Event Calendar

Help make this page better: This page is work in progress. If you know of any good events in or close to Yamanashi, please send me an email so we can share the information with others. I will give credit for any digital photos submitted that are used. Specify the name you want used for the credit and your prefecture/state and country.

A good way to get more info about grape, peach, cherry picking, etc. is to pickup a Yamanashi magazine in the bookstore. There are lots of ADs with pictures, maps, and phone numbers. There are also hikes, onsens, ryokan, and lot of other listings.

January

Sumo wrestling, second Sunday

There are six tournements per year, one every other month. Tournaments start on the second Sunday of the month, last for 15 days ending on Sunday. It is best to get tickets early especially for the last tournament day. The closest place to Kofu to see sumo is Tokyo in January, May, and September. Sumo can also be seen in Nagoya in July, Osaka in March, and Fukuoka in November.

February

Strawberry picking

Strawberry picking season starts late Jan. depending on the area and ends in April. You can go strawberry picking in Yamanashi and Shizuoka perfectures. Some places have a 30 minute all-you-can-eat price.

Setsubun, February 3

Setsubun is the festival where beans are thrown to ward off evil spirits. "Setsubun kits" can be found in the local super markets and convenience stores that contain beans and a mask of Tengu a Japanese demon. The more elaborate and pricey kits may contain a molded mask rather than the paper mask of the small 300 yen kits. The mask may be worn by the father dancing around while the children throw beans to drive the evil spirit away. You are also suppose to eat the number of beans equal to your age.

Valentine's Day, February 14

Valentine's Day is also celebrated in Japan. Men and women in give chocolates and other gifts to their significant others. Women in the office, give chocolates and the like to all the men in the office to show their appreciation. This is called giri-chokko (obligation chocolate). Stores are flooded with giri-chokko and other gifts for this commercial holiday. The O.L. (Office Lady) may give a box of chocolates or similar snack for all the men or they may give individual small bags of chocolate or candy.

March

White Day, March 14

White Day, another commercial holiday created by the chocolate manufacturers, is uniquely Japanese. Men in the office give the women gifts in return for Valentine's Day to show their appreciation. Men also give their wives and girlfriends a gift on this day.

April

Beginning of the School Year

The Japanese school year begin in April. Students can be seen walking and riding bikes to schools in the morning in there uniforms. The younger students can be seen wearing there yellow caps and black or red box-shaped leather backpacks being escorted across busy streets by one of the older students. The escort will hold there yellow flag out signaling cars to stop and let the young students cross.

Hanami, April in Yamanashi

kosehanami

hanami (lit. flower viewing) is a major event in Japan. People start early and spend the entire day with friends and family sitting under the cherry trees in full blossom picnicking and drinking Japanese sake (rice wine). Popular areas for hanami may have sakura (cherry) trees which extend as far as the eye can see, but also can get extremely crowded so it is best to go early morning to get a "good spot".

Generally, hanami season starts in Kofu around the 1st weekend of April. Kose Sports park(photo) and Gogoku Jinjya are popular places for viewing. Both are within bicycle distance of Kofu station. Gogoku Jinjya is north of Kofu station near Takeda Jinjya. A little further is "sanebara no sakura namiki" in Mukawa. The cherry trees at Sanebara will probably be in blossom a couple weeks later. Another popular area, but a bit further is Takatoujyou castle in Nagano prefecture. I went to Takatoujyou in 2002 the second weekend of April but I was about a week too late. I went again the same weekend in 2003 and I was a week too early. The best time for hanami for a particular location changes every year and depend on the local weather. Fortunately it is such a major event that current information on the prime times for hanami can be found on TV, in the newspaper, and on the internet and even updated daily.

Shingenko Festival, 1st weekend in April, Fri.-Sun.

drumfloat

Yamanashi was founded by a famous samurai warier Takeda Shingen who lived before the Edo period. One of Shingen's claims to fame is the defeat of Tokugawa Ieyasu the founder of today's Aichi-ken in the battle of "mikata ga hara". This was Tokugawa's one and only defeat. Shingen raised many horses in Yamanashi and rode into battle on horse surprising and then defeating Tokugawa Ieyasu. There is a famous word used to describe Shingen and his battle techniques. fuurinkazan made up of the Kanji for wind, forest, fire, and mountain. He was said to move like the wind but as quiet as the forest before raising into battle like a great fire and standing strong like the mountains. Today, a large statue of Shingen stands at the South entrance to Kofu station. The jingle played on the train to alert passengers that the train is approaching the final stop of Kofu station is from a famous song about Takeda Shingen.

This festival occurs every year in Kofu to honor Takeda Shingen. The festival starts the 1st weekend in April on Friday around 5 p.m. at Maizuru castle. There is a contest to determine who will represent Shingen's wife in the parade the following day. Fri. through Sun. there are food and game booths at the castle, in downtown on Orion and Ginza Road, as well as some other locations. The festival continues Sat. around 10 a.m. There are events at Takeda Jinjya in the afternoon and a parade starting in front of Kofu station around 5:00 p.m. This is Yamanashi's biggest festival.

Okagura Festival, April 20, Hakushu, Yamanashi

okagura_dancer

Traditional dance during the okagura matsuri at Kaikomagatake Jinjya in Hakushu, Yamanashi which only occurs once every spring on April 20. The dances are said to be performed as they were hundreds of years ago. One in particular tells a story of Japan falling into darkness and Bishamon-ten one of the shitenno (four heavenly kings) dancing for Amaterasu Oomikami the sun goddess. A clown, and an orge fight over who gets to hold the sun before it is returned to the sun goddess.

This is a small festival in the country side which is what makes it really great. There are only about a half a dozen of yatai (food booths). People crowd around the small stage to watch the traditional dance and costumes. Balls of mochi (soft paste made from rice) are thrown to the audience who jump and grab for the free-bees especially the little old ladies. To get there, continue on Route 20 toward Nagano into Mukawa. Past the pedestrian over pass and turn left immediately after the Shell gas station on the left. Continue until the road ends and turn right. Make the next left turn and continue to the Jinjya on the right. It takes about an hour by car from Kofu.

May

Sumo wrestling, second Sunday

See Sumo in January

Golden Week

Gold week is "golden" because the following combination of holidays results in a two long weekends. Golden Week, like Obon, is a time when many people travel resulting in larger crowds and inflated prices.

Mother's Day, second Sunday

Mother's Day is celebrated in Japan same as in the US. Don't forget about Mom!

Annual Aikido Exibition, third Saturday

aikidodemo

If you are interested in martial arts, this should be worth a trip to Tokyo. On the third Sat. of May is the annual Aikido exhibition at Nippon Bodokan in Kitanomaru Park. Take the Shinjuku or Tozai subway lines to Kudanshita station. In minutes you can walk to Yasukuni Shrine. The shrine is the center of controversy each year the Prime minister plans a visit. The shrine is a memorial for victims of World War II. However, there are war criminals also enshrined at Yasukuni. China and Korean object to any visit by a Prime Minister, because it is said to represent an "official" viewpoint of the Japanese government and implies support for Japan's war criminals and wartime actions against these countries.

June

Cherry Picking Season

cherries

Cherry picking season starts in towards the end of May and extends into June depending on the location and types of cherries as well as the season. If you are in Yamanashi during this period, you may want to go cherry picking. Farmers pollinate the trees themselves and sometimes create a mix of types. Don't expect to get any bargains, cherries are fairly expensive. Yamanashi is also well known for grapes and peaches.

Japanese cherries are different from the dark red cherries sold in the U.S. Japanese cherries are lighter in color even when ripe as seen in this photo. Two popular type are satonishiki and takasa. The former being sweet and the latter being on the sour side.

July

Peach Picking

momogari (peach picking) season starts as early as the end of June in some places and extends into August. If you are in Yamanashi during this period, you may want to go peach picking. Some places have a price for all you can pick and eat in 1 hour. You are given a knife and let loose in the orchards. If you do this, you need to go early in the season to get the good peaches. Otherwise just pick or buy a basket and bring them home to ripen.

Grape Picking

grapes

Grape picking season starts in July and extends into late Sept. or early Oct. depending on the area. Even if you don't go grape picking you may notice lots of small stands along the roads, in the train stations, and in front of department stores selling grapes. Expect to shell out at least 1000 yen for a bunch. Grape bunches are individually wrapped to protect them from insects, birds, and disease depending on the type. There are over a hundred of different types of grapes grown in Yamanashi. The way the grapes are wrapped depends on the type. Some types are not protected, some covered in bags, others in small cones as seen in this photo. One type needs to be covered in brown bags to protect them from the sun, and then covered in clear bags in Aug. Often the farms are family run. All this labor is one reason why grapes are so expensive in Japan. The way to eats the grapes also depends on the type. For example, the largest of the grapes, pione, are usually sucked from the skin and the bitter skin thrown away. Besides grapes, you can often buy jam and other grape products.

Tanabata Festival, July 7

yakisoba

The Tanabata festival in Kofu is held around the Tanabata which is on July 7. The story of Tanabata is one of two lovers Hikoboshi and Orihime that are kept separated and live on opposite sides of a river. The lovers are represented by two stars in the sky, and the river by the milky way. The two lovers can only once a year on July 7. If the weather is fine the two stars can be seen together in the night skies and it is said that the two lovers have rendezvoused. To pray for fine weather people will make teruteru-bouzu and hang them outside. teruteru-bouzu are similar to the small tissue ghosts Americans make around Halloween.

There are plenty of booths in the downtown area starting at Orion Street and extending the length of Ginza Road selling food, toys, and running games. Downtown is decorated with colorful flags, wind socks, and various characters. The photo shows a yakisoba (grilled buckwheat noodles) booth.

Sumida River Fireworks Show in Tokyo, last Sat. in July

The sumidagawa hanabi taikai is Tokyo's most famous fireworks show. The show starts around 7:00 p.m. but you need to get there much, much earlier to get a good spot. However, just standing or walking around, eating and drinking while watching the fireworks is alone probable worth the trip to Tokyo.There are booths selling food and drinks. There are two areas for viewing. For the first, get off at Asakusa JR station and following the crowds to the area between Sakurabashi Bridge & Kototoibashi Bridge. For the second, get off at Kuramae subway station and head to the area between Komagatabashi Bridge & Umayabashi Bridge. Call the Sumidagawa Fireworks Executive Committee Tel: 03-5246-1111 for more information. The show will be postponed if the weather is bad.

Doyou no unagi no hi, July

Doyou no unagi no hi is the day that eel is eaten to replenish the body's stamina lost during the hot days of summer.

Ocean Day, July 20

Umi-no-hi (Ocean Day)

Festa Kose Festival, Last weekend in July

festakose

The Festa Kose festival at Kose Sports Park is held each year on the last weekend of July. Two stages, live performances, and dozens of yatai (booths) selling all sorts of food and souvenirs. Performances included modern dance performances as well as traditional performances. The festivals continues into the night and ends with a combination fireworks and laser light show.

This photo, from the 2002 festival held on July 28 and 29, shows a reggae bank that took the stage after dark. They did a good job working the crowd and a couple hundred people rushed the stage and formed a huge dance floor. See Kose Sports park for more information.

August

Apple Picking, etc.

Apples picking season starts in August and continues until Sept. Yamanashi is known for cherries, grapes, and peaches, but Apple picking, chestnut gathering, persimmon and pear picking are all possible and roughly start from August depending on the fruit and location.

Akeno sunflower patch

sunflowers

The sunflowers are in bloom all over Yamanashi from the end of July into August depending on the weather. There is a large sunflower patch across from the Akeno Flower Center in Akeno. The sunflowers here start blooming in August. For directions, see the Akeno Flower Center

Hanabi

hanabi

Hanabi (fireworks) is another important Japanese tradition assosiated with summer time. Summer time is fireworks season where there are big fireworks shows all over Japan. Yamanashi is no different. School aged girls can be seen dressed in yukata which looks similar to a kimono (traditional Japanese dress). Crowds of people pack into trains liked boxed sushi. There will usually be food and suvenir booths like any other festival in Japan. People eat and drink while watching the various fireworks during the shows which are often accompanied by music and last an hour or two. The shows are often a collection of many mini-shows each sponsored by a different local company which will be listed the the event program. People will often go to the event location weeks in advance to choose and mark a spot from which to view the upcoming show.

The shows occur around Obon. The biggest shows near Kofu are Ishikawadaimon, Isawa Onsen in Yamanashi, and Suwako in Nagano Prefecture, all of which are help on weekdays. The Ishikawadaimon event is held the week before Obon (August 7 in 2003), Suwako during obon (August 15 in 2003), and Isawa Onsen the week following obon. On September 7, 2003, I went a fireworks display at Suwako. This is not the standard Suwako show, but instead a sort of R&D fireworks show. New types of fireworks are tested for the following year's shows. This show has gotten bigger and bigger over the years and has grown to a full-blown (excuse the pun) operation. There are booths selling food, beer, and souvenirs. I arrived at 1 p.m. and paid 1200 per person for a ticket. I would not suggest arriving too much later than this. The gates then opened at 3:00 and everyone rushed in to get a good seat. The show did not start until 7:00 so you get a good 4 hours of eating and drinking. The show lasted until about 9:00. Bring a tarp or blanket. Folding chairs are not allowed during the show itself.

Obon, August 13-16th

Japanese often return to their home towns to honor ancestors past away. It seems that the entire country takes this week as vacation and travels during this time. This makes it a very costly time to travel as the prices of airfare and hotels go up considerably. Not to mention that reservations must be made well in advance and reserved seats on trains and busses sell out quickly.

Yoshidanohi Festival, August 26th

Yoshida Fire Festival

The yoshida fire festival held once a year in August in is considered one of Japan's most unique festivals. Dozens and dozens of huge torches and wood piles are set a blaze down the town's main street. Spectators drink beer, eat food bought from vendor booths, and stroll dangerously close to the scorching flames of the torches. For photos of the 2003 Fire festival see Yoshida Fire Festival

September

Sumo wrestling, second Sunday

See Sumo in January

October

Kofu Week, October 11 - 19, 2003

Held each year in October from Saturday to Sunday. Kofu Week is a week long of various festivals, shows, bazaars, dances, and exhibits celebrating Kofu and Kofu's industry. There are festivals and parades on the weekends in and near the downtown area. Get a brochure in train stations, cultural centers, and various shops for more details.

November

Kofu Ebisuko Festival

More info coming soon...

December