Shimabara Castle Cherry Blossoms - Perfect Way to Meet Spring in Nagasaki
On the northern shore of southwesterly Kyushu, one of Japan’s four main islands, Fukuoka is the principal seat of business and culture in the island. Fukuoka spring events are cheerful and exciting. And the city is youthful and ready to grow larger. In fact, it has the youngest average population of all the prefectures in Japan and has gone all out to attract young people and firms, especially startup IT ventures. Due to its proximity to the rest of East Asian countries, Fukuoka is also an important hub for interchanges in many kinds of fields. I would say Fukuoka is bustling with young life, so, to me, the image of spring growing new life matches the exciting atmosphere of this vibrant city. In this article, I would like to introduce some of the fun events that represent Fukuoka’s current “freshness and vibrancy”!
-Hina Matsuri Sagemon Meguri, Yanagawa
-Fukuoka Living: Hando-meido-to-kodawarihin Fair
-Rice Planting Festivals
– Kita-Kyushu Ramen Playoff
-Fukuoka Castle Sakura Festival
-Itoshima 110 km Walk
-Hakata Dontaku Festival
– Koishiwara Spring Pottery Festival
– Kawawatari Jinko-sai
-Moji Port Minato Festival
March is the best time to see Japanese plum blossoms – “ume”, which heralds the arrival of spring. The weather is still chilly even though the temperature gets warmer and warmer. So, it is good to take with you a light jacket or coat to slip on when going on an outing.
Dates: February 11th – April 3rd
Place: Hiyoshi-jinja Shrine and others, Yanagawa
The sagemon are traditional displays of hina dolls in a manner that is unique to Yanagawa, a small town famous for its hundreds of waterways running through the town. Yanagawa is 70 km away from Hakata. During the festival period, a lot of hand-sewn ornaments are displayed all over the town, involving gorgeous decorations that include colorful mobiles.
When a baby girl is born, her mother and her grandmothers sew sagemon stitch by stitch and wish her to grow healthy for the rest of her life. You can usually notice sagemon are at both sides of multi-tiered hina dolls for decoration to celebrate her first Girls’ Festival. On March 3rd, children and adults walk in traditional hina doll attire around the town. On the 17th of the month, people who dress up as an ancient couple of emperor and empress with small kids float on a gondola with colorful sagemon. During the festival period, you will see many more events! For more details about the festival, please visit the official website (Japanese only): https://www.city.yanagawa.fukuoka.jp/kanko/meisho/meguru/sagemonmeguri.html.
If you would like to know more about sagemon, please refer to the following article: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/events/yanagawa-ohina-sama-water-parade
Dates: March 8th and 9th
Place: FUKUOKA KOKUSAI Center, Hakata, Fukuoka
There are a lot of 100-yen shops across the country dealing in a variety of quality knick-knacks. That proves that Japan is a country of “zakka (雑貨)” culture. At Hando-Meido-to-Kodawarihin (ハンドメイドとこだわり品) Fair, you will see over 200 designers of clothes, toys, accessories, dolls, home goods, and other things. They open their booths and galleries and display their “hando-meido” or handcrafted and “kodawari” or best-selected products to pitch to visitors. Unlike in 100-yen shops, the goods at this event run the gamut of price ranges, but they will definitely attract your attention, and you will find yourself putting some in your shopping cart. They will make pretty souvenirs for your family and friends back home as proof of your experience in Japan’s zakka culture. Admission is ¥600. For more information, please check on the official website (Japanese only): https://home.livingfk.com/.
Date: March 15th
Place: Hikosan-jingu Shrine, Soeda
Gongenyama-hiko Shrine, Miyama
Hundreds of rice planting festivals take place at Shinto shrines across the country. Each one features its own event in a unique manner. To re-enact the traditional rice planting, participants in the festival mimic the movements that farmers from old times used to do as their farm work. Fukuoka also has its long-standing rice planting festivals, two of which I would like to introduce here.
At Hikosan-jingu Shrine, which is in the mountainous area in Soeda, shrine priests act as farmers in a religious ritual and pray for good rice harvest of the year. The agricultural festival at Gongenyama-hiko Shrine in Miyama is more community-oriented. At a plot of land in the shrine, one “osa (長)”, performed by a six-grade boy, and several third-grade kids as “saotome (早乙女)”, pull together to cultivate the rice field in a rhythmical and theatrical manner, which is very unique to the local farm area. For more details, please check on the following websites (Japanese only): http://hikosanjingu.or.jp/event/ (for Hikosanjingu Shrine) and http://www.city.miyama.lg.jp/ (for Gongenyama-hiko Shrine).
Dates: March 16th and 17th
Place: Mojiko Retro District, Kita-Kyushu
A daily morning drama show, now broadcast on Japan Broadcasting Corporation, portrays the life of Ando Momofuku. He invented instant ramen noodles in1950s and later introduced Cup Noodles to the world. Ramen is now not only a soul food for Japanese but appeals to people in other countries. Fukuoka is home to some “brand name” ramen dishes: Hakata, Nagahama, and Kurume. Kita-Kyushu ramen is also not less popular than those names.
At Ramen Playoff, translating literally to “Ramen-Oza-Kettei-Sen (ラーメン王座決定戦),” you will enjoy a variety of ramen dishes by 13 best shops from Kita-Kyushu. Their ramen feature is “tonkotsu (豚骨)” or pork-bone soup broth. Thus, it attracts a lot of ramen lovers even from regions other than Kyushu. Buy a ¥400 ticket for a bowl (or a ¥1000 advance ticket for 3 bowls) before having a good slurp. Why not go find your favorite ramen? For more details, please check on the official website (Japanese only): http://ramen.mojikonavi.com/.
April is at the peak of spring outing season. Its temperature is comfortable, but sometimes chilly days come back. So, it might be better to take a long-sleeved jacket or a windbreaker.
Image courtesy of Fukuoka city
Dates: March 23rd – April 1st
Place: Maizuru Park, Chuo, Fukuoka
Seeing the stately presence of the gates and turrets in Fukuoka Castle Ruins, I thought what one’s successful life is all about. Kuroda Yoshitaka, aka Kuroda “Kanbei” and his son Nagamasa, must have made the most of their political and military capabilities to keep the peace as lords of Chikuzen Domain (current Fukuoka Prefecture) in the Edo Period. In much of the castle grounds, which have been converted to the beautiful park – the Maizuru Park, you will find about 1,000 cherry trees waiting for visitors in fool bloom at the end of March.
At the peak season of Sakura, clusters of pink blossoms on the branches hang like canopies over walking paths in the park. The park also has plenty of areas with lawns for people to relax. Many people hold hanami parties under the cherry trees, and many foods and drink booths give off good smells of local delicacies. The park is lit up every evening during the festival, which provides you with a beautiful night view. Kids can enjoy seeing and touching small animals in a “mini-zoo” in the daytime. For more details, please check the following article: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/fukuoka-castle-sakura-festival.
Image courtesy of nash1011
Dates: April 13th and 14th
Place: Iwaya Shrine, Toho, Asakura
Iwaya Shrine was established by a Chinese Buddhist monk in 532. According to a record of the shrine, the shining stone fell from the sky and since then has been enshrined as a “deity” in the main hall at Iwaya Shrine. People believe that this stone, the “hojuseki (宝珠石)”, is the magic stone that makes any wish come true. In the village of Toho, a small town deep in the mountains straddling Fukuoka and Oita, Iwaya Shrine sits in a cave at the bottom of Gongen-iwa (権現岩), a huge octahedron-shaped boulder designated as a local scenic beauty.
The festival is compact and features fun events. Priests pray for the village’s peace and a good harvest of the year by burning a sacred bonfire. Young locals carrying mikoshi go up and down on the mountain trail which looks inspiring indeed. And people can enjoy festival food and drinks at the merchandise booths. On the second day of the festival, many people join the game of kicking “geta (traditional wooden clogs)”. If you want to enjoy this matsuri and hiking at one time, please check on the official website (Japanese only): http://toho-info.com/event/ .
Image courtesy of furosky
Dates: April 19th
Place: Fukuoka City Zoological Garden
In 2008, the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums or JAZA established April 19th as “Shi-I-ku” Day. What is the date for? The numbers in the date are “4”, “1”, and “9”. In Japanese, we pronounce it as “shi”, “ichi” and “ku” respectively. JAZA found the combination of the sounds of each number to be similar to the pronunciation of a Japanese word “shi-I-ku (飼育)”, which means rearing animals. Hence, they established the Rearing Animals Day on April 19th, to raise people’s more interest in the wildlife.
Fukuoka City Zoological Garden usually arranges a weekly tour around one enclosure or two on Sundays for tourists to see how the zoo animals live in their enclosures. However, it is only on April 19th when over 10 enclosures are available for the tours at one time. The entrance fee is just ¥400 (but cash only). If you are a zoo lover, please check their official website: http://zoo.city.fukuoka.lg.jp/.
Dates: April 20th and 21st
Place: Shima Park (departure/arrival) and around the city, Itoshima
Prefectural Mito No.1 High School, a prestigious high school in Mito, Ibaraki in Kanto Region, has its time-honored tradition of “graduation night walking”. 1000 students walk 80 kilometers in 24 hours every year. Itoshima’s walking event reminds me of the high school’s long-distance walk. In Itoshima, a city in the western part of Fukuoka Prefecture, there is an annual event that requires its participants to walk 110 kilometers in 28 hours. This is the toughest walk to try in Japan, but it has been becoming popular year by year since 2009.
Especially, a certain stretch of the walking course goes along the beautiful shoreline, from which you can enjoy the picturesque views of the cityscape of central Fukuoka across the sea. Several “aid” stations on the way of the walking course support you and recharge your energy by serving local specialties. You should pre-register this walk online as soon as possible. The registration will close earlier when the entry reaches its limit. The registration fee is ¥8000. For more details, please visit the official website (Japanese only): http://www.ito110walk.jp/.
In May, weather is much milder with the temperature much warmer in Fukuoka, but it might be a little early to wear short sleeves. Take something to slip on when you go out, just in case.
Image courtesy of Fukuoka city
Dates: May 3rd and 4th
Place: Throughout central Hakata
In Grand Sumo Championships, all the wrestlers fight their best to become “Yokozuna (横綱)”, which is at the top of the ranking system. And I would say Hakata Dontaku Port Festival could be a yokozuna if someone asked me to rank Japanese matsuri. This matsuri prides itself on the largest number of spectators and participants in Japan. The first week of May includes the Golden Week. Because of this, the festival attracts more than two million people not only from across the country but from abroad as well.
The origin of the festival derives in the Edo period from Hakata Matsubayashi, where people of every rank used to gather up to accompany a procession of professional performers for courtesy visits to the lord of Fukuoka Domain. The festival consists mainly of the parades by more than 30 groups or organizations going around downtown Fukuoka, including the “Matsubayashi (松囃子)” parade of the three deities representing prosperity, status, and longevity respectively. Especially, for the finale to the festival, all the 25,000 participants parade down the streets in an exciting atmosphere, which really overwhelms you. If you want to enjoy the energetic atmosphere of the festival, please refer to the following article: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/hakata-dontaku-festival.
Dates: May 3rd to 5th
Place: Across the Koishiwara area, Toho
Simple and quaint. I think these two adjectives are the right fit for describing Koishiwara Ware. Pottery culture had not reached the Koishiwara region until the late 17th century when the lord of Fukuoka Domain invited some professional craftsmen from Imari in current Saga Prefecture, adjacent to Fukuoka. The rustic but elegant potteries, characterized by their beautiful carvings and drippings, have continued to be made in this mountainous area for daily use, not for luxurious art crafts. This simplicity, however, has long appealed to a lot of pottery lovers. Koishiwara Pottery Festival is a biannual event that takes place in May and October. All the potters pride themselves on being successors of the 350-year old pottery tradition. They are looking forward to seeing you and showing you their own original lineups. For more information, please visit the official website: http://www.crossroadfukuoka.jp/chikugo/en/contents/toho/36.
Dates: May 19th and 20th
Place: Fujihachiman Shrine, Tagawa
This festival is known as one of the five great festivals in Fukuoka. The two “mikoshi (神輿)” from Fujihachiman Shrine, accompanied by 11 “yamakasa (山笠)” floats from the “ujiko (氏子)” towns around the shrine, parade along the river. The manly procession is a great spring feature of Tagawa, ushering in the arrival of early summer in Fukuoka. The festival started around the 16th century when an epidemic disease broke out in the village and local farmers prayed for it to go away.
The v-shaped yamakasa floats are decorated with colorful banners and streamers, which liven up the festive atmosphere. The parades are so splendid and gorgeous that they attract tens of thousands of viewers. Incidentally, Jinko-sai (or shinko-sai) refers to a Shinto event of “kami (神)” paying a visit to common people and bringing good luck to them. The deity on the mikoshi stays at Otabisho on the first day of the festival and then gets back to the shrine on the next day. Please see the official website for more details (Japanese only): http://kawawatari.com.
And refer to the following article for information in English: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/events/kawa-watari-jinko-sai-tagawa
Dates: May 25th and 26th
Place: Sakae District / Moji Port Retro Area, Kitakyushu
One of the best parts of a matsuri is probably going around the food stalls for some goodies. Talking with itinerant “tekiya (的屋)” merchants makes you come alive, and seeing them pitching their products livens up the festive atmosphere. Actually, Moji used to be famous for its itinerant sellers highly skilled in making sales pitches. Bananas were mainly what they dealt in. Now, the whole Moji Port works hard to make a sales pitch for its festive event: Moji Port Minato Festival. The festival consists of parades, stage performances (including showy performances by “banana sellers”), illumination displays, and energetic dances. You can even enjoy cruise trips aboard the Japan Coast Guard’s patrol vessels. Of course, a lot of snacks and drinks are waiting for you at the festival. Step right up, step right up. Let’s have fun! Here is the official website to check (Japanese only): http://www.kitakyushucci.or.jp/mojiminato/.
Traveling is experiencing new discoveries. I would say it can be likened to what Forrest Gump said in the 1994 movie of the eponymous title: “Life is just like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” How about opening your own “chocolate box” through your journey? If you would like a local guide to spend a day with you or take you to a festival and tell you even more about the events, please check the banner below!
Fukuoka prefecture is super lively prefecture among all other areas in Kyushu. People, here are very open and friendly. On top of it, the local food tastes incredible! Either you are looking for some exceptional cultural experience through attending festivals and visiting historic sites, or you enjoy chilling in nature, Fukuoka Prefecture has something to offer anyone who decides to visit it. The following article will introduce you to the most popular events and attractions of Fukuoka Prefecture. Please check the link below!
Cherry blossoms are an essential part of Japanese culture. And, viewing cherry blossoms (Hanami) is very popular in Japan during the spring. This is because cherry blossoms, which the Japanese call “Sakura” are stunning at this season.
If you are planning to visit Japan this spring and want to discover more cherry blossoms spots in Kyoto area, please check the following article. It’s covering the best Hanami spots in the old capital and provides you with the essential information, so you can get the most from your Sakura trip!
Here`s the link. URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/2566/
Osaka is very close to Kyoto. It will be a miss if you don’t visit Osaka to see cherry blossoms when you are in the Kansai area in spring. Please check the following article to find out the best cherry blossoms viewing spots in Osaka and Kansai!
Kyoto and Osaka have many beautiful spots to see Cherry blossoms. However, other areas also have excellent places for hanami. Tokyo features many of those spots as well! If you are in Tokyo around spring and looking for a place to see cherry blossoms, Why don’t you check the following article?
A lot of people when they get to a Matsuri for the first time feel a bit lost. They confuse about what is happening around. If you are new to Japanese Festivals or want to know an alternative way of how you can enjoy these events, the following article will provide you with a set of helpful tips on how to choose a proper festival and activities you should try there. Please don`t hesitate to take a look at it!
Image courtesy of Tomomarusan
For all foodies who enjoy Japanese Festivals would be nice to get acquainted with the rich choice offered by Yatai (Japanese festival food stalls). The food presented during Matsuri is pretty different from the one you get at the restaurants in Japan. Besides, there is a certain charm in grabbing some snack from a food stall and diving back into the festival crowd. I am sure that you will discover something new about Japanese festival food from the following article!