Kites and Nights at the Hamamatsu Festival

ByBert Wishart
Apr 27, 2023

Kites and Nights at the Hamamatsu Festival

As fun as most Japanese festivals can be, do you ever get the impression that they start winding down just as things get interesting? For the most part, as soon as the sun sets and the canned beers kick in, festival stalls close their shutters, the last fireworks fade, and everybody goes home. But fear not, because if you are looking for a matsuri that gets you going all day and into the night, Hamamatsu has the festivals for you.

Hamamatsu Kite Flying Festival

One of Japan’s best-known Golden Week festivals, the Hamamatsu Kite Flying Matsuri, is independent of Shinto religious affiliations and has the celebration of children at its heart. Its origins date back to the Eiroku era (1558-1569), when it was said that to celebrate the birth of his first son, the regional daimyo (chieftain) flew a giant kite from Hamamatsu Castle. Continuing this tradition, from around 10 am on May 3 and 4, and 12 pm on May 5, the famed sand dunes of Nakatajima Beach host a series of dramatic kite flying competitions to celebrate Boys’ Day.

170 Neighborhood and district teams join the fray with 3.5m x 3.5m kites portraying their district crest, adorned with the names of one of the neighborhood’s eldest sons (and, more frequently nowadays, other children). Following the culmination of a fireworks display on the final day, the kite battle begins, and things can get heated as the teams struggle to cut the other kites out of the sky, with their strings coiling and, eventually, snapping. The victorious team hoists the named child aloft, and though he generally looks terrified, it would be an auspicious day for him.

Hamamatsu Night Parade

After five hours, you would think that everyone would be ready for a good rest, but things are heating up as the Night Parade progresses. Around sunset (approximately 18:30), a massive set of extravagantly decorated floats are paraded around the town. Focused mainly around the Hamamatsu Station area, these floats represent their local areas, and many are decorated as such – you can probably guess which one represents the locale in which Hamamatsu Castle can be found – and competition is fierce.

Upon the floats are perched adorable children playing traditional Japanese instruments, resplendent in their ritual costumes, while alongside adults walk, chant, shout, cheer, and swing their lanterns. It is a spectacular sight – and sound! Over 70 of these floats take differing ways around the city, so if you want to catch all of them, you would have to do some pretty quick darting around the city or attend the parade on all three nights and find spots along the different routes.

Much of the parade can be found near the station towards ZaZa City on Kajimachi Street, but if you check with the Tourist Information, they will provide you with a map of exactly where everything goes on. Failing that, follow the noise of the parade-goers as they rage on late into the night.

Hamamatsu Festival Details

Kite Flying Festival

Where: 1313 Nakatajimacho, Minami Ward, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka 430-0845 (map)
When: There is no exact start time, but the best action can be seen from about 10 am on May 3 and 4 and 12 pm on May 5.

Night Parade

Where: Around the city. Predominantly near ZaZa City (map)
When: Officially, it starts at 18:30 until 21:0 but can go late into the night.


Image: By via [CC By 2.0] – Modified
Image: By via [CC By 2.0] – Modified
Image: By via [CC By 2.0] – Modified
Image: By via [CC By 2.0] – Modified

About the author

Bert Wishart editor

Novelist, copywriter and graduate from the most prestigious university in Sunderland, Bert whiles away his precious time on this Earth by writing about popular culture, travel, food and pretty much anything else that is likely to win him the Pulitzer he desperately craves.

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