Cherry blossoms, spring festivals, and the promise of summer; April is one of the best times to be in Japan.

No matter where you are, 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 the surrounding area, please visit our listings on Tokyo Cheapo.

Kansai events

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

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Heian Jingu Reisai Festival

An annual opportunity to see some 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 Odori features geiko and maiko from the Miyagawa-cho district. It is one of the newer events and the style is similar to kabuki theater, with a very impressive final act featuring all 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, both the Osaka and 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 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 is considered to be the height of Japanese culture. One person appears as Genji and rides a white horse, forming 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 royal family and is similar to football in that it has a leather ball which must be kept in the air using player’s 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 and give those who are arriving a little late in the season a second chance at seeing the famous 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

Only open to the public for a few days each year, both the Osaka and 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 great if you are a tad late for the regular 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 spectacle 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 more than entertained if you’re lucky enough to attend!

Inuyama Festival 

This spring festival features impressive processions of 13 three-leveled dashi—the traditionally wheeled floats covered in lanterns. Dating back to 1635, it was recognized as an ‘Intangible Cultural Property’ in 2006 by the Japanese government. During of the festival there is a performance by the 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 Fuji and enjoy the local delicacies. The shibazakura festival offers carpets of stunningly bright flowers leading up to the mountain slopes. The moss phlox is known as the lawn cherry and is pretty impressive, with or without Fuji in the background.

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.

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 and 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 fireworks festivals, this event is sponsored by Japan Airlines and is held in the 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 real 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, so it’s a good chance to get your film cravings fixed for a while.

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