Photo By: Guilhem Vellut

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

Photo by: hkflc Tatebayashi’s carp streamers sometimes show up along with the beautiful sakura trees along the water.

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

Photo by: Guilhem Vellut Flying across the river.

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

A beautiful display across the river.

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

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

Photo by: lasta29 Another one across the river in Osaka!

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.