Early spring is a bustling and eventful time, what with the many events and festivals dedicated to spring flowers to start the season.
While the cherry blossoms finished earlier than usual this year, there are still plenty of late-blooming varieties to catch this month. And as the weather warms up, you’ll find many Tokyo residents taking to the streets for parades, traditional festivals, and puppies.
For the top events in Tokyo throughout the year, check out our complete guide — organized by month.
1. Kanamara MatsuriApril 7
Kanayama Shrine, Kawasaki
It’s that time of the year again: the slightly controversial Kanamara Matsuri, better known as the “Penis Festival”, is back. While the event has certainly gotten bigger and more crowded over the years, it’s interesting to note that the event seems better known among foreigners than locals.
The highlight of the event is a procession in which three steel phalli — in honor of a blacksmith who used a steel phallus to kill a demon living in a woman’s naughty bits — are paraded around the neighborhood. The side attractions and activities, such as a radish-carving contest (guess the shape you’re supposed to carve them into) are also quite popular. Genital-shaped candy is a crowd favorite, with long lines forming at booths that sell them.
Have fun, but don’t go too wild — wacky as the event may seem, it still does have a religious element to it, after all.
2. Ichiyo Sakura Festival/Oiran Dochu Procession
The Ichiyo Sakura Festival is a tribute to a kind of late-blooming cherry blossom called ichiyo, as well as to Yoshiwara, the famous pleasure quarter of Edo (the ancient name of Tokyo). The reenactment of the oiran (courtesan) processions, called the Oiran Dochu, includes neighborhood residents dressed as oiran and their attendants. The route of which includes the ground on which Yoshiwara once stood 400 years ago. This is the main event of the festival and is a colorful sight to behold.
Aside from the parade, the festival will also feature a kabuki performance, traditional dances, stage shows, and a flea market. To get an idea of what the event is like, read fellow cheapo Grigoris’s write-up here.
3. Yoyogi Park Wanwan CarnivalApril 6–7
If you love dogs, doggos, doges, puppers, or whatever you call them, head on to Yoyogi Park to see some real good boys at the Wanwan Carnival (“wanwan” being the Japanese term that kids use to refer to dogs). Bring your good boy/s too, if you have some of your own.
With activities and attractions such as a dog cafe, opportunities to meet therapy and rescue dogs, free check-ups and nail trimming services for your dog, contests, and games, this is the perfect event for dog lovers. Additionally, there will be a “Wanwan Shopping Mall” — that is, rows of booths selling doggy treats and other goodies for your canine friends.
4. Tokyo PrideApril 19–21
Yoyogi Park and the surrounding area
Celebrate love and diversity at Tokyo Rainbow Pride. Expect various activities — movie screenings, parties, talks, and more — but the highlight is the Pride Festival and Parade. The festival will be held at Yoyogi Park Events Square, while the parade on Sunday will make its way around Shibuya and Harajuku.
5. Nezu Shrine Azalea Festival
Nezu Shrine, Bunkyō
If you’re a fan of flowers, then the Nezu Shrine Azalea Festival is for you. This isn’t just a festival where you go and “smell the azaleas”; there are several events in store. Get the chance to take home potted plants at the daily flower market, cheer on those parading the mikoshi (portable shrine) , and enjoy the Sunday drum performances.
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