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Event Roundup: May 2020

Embrace natural living with yamabiraki and farmer's markets



· Events,Spring

The national government has declared that Japan's coronavirus state of emergency be extended through May 31. With public facilities closed, and in-person socialization being discouraged, this is prime time to befriend the great outdoors. Many mountains are reopening to hikers this month, and spring wildflowers are in bloom. It also looks like some farmer's market events are going forward as planned—a great time to pick up fresh ingredients for some home cooking!

To the best of our knowledge, at the time of publication all events listed in our May 2020 Event Roundup are still on. However, please keep in mind that these events are still subject to change or cancellation depending on how the coronavirus situation and government restrictions progress. For the most up-to-date information, please check directly with the municipalities or facilities hosting these events.

1. Furoyama Park Azaleas


Through early May

Hanawa, Fukushima

A hillside park where 4,000 tree-sized bushes of mountain azaleas grow. The azaleas were planted by a youth association in the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) as a symbol of hope for the town. Now, over a hundred years later, they still bloom as beautifully as ever, tinting the hillside a vivid magenta every spring. Festival events associated with the azaleas' blooming have been cancelled for this year, but it seems the park itself is still open. The town is continuing to post pictures and updates about the azaleas' status from the Hanawa Town Sightseeing Association Twitter account.

Hours: Always open

Admission: ¥100 donation requested


Location: Furoyama Park (風呂山公園). Map here.

Access: A 21-minute walk from Iwaki-Hanawa Station

2. Yoneyama Tulip Festival


Through May 10

Tome, Miyagi

Enjoy a rainbow-like scene of row upon row of 10,000 colorful tulips in 60 varieties. Though the stage events have been cancelled this year due to coronavirus concerns, it looks like the flowers themselves are still viewable.

Hours: 9:00–16:00

Admission: Free


Location: Michinoeki Yoneyama (道の駅米山 ふる里センターY・Y). Map here.

3. Sannin-ten: Art of Healing & Encouragement 


Through May 30

Central Sendai

This exhibition takes place at Gallery Galle, a cafe-gallery space in the stylish Jozenji-dori area. It features the work of three Sendai-based artists: Ueno Ichiro, known for his whimsical Mt. Fuji paintings, Chikako Futaba, a painter of Buddhist imagery, and Mizuki Fujiya, a kirie artist.

Hours: 10:00-20:00 (weekdays), 11:00-19:00 Saturdays (-May 30)

Admission: Free

Reservations: None needed


Location: Cafe & Gallery Galle (カフェ&ギャラリーガレ). Map here.

Access: 9-minute walk from Omachi Nishi-koen Station

4. Genji Firefly & Kajika Frog Path


Through July

Takahata, Yamagata

Kajika frogs are a species native to Japan, threatened in some areas due to habitat loss. But in nature-rich Takahata, the frog still lives in large numbers. The voice of these frogs is a common motif in traditional Japanese poetry. This riverside path is one of the best places to watch and listen to the frogs. Peak kajika frog season is May to July. In late June and early July, this riverside area is also a good place to go firefly watching.

Hours: Always open

Admission: Free


Location: Along the Odaki River in Niijuku Village (高畠町二井宿大滝川沿い). Map here.

5. Sendai Stone-Age Heritage Meguri


Through July 19

Central Sendai

*UPDATE: In light of the state of emergency having been lifted for Miyagi Prefecture, indoor exhibits will reopen May 19. For details and updates, see here.*

Though the national emergency declaration extension means that the indoor exhibitions (including the Meguri event) will remain closed until the declaration is lifted, for now visitors are still invited to enjoy the outdoor exhibit, a recreation of an Ice Age forest. For updates on the reopening of the indoor exhibits and flower-blooming status in the outdoor exhibition area, see the museum's official Facebook Page.

Hours (outdoor exhibition): Always open?

Admission (outdoor exhibits): Free

Admission (indoor exhibits): ¥460 adults, ¥230 high school students, ¥110 junior high and elementary school students

Languages: English OK

Event details:

Museum's official English website:

Location: Sendai City Tomizawa Site Museum (地底の森ミュージアム). Map here.

Access: 5-minute walk from Nagamachiminami Station

6. Hijiori Onsen Morning Market


Through late November

Mogami, Yamagata

In spite of being tucked away in rural northern Yamagata, the Hijiori Onsen village has a surprisingly lively community event scene. One such event is their morning market, held every morning (!) until the winter snows come. Purchase vegetables harvested that very morning from the growers themselves, and inaka specialties cooked by local obaachan. The morning markets in May offer a special treat-- flavorful sansai (wild mountain vegetables)! These rare vegetables, foraged in the nearby mountains, are available only a short time each spring--by the time summer arrives, the tender young shoots of these plants have matured beyond a stage palatable for humans.

Hours (May–August): Every morning 5:30–7:30

Hours (September–November, late April): Every morning 6:00–8:00

Admission: Free


Location: Hijiori Onsen Asaichi (肘折温泉朝市). Map here.

Access: 55 minutes by bus from Shinjo Station, followed by a 3-minute walk. At Shinjo Station (新庄駅), board bus bound for Hijiori Onsen (肘折温泉). Alight at Hijiori Onsen-Gai (肘折温泉街) bus stop. Timetable here.

7. Azaleas on Mt. Tatsugane



Minamisanriku, Miyagi

Mount Tatsugane is known for its vivid mountain azaleas and for the sutra mounds buried at its peak by the Oshu-Fujiwara clan. If you visit the mountain in May, you can see both. The view from the peak is incredible--experiencing it for yourself and you'll understand why the Oshu-Fujiwara chose this as the site for their offerings to the gods.

Hours: Always open

Admission: Free

Details (English):

Location: Mt. Tatsugane (田束山). Map here.

8. White azaleas at Shirotsutsuji Park


Mid- to late May

Nagai, Yamagata

Shirotsutsuji Park, formerly known as Matsugaike Park, was founded in 1891. The white azaleas here have been a popular sight ever since they were first planted, with ladies in kimono posing for pictures in front of these flowers even in the early days of photography, when getting even a single photo took considerable effort and money. The 3,000 snow-white azaleas here come into bloom every May.

Hours: Always open

Admission: Free


Location: Shirotsutsuji Koen (白つつじ公園). Map here.

Access: 15-minute walk from Nagai Station

9. Hijiori Onsen Wild Mountain Vegetable Festival


May 15June 14

Mogami, Yamagata

Sansai are flavorful wild vegetables foraged from the mountainous wilderness of Japan for a short time every spring. Savor these rare vegetables at Hijiori Onsen's Sansai Festival, and even learn how to forage your own! Giveaway events have been suspended and the number of participants in sansai picking events and lunches are still on.

Hours: Varies by event, typically between 9:00–15:00

Admission: Varies by event. Sansai picking experience + lunch plans start at ¥4,000.

Reservations: Required


Location: Hijiori Onsen area (肘折温泉辺). Map here.

Access: 55 minutes by bus from Shinjo Station, followed by a 3-minute walk. At Shinjo Station (新庄駅), board bus bound for Hijiori Onsen (肘折温泉). Alight at Hijiori Onsen-Gai (肘折温泉街) bus stop. Timetable here.

10. Spring Valley Zipline-lite Tours


Weekends May 16July 12
Izumi Ward, Sendai

Spring Valley, best known for its ski resort, offers thrills out in nature during green season too. One such adventure is its zipline course, which boasts seven different zipline runs. The Lite Tour covers three of the tamer runs. The Mountain Course, which opens in early summer, covers the wilder rides.

Hours (weekends & holidays): Tours start at 10:00, 11:00, 13:00 14:00, & 15:00

Hours (weekdays): Tours start at 10:00, 12:00, & 14:00

Fee: ¥2,500

Language: English OK

Reservations: Required, can book online

Official website:

English details & booking:

Location: Spring Valley Izumi Kogen (スプリングバレー泉高原). Map here.

Access (weekends & holidays): 50 minutes by bus from Izumi-Chuo Station (泉中央駅). Board city bus 10 bound for Izumi Kogen Spring Valley (泉高原スプリングバレー). Alight at Izumi Kogen Spring Valley, the final stop.

Access (weekdays): 50 minutes by bus from Izumi-Chuo Station (泉中央駅), followed by a 50-minute walk. Board city bus 10 bound for Izumidake Shizen Fureaikan (泉岳自然ふれあい館) at Izumi-Chuo Station. Alight at Izumidake Shizen Fureaikan, the final stop.

11. Omoshiroyama Momijigawa Gorge Opening


May 16

Yamadera, Yamagata

Photo by Wesley Keppel-Henry

The Omoshiroyama Momijigawa Gorge is so scenic it feels unreal at times, like something out of a movie. It's also one of the most easily accessible hikes in Miyagi, making it a must-see. Though no events accompany the opening of the gorge, the trail alone is reason enough to visit.

Hours: Open from 10:15 May 16–winter closure

Admission: Free

Gorge details (English):

Opening details (Japanese):

Location: Omoshiroyama Momijigawa Gorge (面白山紅葉川渓谷). Map here.

Access: 4-minute walk from Omoshiroyama Kogen Station

12. Mt. Kurikoma Yamabiraki


May 17

Kurihara, Miyagi

Mount Kurikoma is Miyagi's best day hike. The mountain gets covered in heavy snow all winter, making it inaccessible to any but well-equipped hikers experienced in winter mountaineering. In a secular context, the yamabiraki (lit. "opening of the mountain") in spring marks the time from when the mountain is considered safe for average hikers. Yamabiraki ceremonies typically involve the carrying of a portable shrine or holy object to peak of the mountain, where a Shinto ceremony is performed. None of these ceremonies are open to the public this year due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus, but the mountain trails will be open as usual from the yamabiraki onward.

Hours: Always open

Admission: Free

Mt. Kurikoma details (English):

Yamabiraki details:

Detailed trail info:

Location: Mt. Kurikoma (栗駒山). Map here ( a footbath near the Sukawa Kogen Onsen trailhead is pinned).

Access to Sukawa Kogen Onsen trailhead (須川高原温泉登山口): 90 minutes by bus from Ichinoseki Station (一ノ関駅). Board Sukawa Onsen Line (須川温泉線) bus bound for Sukawa Onsen (須川温泉). Alight at Sukawa Onsen, the final stop. Timetables here (weekdays) and here (weekend & holidays).

13. Mt. Adatara Yamabiraki


May 17

Nihonmatsu, Fukushima

Mount Adatara is a popular hiking spot located in a volcanically active area full of natural hot springs and dramatic landscapes. The Shinto yamabiraki (lit. "opening of the mountain") ceremony takes place the morning of May 17. After that, fit hikers can hike the full length of the trail; those less confident can ride the ropeway partway up the mountain, then hike the just the uppermost section of trail to reach the summit. The ropeway operates weekends only through May 15. From May 16 onward, it operates every day until the end of fall color season. For ropeway details and updates, see here.

Hours: Always open

Admission: Free

Yamabiraki info:

Mt. Adatara info (English):

Location: Mt. Adatara (安達太良山). Map here. Adatara Kogen Skijo (あだたら高原スキー場), where the most popular trailhead is located, is pinned.

Access (weekdays): 51 minutes by bus from Nihonmatsu Station. From the bus stop in front of Nihonmatsu Station (二本松駅前), board bus bound for Okudake (奥岳). Alight at Okudake, the final stop.

Access (weekends & holidays): A shuttle bus operates weekends and holidays during spring and autumn. The shuttle bus usually runs late April through late September, but the start of shuttle bus operation has been delayed this year. For details (from 2019), see here.

14. Togatta Onsen Morning Market 


Sundays May 17November 29

Zao-machi, Miyagi

Togatta Onsen is becoming something of a foodie destination. Not only is this onsen village is located in the agriculture-rich Zao area, it also is home to destination-worthy eateries: a Michelin-listed soba shop, pork burger joint, and Taiwanese teahouse. Purchase fresh Zao produce from local growers, at prices well below what Zao-branded foods command in the city. Being an onsen town, there are also several nearby day-trip bathouses available. Kami no Yu, the onsen in the same plaza as the market, is closed Sundays in May, but other nearby bathing facilities are open (Mahoroba no Yu, etc.).

Hours: 6:00–8:00

Admission: Free


Location: Togatta Onsen Kami no Yu Plaza (遠刈田温泉「神の湯」広場). Map here.

Access: About 70 minutes from Sendai Station. Board bus bound for Murata・Zao・Togatta (村田・蔵王・遠刈田) at Sendai Station Bus Stop 33. Alight at the Togatta Onsen (遠刈田温泉) bus stop. See timetable here.

15. Zao Pension Village Open Gardens

蔵王ペンション村オープンガーデン 山の春から初夏の庭

May 24July 5

Kaminoyama, Yamagata

"Pensions" are small, homey inns, similar to Western bed-and-breakfast inns. The Zao Pension Village is a cluster of these inns located on the outskirts of Zao Onsen. Many of the pension owners are proud of the fine gardens they've cultivated. Though visitors are invited to explore the gardens anytime of year, late spring through early summer is especially recommended, many flowers are in bloom at that time.

Hours: 10:00–15:00

Admission: Free

Details (English):

Location: Zao Pension Village (蔵王ペンション村). Map here.

Access: 5 minutes by taxi from the Zao Onsen Bus Terminal (蔵王温泉バスターミナル). The bus terminal is about 40 minutes by bus from Yamagata Station. At Yamagata Ekimae Bus Stop 1 (山形駅前1番), board bus bound forZao Onsen (蔵王温泉). Alight at Zao Onsen Bus Terminal (蔵王温泉バスターミナル), the final stop. Timetables here.

16. Shichi no Ichi Market


May 31 (& the last Sunday of every month)

Shichigahama, Miyagi

*NOTICE: Due to concern over the spread of coronavirus, the May market has been cancelled. For details and updates, see here.*

A farmer's market in Shichigahama, Miyagi's beach town. Being near the sea, this market boasts just-caught seafood in addition to the standard produce/jams/pickles farmer's market fare. The market usually also offer bingo games though whether those will still happen this month, in light of the national-emergency extension, remains to be seen.

Hours: 8:00–12:00

Admission: Free


Location: Shichi no Ichi (七の市). Map here.

Access from Hon-Shiogama Station (本塩釜駅): Board a Gururinko (ぐるりんこ) Line 1, 2 or 6 (系統1番号, 系統2番号 or 系統6番号) bus bound for Hanabuchi (花渕). Alight at Hanabuchi, the final stop. Bus map and timetables here.

Access from Tagajo Station (多賀城駅): Board a Gururinko (ぐるりんこ) Line 3, 4, or 8 (系統3番号, 系統4番号, or 系統8番号) bus bound for Hanabuchi (花渕). Alight at Hanabuchi, the final stop. Bus map and timetables here.

17. Mt. Takashiba Azaleas


Late May

Tamura, Fukushima

Late spring is yamatsutsuji (wild mountain azalea) season, and Mount Takeshiba is one of the best places to see them. The hike itself here is quite gentle (it takes only about 30 minutes from trailhead to mountain peak), so for confident hikers a visit here is mostly about the flowers. There's also an observation deck at the top of the mountain, so you can peek over the tall azalea bushes for a view of the countryside below.

Hours: May 24–winter closure

Admission: Free

Yamabiraki details:

Flower status & hike details:

Location: Mt. Takashiba (高柴山). Map here.

Access from Koriyama Station (郡山駅): About 45 minutes by bus from Koriyama Station (郡山駅).

From Koriyama Station, board bus bound for (Akanuma) Yanagibashi・Ono ((赤沼)柳橋・小野), alight at Takashibayama Iriguchi (高柴山バス停) bus stop. Timetables here. Map here.

Access from Ononiimachi Station (小野新町駅): About 25 minutes by bus from Ononimachi Station (小野新町駅). From Ononiimachi Station, board bus bound for Koriyama (郡山). Alight at Takashibayama Iriguchi (高柴山入口). Timetables here. Map here.

18. Peony Garden at Atagoyama Park


Late Mayearly June

Shikama, Miyagi

A meadow-like park home to a 4,000 square-meter field of peonies! Though the festival usually associated with the blooming of the flowers has been cancelled, but the flowers themselves will of course still bloom as usual, of course. The park also features a free park-golf course.

Hours: Always open

Admission: Free


Location: Atagoyama Park (愛宕山公園). Map here.

Access from Nishi-Furukawa Station (西古川駅): About 15 minutes by bus, followed by a 40-minute walk. Board a Kudari (下り) Shikama Line (色麻線) bus, alight at Shikama-machi Yakuba-mae (色麻町役場前) bus stop. Timetable here (weekdays) and here (weekends and holidays).

Access from Sendai Station (仙台駅): About 60 minutes by highway bus, followed by a 40-minute walk. Board highway bus bound for Kami (加美), alight at Shikama-machi Yakuba-mae (色麻町役場前) bus stop. Timetable here.

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