March is officially spring, and the quietest corners of Japan are waking from the winter hibernation for plum blossom festivals, fiery celebrations and sumo wrestling tournaments! Wherever you are in the country, there will be something exciting to see and make your March memorable!
Nagasaki Lantern Festival | Feb 16th – March 2nd | Nagasaki
With more than 15,000 lanterns strung up around the city, this festival takes place during the first 15 days of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Originally held within the Chinatown district, it now covers the entire city of Nagasaki with two main venues at Minato and Chuo parks. There are fireworks, display of Chinese acrobatics, lion doses, dragon dances, Chinese theater, kokyu performances an emperor’s parade, a mado procession and a beauty contest.
Souriike Plum Blossom Festival | Feb 10th – March 11th | Aichi
With over 5,100 plum blossom trees including 25 different varieties surrounding it, the Souriike is a large pond in Chita City, next to a large park. The trees blossom between mid-February to mid-March and entry to the park during the festival is free and there will be a variety of events and entertainment.
Omizutori Festival | March 1st – 14th | Nara
An annual event, the Omizutori Festival is one of the oldest Buddhist recurrent events and dates back 1,250 years. Large numbers of torches are lit and hung from the balcony of the temple and people gather below them to be cleansed of sins and to look forward to a fresh start when the cherry blossom emerges. If you are showered with the embers from the hanging torches, it is considered good luck and you will be protected from evil.
Event link: https://japancheapo.com/events/omizutori/
Osaka Asian Film Festival | March 9th – 18th | Osaka
The rallying cry of this annual film festival is “From Osaka to All of Asia!” and involves screenings of films from 19 countries and regions including Macao, Taiwan, Indonesia, India, Greece, the USA and of course, Japan. They will be screening a total of 58 films including several international premieres.
Omihachiman Sagicho Fire Festival | March 17th – 18th | Shiga
In preparation for this fiery festival, the 13 neighborhoods that once surrounded the castle of the famed 16th-century warlord Oda Nobunaga construct complex floats using straw, bamboo and paper to compete for the top prize. Once a winner has been crowned, they are all burned together and men dance beside the flames.
Grand Sumo Tournament | March 11th – 25th | Osaka
The Sumo roadshow docks in Osaka for its annual March tournament and offers the Kansai locals a chance to see the wrestlers in action. While the first few days, weekends and final two days are the most crowded, it is easiest to get unreserved tickets on the other days – tickets are around ¥2,100 for adults.
Shizuoka Matsuri | March 30th – April 1st | Shizuoka
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!
Event link: https://japancheapo.com/events/shizuokamatsuri/
Final winter illuminations
While spring has definitely sprung, but there are still some chances to see the final winter illuminations in a couple of spots if you want to see the lights.
Sapporo White Illumination | Until March 14th | Hokkaido
There are three different locations for this illumination—Odori Park, Sapporo Eki-mae and Minami 1-jo dori—but only the third location is on until March 24th. The lights are on between 4.30pm and 10pm.
Light of Versailles | Until March 31st | Shizuoka
This illumination event involves plenty of lights, fountains and water displays with shows at 6:30pm, 7pm, 7:30pm, 8pm and 8:30pm as well as a 9pm show on weekends. The event is held at the location of the Gotemba Kogen Brewery if you fancy a drink to go with the sights.