Cherry Blossom Festival & Ieyasu Samurai Parade (Ieyasu Gyoretsu) in Okazaki
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.
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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)
Getting off the train at Naka-Okazaki station, we followed the lantern and cherry blossom lined streets toward Okazaki-jo (Okazaki Castle).
Approaching Okazaki Castle was the main area to view the cherry blossoms.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The samurai lined up and fired replica guns. The battle ended with fireworks… in the daytime!
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.
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.