May in Japan is anything from boring. There’s plenty of traditional festivals to pique the interest of any cheapo from cherry blossoms to samurai to giant kite battles!
May Events in Japan
Onbashira Matsuri (May 3-5 & May 14-16): Part two of Japan’s most dangerous festival stretches across two weekends in May. In April, we saw groups of men ride giant logs down a steep hill to prove their bravery, and now they’re going to be holding on tight as, once again, giant logs are raised into the air. Head to Nagano to cheer them on!
Hakata Dontaku Festival (May 3-4): Dontaku Festival, one of the most popularly attended festivals in Japan, features teams of extravagantly costumed dancers as well as decorated floats called hana jidosha (flower cars).
Hiroshima Flower Festival (May 3-5): More than a flower show, there will also be performances, a ‘yosakoi’ dance festival with 100 dance teams participating, a parade with flower floats and night time light ups at this festival.
Hamamatsu Festival (May 3-5): This is a two-part festival not too far from Tokyo in Shizuoka. The first part features a procession of floats that resemble small temples, each carrying musicians, while the second half consists of a huge kite flying battle with each neighbourhood competing with their own giant kite.
Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival (until May 6): Although long gone from most areas, cherry blossoms are still kicking around Hirosaki Castle. Stick around until nightfall for the illuminations and get your fill at the onsite food and drink vendors.
Kobe Festival (May 14-15): The Kobe Festival is a citywide festival that runs over two days, with celebrations taking place at various venues around the city. The big parade happens on Sunday (May 15) starting at 11am.
Togyo 1000 Samurai Procession (May 18): An impress 1200 participants (despite the festival name) dress as warriors in samurai armour and escort mikoshi (portable shoulder-borne shrines) to a hall in the sprawling Toshohu Shrine grounds. A unique opportunity to appreciate what the Shogun’s army must have looked like.
Matsumae Sakura Festival (ongoing until May 20): Japan’s northernmost castle, Matsumae Castle, is the place to be with 10,000 cherry trees, hundreds of varieties of spring flowers and local entertainment, including locals in a procession dressed as samurai warriors.
And read our Tokyo May-June events guide for the city’s biggest and cheapest festivals—including the famous Sanja Matsuri.