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Japan in June: Festivals to experience Japan like a local

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Looking for a good time to visit Japan? June is a great month for those who prefer fewer crowds as it sits between the long chain of public holidays known as Golden Week in May and the summer school break in July where the Japanese go on holiday. Prices for flights and accommodation are also generally cheaper, so budget travellers will enjoy good savings when travelling in June. 

To truly embrace Japanese culture, we picked out some of our favourite Japanese experiences beyond the typical tourist recommendations to give you a chance to experience Japan as the locals do in the month of June.

For more information about things to do in Japan, check this out.

Follow the mikoshi at Hokkaido Shrine Festival

Photo credit: ©JNTO

June in Japan is also known as the Tsuyu or ‘plum rain’ season and generally sees more rainy days. If you prefer to avoid the rain, head to Hokkaido in June as it tends to be drier in those parts and is also the time for the Hokkaido Shrine Festival. Sometimes called the Sapporo Festival, the highlight of this annual festival is a large procession that sees over a thousand people dressed up in traditional heian costumes walking along the main streets of Sapporo with portable shrines or mikoshi and colourful floats. 

Alongside the traditional Shinto dedication ceremonies at the Hokkaido Jingu in Maruyama Park, there will also be stalls with Hokkaido delicacies and other entertainment at both Maruyama Park and Nakajima Park.

Location: Maruyama Park and Nakajima Park, Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture
Dates: 14-16 June
Cost: Free

Pick ripe cherries in season at Yamagata Cherry Festival

Photo credit: ©JNTO

Japan may be most famous for cherry blossoms, but in Yamagata prefecture, it is the cherry fruit that is the real scene-stealer, especially in mid-June when the fruit is ready for harvest. Yamagata produces over 70% of the cherries in Japan and Sagae City is the centre of it all, hosting the Yamagata Cherry Festival that features all sorts of cherry products. Join a cherry picking session at many of the cherry farms found in neighbouring Higashine where you can enjoy the fruits of your labour by eating as much as you can pick.

Other fruits in season in June to look out for: melons, watermelons, peaches and plums. While you may be able to get these fruits throughout the year in Japan, they tend to be the most abundant and delicious when they are in season.

Location: Sagae City and Higashine, Yamagata Prefecture
Dates: TBC, but typically falls in mid June. Check here for updates and participating farms.
Cost: 1,000-3,000 JPY for fruit picking

Wear a yukata at the Himeji Yukata Matsuri

If you’re looking for a reason to try on traditional Japanese dress, the Himeji Yukata Matsuri is the perfect time to do as the locals do and don a Yukata, a lighter version of the Kimono that’s made for summer weather. This evening festival is the oldest Yukata festival in Japan with over 270 years of history and sees over 200,000 visitors enjoying its many food stalls, game booths and performances, all while dressed in a mix of traditional and modern Yukatas. 

You can also visit the UNESCO World Heritage Himeji Castle and many popular Himeji attractions during this period for free. 

Location: Himeji Park, Hyogo Prefecture
Dates: 22-24 June 2020
Cost: Free

Dance all day at the Yosakai Soran Matsuri

Photo credit: ©JNTO

The annual Yosakoi Soran Matsuri transforms Sapporo’s Odori Park into a giant stage where large teams try to outdo each other in a creative Yosakoi dance competition. This energetic dance form is a sight to see, mixing traditional elements like naruko hand clappers and Hokkaido Soran Bushi folk music with modern costumes, colourful flags and loud percussion. 

Started in 1992, the festival today attracts over 30,000 dancers and is one of the more popular festivals in Japan today, attracting nearly 2 million visitors who visit the festival to partake in the dancing and Hokkaido food festivities.

Location: Odori Park, Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture
Dates: 10-14 June 2020.
Opening Hours: Stalls open from 10am-10pm while performances start from 6pm on weekdays and go all day on weekends. See detailed information here
Cost: Tickets range from 500-5,000 JPY (S$6-60) depending on date and location of seat. See detailed information here

Celebrate irises and boat weddings during the Suigo Itako Ayame Festival

Head to Sawara in the Chiba prefecture during the month of June for the Suigo Itako Ayame Festival, where over 1 million purple Japanese irises or ayame will be in bloom – 10th June is usually when they are at full bloom. You can ride the sappa bune, a traditional flat bottom boat to see the flowers, and on the weekends you may also spot the Yomeiribune, a boat carrying a bride and her family in traditional garb following an old wedding tradition that takes place in rural areas where waterways also known as suigo are common.

Location: Suigo Sawara Ayame Park, Sawara, Katori City, Chiba Prefecture
Dates: 22 May to 21 June 2020. Dates and timings of the Yomeiribune can be found here.
Cost: 800 JPY (S$10) Entrance fee

Ready to experience Japan like a local? The only way to embrace the culture is to embark on your trip, pronto. Check out Skyscanner for cheap flights from Singapore to Japan in June and you can use the full month view setting to see which days get you the best prices. Alternatively, visit www.skyscanner.com.sg/mp/jnto for more information.

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