One of the national holidays that takes place during Japan’s Golden Week is Children’s Day, which is a day on which boys are celebrated(don’t worry, girls have their own Girl’s Day too). Parents of boys pray for their sons to become strong, healthy, and able to overcome challenges. This is done by hanging koi streamers or ‘koinobori’ (こいのぼり) outside of their homes. After all, koi fish are resilient fish that are famous for their strength as told about in Japanese legends. Throughout spring, there are various places in Japan where you can see these koinobori carp streamers flying in the wind, which is a beautiful sight. Here are the 10 best Koinobori festivals in Japan!
1. Tsuetate Onsen
In Kumamoto on the southern island of Kyushu you can find the picturesque hot spring area Tsuetate Onsen. Besides bathing in its mineral rich water and walking through the nostalgic backstreets, people also flock to Tsuetate Onsen for the Koinobori Festival in April. Hundreds of colorful koi banners span over the babbling river, creating a wonderful view. Because it is a tiny town, the streamers are hard to miss so you will definitely find them if you visit in April.
Dates: April 1st – Early May
Website: Tsuetate Onsen
2. Achi Village
Achi Village’s claim to fame is it’s unparalleled starry skies which are visible due to the remote location. This Nagano mountain town is also great for camping, hiking, and seasonal flower viewing. The peach blossoms bloom in late April and early May, so here you can see a gorgeous explosion of pink and white in the background together with koinobori. It’s a true spectacle that’s also a great place to take some photos.
Dates: Early April – Mid May
Website: Achi Village
For a taste of the Edo Period you don’t have to go all the way to Kyoto. Kawagoe in Saitama prefecture will make you feel like you went back in time just as much as Kyoto does. With lots of wooden houses that are still standing from the old days, Kawagoe has a nice and traditional atmosphere. If you come to this quaint neighborhood in early May, you will be treated to the sight of over 800 koinobori that hang above the main streets. It sure puts the town in a festive mood!
Dates: March 26th – May 15th
The old castle town Tatebayashi in Gunma is not on most tourists’ radar, but the very colorful Azalea festival from late April to early May is worth a visit if you’re in the area. The Tsutsujigaoka Park erupts in bright pink and orange every year around the same time that the koinobori are flying in the wind over Tatebayashi’s Tsuruuda river as well as in other spots. You can see the carp here for a bit longer than at other places, between the end of March and mid May.
Dates: March 25th – May 15th
5. Kawakami Gorge
Saga prefecture in Kyushu is known for its pottery and hot springs. Tourists travel to Saga to enjoy culture, history, and nature. The fairly off the beaten path Kawakamikyo, or Kawakami Gorge, has beautiful natural scenery year round and offers several interesting sightseeing spots such as Jissoin Temple, the vast Jukkaen garden, and the Kyoseki Giant Rocks Park. In the spring, you can see pretty cherry blossoms, as well as around 600 koinobori that are hung over the gorge’s river which isn’t something you see everyday.
Dates: March 12th – May 22nd
Website: Kawakami Gorge
6. Tokyo Tower
You don’t have to go all the way to the countryside to see a beautiful display of carp streamers. The Tokyo Tower is not only one of Tokyo’s most famous landmarks, it is also host to 333 flying carp(signifying the height of the tower) and one saury in the time leading up to Golden Week and during Golden Week. The saury is displayed in connection to the 2011 disaster hit city of Ofunato in Iwate prefecture, which has a pre-existing bond with Tokyo Tower through the mutually organized Saury Festival that is held every September.
Dates: Late April – Early May
Website: Tokyo Tower
7. Jozankei Onsen
In the middle of the cold winter season between late January and early February, Jozankei Onsen in Hokkaido is romantically lit up at night by the Jozankei Snow Lantern Festival. However, if you come in the springtime, you get to enjoy the special sight of the late-blooming cherry blossoms in conjunction with koinobori during the town’s month-long spring festival. Around 400 colorful carp appear to be swimming in the sky, and visitors enjoy the spring atmosphere in this charming hot spring town on the edge of the Shikotsu Toya National Park.
Dates: April 1st – May 15th
Website: Jozankei Onsen
If you’re a bit of a daredevil, you will like the Ryujinkyo gorge for its amazing bungee jumping experience from the long suspension bridge spanning the gorge. Even for those who are not so fond of heights, the gorge in Ibaraki is still worth a visit for its beautiful vistas of the forest-rich area while you walk the 375m long bridge. From mid April to mid May you will be treated to a colorful koinobori display that’s connected to the bridge and creates awesome photo ops with the beautiful spring green background.
Dates: Mid April – Mid May
Located between Mt. Fuji and the Minami Alps there is a valley that’s dotted with a few small towns that belong to Hokuto city. Road Station South Kiyosato in Yamanashi prefecture may have an unassuming name, but it is here that the Nagasawa Koinobori Festival is held each year between early April and early May. The colorful carp streamers are complemented by a carpet of white and pink flowers with a warm spring green in the background, making it very much worth a stop if you are in the area. You can also combine your trip to the Nagasawa festival with a hike in the surrounding mountainous areas if you’d like.
Dates: Early April – Early May
10. Asano River
The koinobori event on the Asano River in Kanazawa is a bit different from the other carp streamer festivals. Instead of only having the streamers float in the wind, they also have streamers that are let down into the river for a little swim. The event takes place in the first week of May, and to see it you have to head to the charming wooden Ume no bashi bridge near the city’s traditional Higashi Chaya district.
Dates: Early May
Website: Asano River
Traveling in Japan
There are lots of great koinobori festivals all over Japan if you are here in the spring. There is nothing better than taking in the beautiful blooming spring flowers while enjoying a traditional Japanese festival. No matter when you are traveling in Japan, there is always something seasonal going on somewhere. If you want to make sure that you don’t miss anything on your trip, booking a private English speaking guide for a day is always a great idea. Local guides have up to date information on their city and would be happy to adjust the tour itinerary to include a fun event that is happening on the day of your tour. We offer high quality private tours in cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and other major cities throughout Japan. Check out all of our tours and experiences when you are preparing your trip to Japan and enhance the quality of your trip by including fun and informative tours with our well versed guides!
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Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.
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