers with more petals), so it’s perfect if you are late for the regular sakura blooming period.

Kintaikyo Bridge Festival

Making the most of the fantastic bridge, this annual festival celebrates the return of daimyo to the city after time spent in the capital. In traditional Edo-era costume, locals and representatives from the nearby US military base reenact the march and are met by armour-wearing samurai challengers, before a battle ensues.

Chūbu events

These are events in Nagano, Aichi, Fukui, Shizuoka, Yamanashi and surrounding areas.

Shizuoka Matsuri

As the region’s biggest spring festival, this three-day event is a sight to behold, and is filled with entertainment and performances. There is a yatai-mura (a food stall village), nebuta floats, cherry blossom, parades, performances and cosplay, so you’ll be well entertained.

Inuyama Festival 

This spring festival features impressive processions of 13 three-leveled dashi — traditional wheeled floats covered in lanterns. Dating back to 1635, the festival was recognized as an “Intangible Cultural Property” in 2006 by the Japanese government. During the festival, there is a performance by karakuri (traditional mechanized puppets), and during the evening they cover the floats with lanterns.

Fuji Shibazakura

Fuji Shibazakura Festival
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This is a great time to see Mount Fuji and enjoy the local delicacies. The shibazakura festival offers carpets of stunningly bright flowers leading up to the mountain slopes. The moss phlox flowers are known as lawn cherry.

Fuji-Kawaguchiko Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji are a match made in flower heaven, so take this chance to visit Lake Kawaguchiko in spring. Along with lakeside walks accompanied by dozens of cherry trees, there will be a craft market and illuminations at the main site from sunset till 9 p.m. at night.

Takayama Spring Festival

Takayama festival float at night
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One of the area’s two biggest festivals (the other is in autumn), this event takes place against the stunning backdrop of Hida Takayama. It features processions of large floats, mikoshi, and marionette performances, and plenty of impressive costumes and displays. This is one of the best opportunities to see a large-scale festival this early in the year.

Kyūshū & Okinawa events

Hanabi Illusion Fireworks

One of the earliest firework festivals of the year, this event is sponsored by Japan Airlines and is held in Ginowan Seaside Park and Tropical Beach. There are live performances, music and plenty of food and drink to choose from.

Okinawa International Film Festival

From the 9th Okinawa International Film Festival.

A great opportunity to see a mixture of performances, from movies to trade shows, music shows and the red carpet walk along Kokusai-dori. Nicknamed the Comedy Cannes, it was started in 2009 by comedy giant Yoshimoto Kogyo, around a theme of “laugh and peace”. There are workshops, documentaries and showcases for young directors.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in March, 2018. Last updated in March, 2024, by Alex Ziminski.

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