March marks the official start of spring, and the quietest corners of Japan are waking from winter hibernation for cherry blossom festivals and fiery celebrations. Wherever you are in the country, there will be something exciting to see!

For events in Tokyo and the surrounding area, visit our event listings on Tokyo Cheapo.

Kansai events

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

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Omizutori Festival (Nara)

An annual affair, the Omizutori Festival is one of the oldest Buddhist events, dating back 1,250 years. Large numbers of torches are lit and hung from the balcony of Tōdaiji Temple, and people gather below 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 should be protected from evil!

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Osaka Asian Film Festival

The rallying cry of this annual film festival is “From Osaka to All of Asia!” Expect screenings of films from 19 countries and regions, including Macao, Taiwan, Indonesia, India, Greece, the USA, and of course, Japan. There will be more than 50 films, including several international premieres.

Grand Sumo Tournament

The sumo roadshow docks in Osaka for its annual March tournament and offers the Kansai locals a chance to see the wrestlers in action. The first few days, weekends, and final two days are the most crowded.

Omihachiman Sagicho Fire Festival (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.

Kitano Odori

A chance to see one of the traditional geisha (known as geiko in Kyoto) performances in Kyoto, the annual Kitano Odori features geiko from the Kamishichen area. Running since 1952, they have two performances a day.

Ninnaji Flower Festival

Kyoto’s Ninnaji Temple is famous for its cherry blossoms. Especially its very own variety, known as Omoro-zakura, which typically blooms a week or so later than the standard-bearer Somei-yoshino variety. Ninnaji’s annual spring festival is about more than just sakura — there are exhibitions, too.

Kiyomizu-dera Spring Illuminations

To celebrate the changing of seasons, Kiyomizu-dera opens up in the evening three times a year (autumn, spring, and summer) and holds an illumination event to brighten up the foliage. The pagoda, temple, and Jojuin Garden will be lit up.

Maruyama Park Weeping Cherry Tree Illumination

Maruyama Park is both Kyoto’s most popular hanami spot and a local favorite, so it’s more lively than peaceful. The weeping cherry tree grown from the seed of its 200-year-old predecessor will be illuminated from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. over the cherry blossom season.

Nijo Castle Sakura Festival

Kyoto’s Nijo Castle is already one of the city’s top cherry blossom (sakura) viewing spots, with roughly 500 trees. But the evening illuminations, which occur nightly between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., are truly something else.

Okazaki Canal Boat Rides

There are countless ways to make the most of cherry blossom season in Kyoto — hanami (blossom viewing) picnics, strolls along the Kamogawa River, and boat rides down the Okazaki Canal. The canal connects the Kamogawa with Lake Biei, just over the border in Shiga Prefecture, and is lined with hundreds of sakura trees.

NAKED Hikone Castle Cherry Blossom Festival

Grab a lantern and discover real and digital cherry blossom art at Hikone Castle in Shiga. There will be dynamic light shows, including a 5-meter-high crest connected to the national treasure. This is part of the art “DANDELION PROJECT” by Ryotaro Muramatsu, and is run by the art collective NAKED.

Chūbu events

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

Souriike Plum Blossom Festival

One of the later destinations thanks to the cooler temperatures at this end of Japan, the pond known as Souriike is next to a park filled with over 5000 plum trees. There are 25 varieties and you’ll find blossoms a long walk or short bus ride from Teramoto Station.

Nagoya Women’s Marathon

Nagoya Women’s Marathon is sponsored by Tiffany & Co. which makes the race sparkle for all the right reasons. It has claimed the title of the biggest women’s marathon in the world. The race starts and finishes at Vantelin Dome Nagoya, but it also hits the main sights of Nagoya, such as Nagoya Castle.

Shizuoka Matsuri

The Shizuoka Festival is Shizuoka City’s biggest spring festival. The three-day event features a yatai-mura (outdoor food village), cherry blossoms, parades, performances, and cosplay. There’s not much that the Shizuoka Matsuri doesn’t have.

Tagata Shrine Hōnensai “Penis Festival”

Just like the famous “Penis Festival” that takes place near Tokyo every year, this annual celebration at Tagata Shrine in Aichi also promotes a certain phallic object. It is known as the Hōnensai, or Harvest Festival, in Japanese.

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 at night.

Shikoku events

Koinobori at Ōboke Gorge

The view of koinobori (koi carp streamers) hanging above Yoshino River at Ōboke Gorge is worth the visit for Children’s Day.

Kyūshū & Okinawa events

Huis Ten Bosch Tulip Festival

There’s a little Netherlands in Nagasaki, and in spring it transforms itself into a tulip paradise. There will be several sections in the theme park Huis Ten Bosch that celebrate the flower. Jump on the swing for two at Flower Road, grab some ice cream in Flower Square, feel like royalty at the palace, and enjoy the illuminated tulips at night.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in March, 2018. Last updated on February 27, 2024, by Alex Ziminski.

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