A Sea of Carp at Tatebayashi’s World-Record Koinobori Festival

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Photo by hkflc

On the way to tennis club a few years ago, I was waylaid by the world’s largest carp streamer festival. Thousands upon thousands of “koinobori,” interspersed with shimmering strips of metallic paper, were strung across Tsuruuda River in the quiet town of Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture. My tennis buddies later explained that the koinobori are flown in celebration of Children’s Day, which takes place every year on May 5th, and that families with young boys will often hang koinobori at their homes.

Tatebayashi’s Koinobori Village Festival (called こいのぼりの里まつりKoinobori no Sato Matsuri in Japanese) is held every year from late March to early May, usually coinciding with both the city’s cherry blossom and azalea festivals. The koinobori range from the medium-sized black, green, red, blue and purple streamers to the gigantic streamers decorated by local children.

As you might guess from the sheer amount of streamers, you’ll want to take a whole day to enjoy Tatebayashi’s Koinobori Festival. I made the mistake one year of promising to go to a nearby city for a hanami on the same day that I had earlier plans to see Tatebayashi’s carp streamers. Almost everyone had gone home by the time I made it to the hanami.

The number of streamers varies from year to year, but the 2015 festival reportedly boasts 5135 streamers at five locations throughout the city.

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In 2005, the festival flew 5283 streamers, earning the title of the largest carp streamer festival in the world from Guinness World Records. The festival then went on to fly 6340 streamers in 2012 to celebrate the opening of Tokyo Skytree, which is 634 meters tall. I don’t envy the person tasked with counting all the streamers each year.

As mentioned before, the carp streamer festival isn’t the only spring event in Tatebayashi. The city has around 650 cherry blossom trees, so if you time your visit right, you’ll get to take in both the streamers and the sakura. If you miss the sakura, though, you can still make it in time for the azaleas, which usually bloom mid-April to mid-May.

Have you ever been to the Tatebayashi Koinobori Festival?

Access:

Tatebayashi Koinobori Festival

Dates: March 25, 2015 through May 8, 2015 (every year late March to early May)
Location: Tatebayashi City, Gunma Prefecture (Five spots: Tsuruuda River, Kondonuma Park, Tsutsujigaoka Park, Tataranuma Park, Morinji River)
Directions: About 20 minutes from Tatebayashi Station by foot
About 9 minutes from Tatebayashi Station by bus (Take Tatebayashi/Itakura Line or Tatebayashi/Itakura-kita Line to Tatebayashi City Hall)
Gunma Official Koinobori Festival Website (English) [www.visitgunma.jp/en/saijiki]
Tatabayashi Official Koinobori Festival Website (Japanese) [www.utyututuji.jp/season-spring.html]

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Spends weekends aimlessly wandering Tokyo.

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