Festivals

January

Tokyo-Hakone Round-Trip College Ekiden Race

The Tokyo-Hakone Round-Trip University Ekiden Race, famously known as the “Hakone Ekiden,” is a two-day university relay race held annually on January 2nd and 3rd in the Kanto region of Japan. With 20 participating schools and a Kanto Student Union team comprising competitors from other institutions, the course commences in front of the Yomiuri Shimbun Tokyo headquarters building in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo and traverses through relay stations in Tsurumi, Totsuka, Hiratsuka, and Odawara in Kanagawa Prefecture, before culminating near Ashinoko Lake, located in Hakone-cho, on the return leg.

The race is divided into two legs: the first leg runs from Tokyo to Hakone (107.5 km) on January 2nd, followed by the return leg from Hakone to Tokyo (109.6 km) the next day, January 3rd. The race spans a total distance of 217.1 km, divided into five sections, with 10 athletes from each school competing fiercely for every second during the two-day event.


February

Hakone Shrine Setsubun Festival

The Hakone Shrine Setsubun Festival is an annual event held on February 3rd. It features a distinctive tradition where beans are thrown at ogres on water skis to ward off evil spirits. Preceding the festival eve is the Fireworks Festival in Winter Scenery, further illuminating the clear night sky with a magnificent display of fireworks.
*The date of the Setsubun Festival changes from year to year.

Setsubun is an event held on the day before Risshun (the beginning of spring) to drive away demons and welcome the New Year.
The tradition of driving away demons is said to have originated from a court event called “Oniyarai.” Over time, temples and shrines in various regions adapted the event in different forms, and it eventually became widespread among the general public. The specific customs associated with Setsubun vary from region to region.


April

Cherry Blossom Festival (Hakone-en)

The Cherry Blossom Festival at Hakone-en highlights a unique lakeside cherry tree, formed by the merging of five Oshima cherry trees. This tree, approximately 100 years old and towering at 12 meters tall, boasts branches stretching 22 meters wide, a trunk circumference of 5 meters, and a canopy spanning around 70 meters. During its full bloom period from mid to late April each year, its silhouette resembles that of Mt. Fuji, adorned with white flowers tinged with pale pink.

Odawara Oden Summit (April) and Oden Festival (October)

The Odawara Oden Summit and Oden Festival, held at Odawara Castle Site Park’s Ninomaru Square, stand as popular tourist attractions in Odawara City.
The “Oden Summit,” occurring in April, treats visitors to a delightful array of local oden dishes from across Japan while enjoying the cherry blossoms in Odawara. Guests can savor Odawara Oden alongside diverse selections from various regions.
The “Oden Festival,” held in October, offers another opportunity for visitors to relish Odawara Oden, prepared by local producers, including renowned kamaboko stores in Odawara City. These dishes are served alongside “ume miso” made from plums sourced from the plum groves of the Odawara Soga area.


May

Yutate Shishimai

The “Yutate Shishimai (Lion Dance)” has persisted since the Edo period. In the “Kamameguri no Mai,” a lion stirs hot water from a kettle with a bundle of kumasasa bamboo and sprinkles it on visitors to ward off bad luck. It is said that visitors who are sprinkled with the foam of this water will stay healthy for a whole year.

Designated as a nationally selected intangible cultural property and an intangible cultural property of Kanagawa Prefecture, the “Yutate Shishimai” is performed in Sengokuhara and Miyagino.
March 27: Sengokuhara Yutate Shishimai, held at the Sengokuhara Suwa Shrine’s Annual Festival
May 5: Sengokuhara Yudate Shishimai, held at the Sengokuhara Koutoki Shrine’s Annual Festival
July 15: Miyagino Yutate Shishimai, held at the Miyagino Suwa Shrine’s Tennosai Festival

Odawara Hojo Godai Festival

The Odawara Hojo Godai Festival stands as Odawara City’s largest tourist event, held annually on May 3rd, Constitution Day. A total of 1,600 participants parade through the city in a heroic manner, including a warrior procession modeled after the five successive castle lords of the Hojo clan, a brass band, a Ground Self-Defense Force band, and a portable shrine.
Visitors shouldn’t miss the gun demonstration and ninja performance by the Odawara Hojo Tepposhu Preservation Society, as well as the Odawara Chochin (paper lantern) dance!


July – August

Lake Ashinoko Summer Festival Week

The Lake Ashinoko Summer Festival Week takes place annually for one week from July 31st to August 6th. Festivities are held in the four bays of Lake Ashinoko: Motohakone Bay, Hakone Bay, Hakoneen Bay, and Kojiri Bay, accompanied by a fireworks display. The highlight of the ceremonies is the Hakone Shrine Gochinza Memorial Festival held on August 1st.

Hakone Gora Onsen Daimonji-yaki

The Hakone Daimonji Yaki is a bonfire tradition aimed at providing comfort to summer vacationers in Gora and sending off the spirits of ancestors during the Bon festival. The character “dai” (meaning “big”) is illuminated on the mountainside of Mt. Myojogadake, standing at 924 meters high. This tradition, which began in 1921, celebrated its 101st year in 2022.


November

Hakone Daimyo’s Procession

Every year, on November 3rd, during Culture Day in Hakone, a procession of one hundred and seventy feudal lords parades along the old Tokaido road (Eastern Ocean Road) and the hot spring resort areas, covering about six kilometers. They wave their feathered ornamental spears and chant “Bow down, bow down,” in attire reminiscent of the procession that accompanied the Sankin-kotai during the Edo period.

Sankin-kotai was a statute mandating that the feudal lord (daimyo) of each domain must travel to Edo, the capital, for service every other year.

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