May in Japan is packed with a number of festivals – this is in part due to the Golden Week holiday period that happens every year for several days in early May. Then, the rest of the month is filled with good weather, sunshine, flowers, and lots of food and festivities! Here are 10 fun things to do in Japan in May.
* In 2021, some of the festivals introduced here are cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic. Please check each site before visiting.
1. Gyoza Fes Osaka (餃子フェスOSAKA)
Held in Osaka Castle Park during Golden Week, this gourmet food festival showcases a delicious variety of gyoza from vendors all over Japan! Come enjoy the nice Spring weather and taste a number of pot-suckers. Entry is free and meal tickets are 600 yen each.
WHERE: Osaka Castle Park
WHEN: April 30 – May 6, 2019
2. Hakata Dontaku (博多どんたく)
Held every year during Golden Week, this festival is one of the biggest in Fukuoka Prefecture, as well as one of the most popular in all of Japan. The main event of this festival is the large-scale parade. The highlight is Hakata Matsubayashi that has a tradition dating back over 800 years.
WHERE: Fukuoka City Hall Fureai Square, Fukuoka City
WHEN: May 3 – 4
3. Hiroshima Flower Festival (ひろしまフラワーフェスティバル)
The famous Hiroshima Flower Festival attracts over 1 million people every year, making it one of the biggest festivals in Hiroshima Prefecture. Festivities include a parade, a Kagura traditional music performance, and a display by Hiroshima Street. The nighttime view of Peace Memorial Park is also a popular spot, as flower candles are used to write a message of peace in a beautiful display.
WHERE: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima City
WHEN: May 3- 5
4. Fireworks of Shinoda (篠田の花火)
Held every year in Shiga Prefecture, the main draw to this Shinoda Shrine festival is the spectacular fireworks display. The production and preparation period leading up to the show takes 10 months. The fireworks fill the sky with colorful orbs that are 10 meters in height and 22 meters in width. Based on the theme of each year, a different picture is drawn every year and featured as the main explosive.
WHERE: Shinoda Shrine, Omihachiman City, Shiga Prefecture
WHEN: May 4
5. Wisteria Festival at Myōfukuji Temple (妙福寺の藤まつり)
A wonderful wisteria flower display, with vines as long as 1.5 meters, blooms around cherry blossom season every year. In the area, there are four big and small wisteria trees; one of them, the wisteria trellis, is called the “wisteria of the dragon” because of its age. The largest one is over 750 years old, so it is like an old, sleeping dragon that only wakes in order to bloom.
WHERE: Myōkengu Myōfukuji Temple, Choshi City, Chiba Prefecture
WHEN: May 4-5, 2019 (10:00-16:00)
6. Fushiki Hikiyama Festival [Fighting Float Festival] (伏木曳山祭)
Local young people are fundamental to this festival, which is held every year on May 15 to inform the Japanese sea that Spring has arrived. During the day, there is a festive parade featuring lively tiger dances. The main event takes place at night, when the massive lanterns called “kaccha” will fight against each other, as they are smashed into each other in a competitive display of strength.
WHERE: Yamamachi District, Fushiki, Takaoka, Toyama
WHEN: May 15, 2019 (10:30am – midnight)
7. Kawawatari Kojinsai Festival (川渡り神幸祭)
This festival is held on the 3rd Saturday & Sunday of May every year, and it is one of the 5 biggest festivals in Fukuoka Prefecture. 11 Yamagasa floats from each area of the city are hauled across the Hikosan River. Each Yamagasa weighs around 2-4 tons. It is quite an incredible sight!
WHERE: Fuji Hachimangu Shrine
WHEN: May 18 – 19, 2019
8. Sanja Festival (三社祭)
Held every May in the Asakusa district, this huge festival is regarded as one of the three biggest festivals in Tokyo. Over 100 towns’ portable mikoshi shrines are carried in a large procession. It is held in celebration of the three founders of Sensoji Temple, who are enshrined in Asakusa Shrine next door to the temple. Nearly two million people visit Asakusa over the three days of the festival, making it one of Tokyo’s most popular festivals. The area becomes packed with food stalls, festival games amongst a lively atmosphere of Japanese drums and flutes.
WHERE: Asakusa Shrine, Tokyo
WHEN: May 17 – 19, 2019
9. Mikuni Festival (三国祭)
This is a festival of the historic Mikuni shrine that has been continued since the middle Edo period. A massive crowd gathers to watch the following attractions being paraded around: there are portable shrines reaching 6 meters high, a huge warrior doll atop a wooden base, along with the flute and drum’s accompaniment, all carried around the town. Lining the main street leading up to the festival are approximately 400 pop-up vendors and food stalls.
WHERE: Mikuni Shrine, Sakai City, Fukui Prefecture
WHEN: May 19 – 21 (10:00-21:00)
10. Himekawa Ukai Festival (売比河鵜飼祭)
Following a poem written in 8th Century, the Ukai (cormorant fishing) Division of Inuyama City is invited to participate in the reproduction of ancient Ukai fishing and contemporary fishing. The attractions include Kachiwatari -“Walking Across the Street”, a method of fishing in which fishing is conducted while walking along the river. Contemporary “Kawafune fishing” is a type of fishing that hangs a bonfire from a ship and illuminates the river side.
WHERE: Tajima River (next to Toyama Innovation Park) in Toyama City
WHEN: May 25
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