The cherry blossoms (sakura in Japanese) bloom in spring in Japan, and just about every city has their own festival (matsuri in Japanese) to celebrate this special time.

It is so special because the cherry blossoms are in bloom for only a few weeks, requiring a very specific climate in order to show their full colours.

This article is of our day trip to Okazaki in Aichi Prefecture, and gives you all the info needed to visit the festival yourself.

Okazaki is close to Toyota City and Nagoya, about 3 hours drive from Tokyo. Okazaki has the Ieyasu Samurai Parade every year (known as the Ieyasu Gyoretsu 「家康行列」 in Japanese), famous for the historic samurai battle reenactments.

Okazaki is a lovely small (by Japan’s standards) city, sparse with plenty of greenery and an ancient history.

The parade and experiencing a cherry blossom festival promises a great day out.

Experience the Ieyasu Gyoretsu (Parade)

Cherry blossom lined street with lanterns in Okazaki
Cherry blossom lined street with lanterns in Okazaki, the start of the walk to Okazaki Castle.

Getting off the train at Naka-Okazaki station, we followed the lantern and cherry blossom lined streets toward Okazaki-jo (Okazaki Castle).

Cherry blossom (sakura) tree closeup, at the river near Okazaki castle.
Cherry blossom (sakura) tree closeup, at the river near Okazaki Castle.

Approaching Okazaki Castle was the main area to view the cherry blossoms.

Ohanami (Cherry blossom viewing) at the Ieyasu Gyoretsu Parade
Ohanami (Cherry blossom viewing) by the river at the Ieyasu Parade.

Cherry blossom viewing is known as hanami in Japanese. It is very popular, groups of people get out their blue mats, mini-BBQs and beer cans, to sit under the cherry blossom trees and enjoy the spring weather.

Lanterns line a red bridge leading to Okazaki castle and more cherry blossom trees
Lanterns line a red bridge leading to Okazaki castle and more cherry blossom trees

A moat surrounds Okazaki Castle, and crossing a red bridge you leave the main area with many people and many food stalls, to the outer castle area with more people and more food stalls.

Ieyasu's Well outside Okazaki castle
Ieyasu’s Well outside Okazaki Castle
Sakura festival at Okazaki, Aichi, Japan
The crowd on this side of the river, and market stalls on the other side are all part of the festival

The festival celebrates the cherry blossoms, but also the famous samurai Ieyasu Tokugawa. He was a famous samurai who became a shogun, known to be a brilliant tactician who fought and won many great battles for the Emperor.

Ninja and Samurai battle at Okazaki's Ieyasu Festival
Ninja and Samurai clash in a memorial battle reenactment

A reenactment of a battle is in full swing, showing a ninja clan attempting to storm the castle. Ieyasu and his samurai warriors repel the attack.

Samurai lined up and preparing to fire at the Ieyasu Festival in Okazaki
Samurai parade onto the battlefield
家康行列 Ieyasu Gyoretsu
Samurai in full armour assemble in Okazaki for the Ieyasu Gyoretsu (家康行列)

Before the Ninja vs. Samurai battle above, a parade of samurai departed the main “battlefield” for a parade around Okazaki. They return for yet another, and very spectacular reenactment.

Fireworks at the Ieyasu battle in Okazaki from under the Cherry Blossom trees
Fireworks signal the end of the Ieyasu battle, seen from under the Cherry Blossom trees

The samurai lined up and fired replica guns. The battle ended with fireworks… in the daytime!

Sakura (cherry blossom) tree
The crowd viewed the battle and parade from under the Sakura (cherry blossom) trees

We viewed the battle from under the cherry blossom trees, enjoying some snacks and Yebisu beer.

This post shows just one of many times I have enjoyed the cherry blossom season, look at the cherry blossom category page for more posts.

Ieyasu Parade 2014 dates

The parade will be held on Sunday April 6, 2014. The parade activities begin at 1:30PM.

For official details see the Okazaki City Guide Ieyasu Gyoretsu page (English) or the Okazaki Guide with parade schedule (Japanese).

How to get to Okazaki Park for the Ieyasu Parade

By train from Nagoya Station: Take the JR Tokaido Line to Okazaki Station, this part is a 30 minute trip. At Okazaki Station, change to the Aichi Loop Line to Naka-Okazaki Station, this is a 6 minute trip. The total cost is ¥850.

Other things to do in Okazaki

The parade is held in Okazaki Park, where Okazaki Castle is located. Be sure to take some time to visit the castle while you’re at the parade.