Warmth! Flowers. Parties. Renewal. April is the beginning of the year as far as many people are concerned, as its the time when schools commence, companies induct new employees etc. In Okazaki, the sakura (cherry blossoms) are now in full bloom, and singing and laughter can be heard along the riverbanks and in the parks as "hanami" parties get into full swing.
The participants are mostly dressed in armor as samurai or ashigaru (the foot soldiers of that era) as they march or ride horses through the streets. The exceptions being the finalists of the Miss Okazaki contest, who tend to be wearing something a little more petite. Bring your camera, bring lots of film. If you really want to get into the spirit of the occasion, why not participate in the March itself. If you contact the Okazaki International Association, it may be possible to don armor and join the March.
May is usually good weather - neither warm nor cool, so its a good time to be out and about. Early May is a problem - the consecutive public holidays of "Golden Week" makes travel uncomfortable, but if you are in Okazaki this is a good time to head to the castle and enjoy the "Gomangoku Fuji Matsuri" (a Wisteria Festival - Fuji being the kanji character for the flower, which is also the official "City Flower") .
As with the cherry blossoms of a month or so earlier, the flowers are illuminated in the evenings, and attract quite a crowd (good people watching opportunity this).
Kodomo no HiKodomo no Hi (Children's Day - a National Holiday) (May, 5th) is a boy's festival, If you keep an eye out, you will notice a lot of houses (and even apartments) flying colorful "koi nobori" (silk carp streamers) from tall poles. There is usually one per boy in the household, as parents pray for the son(s).
Hana no ToFom May 8th to 10th. At Seigan-ji temple in Yahagi-cho, prayers are offered for the year's harvest.
On the second Saturday and Sunday of May, visit the Shinmei-sha Taisai (Shinmei-sha Shrine Festival). Here you can see children parading in colorful costumes, the beating of taiko drums, and flutes, young ladies doing traditional dances, young men pulling a huge mikoshi shrine etc.
The rainy season (the actual amount of rain varies every year) sets in for around 3 weeks. This is a good time to head to Higashi Koen to see the hydrangea flowers bloom and the irises.
If you haven't seen them before, an interesting excursion is to the riverbanks in Nukata and Oidaira to see the fireflies (hotaru). These glowing insects are returning to their original numbers now that the use of agricultural chemicals is more controlled.
The First Sunday in June: Yuki Saiden O-taue Matsuri (Rice Planting Festival) This festival commemorates a gift of rice to the Emperor Taisho (the current Emperor's grandfather). These days rice is usually planted by machine, in this festival the clock is turned back, and the participants plant by hand, sing and dance. Good photo opportunities.