Warmer days are coming, which also means that hanami season will be upon us soon. Hanami being the must-do activity in early spring, you might want to check out our hanami guide and yozakura guide, the latter meaning cherry blossom-viewing at night. But what else is there to do other than see the cherry blossoms? Here are our top 5 events not to miss this spring:
1. Lantern Festival – March 5
The Lantern Festival will close out the 15-day-long Chinese Spring Festival and will take place in Yokohama’s Chukagai Chinatown at the Ma Zhu Miao Shrine. As the name suggests, there will be an awe-inspiring display of lit-up paper lanterns with people’s wishes for the year ahead written on them. The paper lanterns will then float up towards the heavens as the final ringing in of the New Year.
When: 3:30 pm to 8:00 pm | Where: Ma Zhu Miao Shrine, Yamshita-cho Park | Address: 136 Yamashitacho, Naka Ward, Yokohama | Access: Motomachi Chukagai Station
2. Hiwatari-Sai (Mt. Takao Fire-Walking Festival) – March 8
Takaosan Yakuoin Temple is located atop Mt. Takao, which is just 40-60 minutes away from Shinjuku. Here, barefeet monks chant Buddhist prayers for safety and good health as they walk atop a sacred fire. After putting out the fire, when the ground is warm but no longer burning hot, visitors can also try walking on hot ground. The festival goes from 13:00-17:00.
Address: 2177 Takaomachi, Hachioji-shi, Tokyo | Access: Takaosan or Sanjo Station (cable car stations – directions here)
3. Various events for anime and manga enthusiasts – March
March is shaping up to be a good month for anime and manga geeks! Anime Japan, Japan’s largest anime event, takes place on the 21st and 22nd of March. Taking up a whopping 6 halls at Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba, it’s got stage events, cosplay, booths (some of which carry event-exclusive merchandise), screenings, seminars, and an auction. Admission is 1,600 yen.
The following week, on the 28th and 29th, marks the first Haneda International Anime Music Festival, which will be held in the International Terminal of Haneda Airport. It will feature famous names in the anisong (anime song) scene such as Yoshiki Fukayama and Haruko Momoi. Details are still sparse, but there will also be international guests and cosplay. Tickets cost 2,800 yen.
On that same weekend, in Chiba’s Makuhari Messe, is the Otaku Summit 2015, this year’s theme for the Comiket Special, a themed offshoot of Comiket that is held every 5 years. This year’s theme is all about going global, so international fans have been invited to sell their fan works at the event. Theme aside, expect the event to be not all that different from other Comikets. To enter the event, you must purchase the Comic Special Catalogue, which costs 1,000 yen if bought directly from Comiket Service, its sales outlet, or 1,080 yen from other bookstores.
4. Kanamara Matsuri – April 5
Spring means new life, and what better way to celebrate it than to visit the infamous penis festival in Kawasaki’s Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine, just about an hour away from Tokyo? This wacky festival started in honor of a legendary blacksmith who built a huge steel phallus to rid a woman of a demon living in her nether regions. Three phalluses—one of them flaming pink—on portable shrines are carried around the area in a parade, which is the main attraction. The side activities and attractions are quite entertaining as well: a radish-carving contest (no points for guessing what shape you have to carve them into), a wooden schlong that you’re more than welcome to ride, and a few phalluses that you can touch. The booths also sell trinkets such as lucky charms of rabbits holding penises, and some genitalia-shaped candy. This is also a chance to wear a kimono for free, as a volunteer group provides a limited number of kimonos. Those in kimono can help carry the portable shrines! Anyone with an open mind is welcome at this event.
Where: Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine | Address: 2-13-16 Daishi Ekimae, Kawasaki Ward, Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture
Escape Tokyo for the day, see mountains, hot springs, the modern, the traditional, the old and the ancient!
Access: Kawasaki-Daishi Station
5. Motor Sport Japan 2015 – April 11-12
Fond of cars and motorcycles? Then this is the event for you, and it’s now on its 10th anniversary. Aside from seeing vehicles on display, the event features a driving workshop, the chance to experience riding a race car, a race photography workshop, and more. Children are also welcome to learn about cars at the event! Entrance is free.
Where: Aomi Temporary Parking Lot, Tokyo Rinkai Fukutoshin Aomi District Special-Purpose Event Hall, and Central Promenade
Access: Tokyo Teleport or Fune-no-kagakukan Station
Stay warm — and satiated — with these hearty winter Japanese foods.