- Brief history of Sumida river Sakura trees
- Bokutei Sakura Matsuri, where you can meet the local geishas
- The fabulous view from Sumida park
- The walk of the courtesans at Asakusa’s Oiran Sakura Festival
- Asakusa Yabusame horseback archery at Sumida park
Brief history of Sumida river Sakura trees
Sumida riverside is one of the most famous Tokyo Hanami spots. The history dates back to middle of the 18th century. A Tokugawa Shogunate ordered to plant Sakura cherry trees alongside the river for the ordinary citizens. Thanks to the shogun, the Edo citizens started socializing under the cherry blossoms.
The place also appears in a famous Japanese song called “Hana” (“flowers” in Japanese). I believe most Japanese people sing this song when they were school children. The lyrics of the song beautifully illustrate Sumida riverside’s cherry blossoms, its petals and boats floating on the river.
Bokutei Sakura Matsuri, where you can meet the local geishas
The eastern side of the river, the Tokyo sky tree tower side, will have some food stalls run by local people. They serve various kinds of street food like skewers, pork soup and fried noodles. Traditional grass mats and tables are available for comfortable eating and drinking. The lanterns light up night time picnic and locals gather to chat under the trees.
Adding more charm on this festival is an open air café served by Geisha ladies, Asakusa being on of the last districts in Tokyo housing genuine geishas and apprentices. Seeing them in Tokyo is usually very rare: entertainers for expensive dinner parties, you will not easily see them in the street as they usually train hard for their performance in the mornings, and only use taxis at night. This event is a great opportunity to meet them and admire their beautiful manners and pretty kimonos. They serve traditional Japanese sweets with a cup of green tea. Taking pictures with them is also allowed for even better memories.
Bokutei Sakura festival
- Venue： Mukojima, Sumida-ward, Tokyo
- Date：2019 March 21st to April 10th
- Time：around 10am to 9pm
- Getting there：A 5 min from Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Toei subway Asakusa line, Tobu Skytree Line Asakusa station/ A 10 min walk from Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line, Toei subway Asakusa line Oshiage station.
- Geisha café/ Event Information
- Date：Bokutei Sakura festival period
- Open hours：11:30am-3:30pm (subject to change without notice)
The fabulous view from Sumida park
The other side of the river, the Asakusa bank, is full of Hanami party people, as this west bank holds a great view: combination of lines of Sakura trees, the boats on the river and the Tokyo Sky Tree tower. The Sumida riverscape in spring has been iconic image of Tokyo even before the tower was built, but the tower changed the night view, adding fantastic to the atmosphere.
The walk of the courtesans at Asakusa’s Oiran Sakura Festival
Have you ever heard about oiran? At first glance, they may look similar to the maiko, with more extravagant clothing. Unlike the maiko or geisha who performs various songs and dances for visitors during feasts, the oiran (courtesans) also performed sexual favors. The oiran were entertainers ranked by their beauty, character, skills and education. They were expected to be highly educated with the ability to converse and play various instruments. They would make their customers wait for days and also had the power to refuse clients and were extremely pricey.
The gorgeous kimono worn by the oiran weighs about 30kg! Can you imagine walking around, let alone performing a dance? The oiran walk is a very peculiar sight, as they have a very specific way of taking steps.
Oiran do not exist anymore today. The people you will see on the festival on that day play the role of the oirans and their entourage as a tribute to the history of the previous red-light district; the festival began in 2003 to celebrate the 400th year of the Edo period.
The festival usually takes place mid-April. In 2019, it will be on April 14th, the procession begins at 1pm.
- Place：4 Asakusa, Taito-ward, Tokyo(Senzoku, Asakusa, central komatsu bridge street)
- Access：10 minute walk from Asakusa station (Tokyo Metro Ginza line, Sky tree line, Tokyo metro Hibiya line)
12 minute walk from Asakusa station (Toei subway Asakusa line)
Asakusa Yabusame horseback archery at Sumida park
Just after the end of the cherry blossom season, ‘yabusame‘ (horseback archery) takes place in this park. Yabusame players release arrows towards targets while riding on a horse, a quite dangerous but very exciting sport to watch! Horses run from near the Tobu railway bridge and gallop throughout the Kototoi Bridge.
During this 300 meter course, if the player hit the target, confetti are released and people applaud. The traditional prize for a player who beats all three targets is beautiful cloth. All participants are costumed in beautiful, samurai-like cloth.
Foreign spectators are very welcome and the organizer also offers explanations in English.
Asakusa Yabusame horseback archery
- Venue：Sumida park (1 Hanakawado, Taito, Tokyo)
- Ticket price for paid audience seat: 3000 yen
- Date and Time：20th of April 2019; preliminary ceremonies start at 11:45am, and yabusame itself at 1pm. we recommend coming in advance.
- Ticket price for audience seat：Free for standing spectators; seats are 3000 yen.
- Website: Taito district website (multilingual translation).