Spring is coming soon, so what better way to welcome the season than to go out and have some fun? If you’re not sure what to do, no worries—let our guide help you out! This month, we’ve got some traditional festivals, an event for anime lovers and, of course, cherry blossoms on our list.
1. Yokohama Lantern Festival (Mar. 2)
Where: Mazu Temple/Masobyo at Yokohama Chinatown (access: Motomachi-Chukagai, Ishikawacho, or Kannai Station)
Time: 5:30-7:00 pm
This is your last chance to catch the Lunar New Year festivities at Yokohama Chinatown, as this colorful ceremony marks the end of the celebrations. Representing people’s hopes and dreams for the new year, lanterns with optimistic messages and wishes written on them will be lit up and dedicated to the gods. There will also be some closing performances such as lion dances. While this lantern festival isn’t on the same scale as the ones in China and Taiwan (don’t expect the lanterns to be released into the sky, a la Tangled), it still makes for a beautiful spectacle.
2. Hiwatari-Sai (Mar. 11)
Where: Takaosan Yakuoin Temple (access: Takaosanguchi Station)
Time: 1 pm-5 pm
Come join this yearly fire-walking ritual at Mount Takao, during which barefooted monks chant sutras and prayers for good health and other blessings while walking atop smoldering embers. Visitors are welcome to try walking atop the embers as well, but only after they’ve slightly cooled down—safety first, after all! This ritual is said to bring good luck, but for extra luck, auspicious items such as purifying salt will also be sold at the festival.
Note that while this event is organized by Takaosan Yakuoin Temple, which is atop Mount Takao, the fire-walking festival takes place at a public square that’s a 5-minute walk from Takaosanguchi Station.
3. St. Patrick’s Day in Tokyo (Mar. 17-18)
Where: Yoyogi Park/around Omotesando for the parade (access: Harajuku/Meiji-jingumae Stations)
Time: 10:00 am-6:00 pm (parade: Mar. 18 only, 1:00-3:30 pm)
To introduce Ireland and Irish culture to the Japanese, the Irish Network in Japan (INJ) started holding a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Tokyo in 1992, and since then, it’s become an annual tradition to hold it on the weekend closest to the big day. It’s also become Asia’s largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration, and it has inspired other locations in Japan to also hold St. Patrick’s Day parades.
The parade is just one part of the celebrations, though. Held on the same weekend is the “I Love Ireland” festival, a celebration of all things Irish. Visitors can enjoy food, music, dances, and—of course—good old Irish beer at the event.
4. Anime Japan (Mar. 24-25)
Where: Tokyo Big Sight, East Halls 1-6 (access: Kokusai-Tenjijo/Ariake/Kokusai-Tenjijo-Seimon Station)
Time: 10:00 am-5:00 pm
Admission: 1,800 yen (advanced selling); 2,200 yen (on-site) / free for children of elementary school age and younger
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Anime Japan’s tagline tells you all you need to know about the event: “Here is everything about anime.” This event’s scale grows ever larger each year, and with this year being its fifth anniversary, expect that the organizers will go all-out this year. Basically, what you can expect from Anime Japan are information on upcoming anime, exhibits, official merchandise booths (including sneak peeks at upcoming merchandise and event exclusives), stage shows, workshops, freebies, cosplay, and seminars on the anime industry (sadly, only in Japanese). There’s also a family area for wholesome, kid-oriented anime; only children of elementary school age and younger, as well as their guardians, can access it.
5. Cherry blossom festivals (from late March)
Where: around Tokyo
Lastly, no guide to events in March would be complete without Japan’s famous cherry blossom festivals. This year, the cherry blossoms are forecast to bloom earlier than expected. There are so many festivals to celebrate the blooming of Japan’s beloved flower, so we’ve got several handy articles to help you. Whether you just want to see them in the daytime, to see them while doing something fun, or to admire them all lit up at night, we’ve got those bases covered. And if those still aren’t enough, we also have a guide to sakura-themed products! Stay tuned as we update these guides.
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