5 Picture-Perfect Carp Streamer Festivals In Japan
Visit Japan between late March and early May, and you will come across large, colorful carp streamers floating in the wind. Known as koi nobori, these streamers are part of the celebrations for Children’s Day (May 5), a day once known as Boys’ Day with the hope that young boys would grow up to be healthy and strong warriors.
Carp streamers are often strung across a river to give the illusion of carp swimming upstream where they will become a mighty dragon. Grab your camera, because you certainly don’t want to miss these five vibrant displays of Japanese culture.
Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture
Five different locations in Tatebayashi collectively make up the city’s 4,500 carp streamer festival, but the heart of the festivities lies on the banks of the Tsuru Udagawa River (Map). The festival has become Tatebayashi’s premier springtime social event and occurs between late March and early May. The illuminated night view of the carp streamers floating majestically along the Milky Way is not to be missed.
- Late March to May (2019: now through May 19)
- Tobu Tatebayashi station
Sagami River, Kanagawa Prefecture
Five wires strung across the Sagami River (Map) elegantly carry the weight of 1,200 carp streamers floating upstream in the wind. This event coincides with Golden Week, a string of consecutive Japanese holidays that occur between late April to the first week of March.
While you can expect crowds, the banks of the Sagami River easily accommodate the throngs of people strolling along. If it’s photos you’re after, your best bet is to stand atop the Takada Bridge for the ultimate vantage point.
- Late April to the first week of May.
- JR Sagamihara Station
Tsuetate Onsen, Kumamoto Prefecture
Straddling the border of Oita Prefecture is Tsuetate Onsen (Map), an onsen town with a 1,800-year history tucked away in the mountains of Kumamoto. The Tsuetate Hot Spring Carp Festival features more than 3,500 carp streamers collected from all parts of Kyushu.
After a soak in one of the area’s relaxing outdoor baths, don a yukata (a thin, cotton kimono) and stroll down Sedoya, the well-preserved back streets of Tsuetate. Time your shot of the carp streamers over the river below to capture the bellows of steam rising among them.
- From April 1 to May 6
- JR Hita station
Higashi Matsuhima, Miyagi Prefecture
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#青い鯉のぼりプロジェクト 青い鯉のぼりを寄付できる方、連絡ください。 震災で犠牲になった子供たちが 天国から青い鯉のぼりがみえるように。 We will do a blue carp streamer project. We celebrate May 5th as Boys' Day in Japan, and display a decoration called 'koinobori' (carp streamer) for the day either outdoors on a flag pole or indoors in the drawing room. The indoor koinobori is a miniature of the outdoor type. The carps are a symbols of a family.. blue carp streamers project #japan #greateastjapanearthquake #project #koinobori
You’ll notice that the carp streamers of Higashi Matsushima (Map) are all blue in color– they’re a tribute to Kento Ito’s five-year-old brother who died in the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. Ito founded the Blue Carp Streamer Project as a memorial for not only his brother, but all the children who died during the disaster. The distinct blue streamers are donated from people all across Japan.
- Mid-March to the first week of May
- JR Higashi Yamoto station
Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture
For live musical entertainment and snacks on a stick, head to Osaka’s Koi Nobori Festa 1000 (Map). Around 1000 carp streamers swimming across the Akuta River will cheerfully greet you as you walk or bike the one kilometer path from JR Takatsuki station to Akuta River Sakura Park.
Snack on yaki dango (skewered and grilled rice cakes) and choco banana (a skewered and peeled banana covered in chocolate and sprinkles) as you take in the unique colors and patterns of these carp streamers.
- Late April to the first week of May
- JR Takatsuki station
If you head out to any of these locations, don’t forget to tag us on social media with #GaijinPotTravel.