Every year, between May 3 and May 5, Hiroshima’s 100m wide Peace Boulevard is closed to traffic and given over to parades, dancing, stages and stalls. The Flower Festival, with its carnivalesque atmosphere, draws over a million people every year. There are countless stages and the schedule is very confusing (and in Japanese). Hopefully, this guide will help you make some sense of the mayhem, or, if you are feeling brave, download the official 2016 Flower Festival PDF guide here [ja].
2016’s festival is the 40th and the theme, thought up by a 69 year old housewife in Higashi-hiroshima is mirai e tsunagu hana to eigao no yonjyu nen which means something like “connecting to the future, 40 years of flowers and smiling faces” and the symbolic “Flower Tower” which stands in front of the Peace Museum during the festival will be adorned with a big ’40′(a design selected from 109 public entries).
The event opens with the Flower Parade starting just after 11:00 on May 3 from the Takara-machi intersection on Peace Boulevard (near Fuji Grand) and which makes its way to Peace Memorial Park. The parade will be led this year by the boy’s and girls ekiden relay teams from Sera High School which both won their respective national championships this year. The teams will be bearing a torch along the route. Following them, community groups, companies, floats, Harley Davidson bikes and the “Flower Float” bearing this year’s Flower Festival Queens. See the whole list, in Japanese, here.
For much of the first and third days Peace Boulevard is closed for parades and the sidewalks can get very crowded. On the second day, however, the main street is open all day and it’s much easier to get from one end of the festival to another. The parades are usually over by 3pm from when the road is opened on Day 1 and 3.
The area around the main Carnation Stage in front of the Peace Museum also gets very busy during the main events and for the big guests (sometimes fans camp over night to a choice spot in front of the stage. That said, other you can usually get a view of other events such as the kagura performances on the Carnation Stage on the first evening as people in front tend to sit on the ground.
Most of Day 3 is taken up with Yosakoi performances, first on Peace Boulevard and then on the main stage, and can get a bit much after a while. This parade is, however, GetHiroshima’s jjwalsh’s favorite part of the Flower Festival and she loves getting there early to secure a good vantage point on the curb (usually on the north side of Peace Boulevard to stay in the shade for as long as possible) and taking photos of all the colorful dance groups.
If you want a break from all the heavily choreographed and somewhat corporate atmosphere of the festival, head over to Skate World. Just behind the main Carnation Stage, next to the river is a mini skate park put together by local skaters and their mates with soundtrack provided by DJs and bands playing on the back of truck. Delightfully anarchic, but be careful, I got a board in the back of my neck while I was nodding along to some reggae a couple of years ago. Kids are welcome, though, unless they know what they are doing, it’s best that they play around on the ramps earlier in the day.
The Peace Flower Project installation in the Peace Memorial Park is a little more gaudy these days than when it was just a candle event, but park still looks very picturesque after dark when illuminated by candles and the peace crane lanterns. It provides a peaceful and contemplative contrast to all the crowds and noise during the day.
As mentioned above, the schedule is pretty confusing (and in tiny type!), so it makes sense to play things by ear and follow your nose! There’s an awful lot of community groups doing hula or flamenco and school-age hip hop dancers, but you never know what you might come across.
Flower Parade 11:00-15:00 Peace Boulevard
International performances on the Carnation Stage 13:45~
- Mariachi Correo
- Japanese traditional dance performed by children
- Muay Thai boxing
Ayaka Hirahara 14:00 Carnation Stage
Japanese pop singer who’s first release in 2004 Jupiter, the melody of which is based on the Jupiter movement in The Planets by Gustav Holst, was a big hit.
Kagura Performances17:30 Carnation Stage (3 shows)
Peace Flower Project illuminations in Peace Park
Street Athletics 14:00~in front of Peace Memorial Park
Former 100m world record holder Maurice Greene joins Japanese 400m hurdler Dai Tamsesue and other speedy athletes take on challenges from the crowd in a mini Flower Festival track meet in front of Peace Park. Pole vault demo, athlete’s “talk show”, elementary school 50m sprint heats, sprint and high jump demos, athletes vs kids and prize giving.
Battle Of The Bands 16:20~ Sakura Stage
5 bands vie for glory on Peace Boulevard
Flower Song Concert on the Carnation Stage 11:00-16:30
Music throughout the day but the main guests are
Youko Seri 13:40~
Kaori Kishitani 15:50~
International performances on the Carnation Stage 16:30~
- Korean pop from MR.MR.
- Traditional Indonesian dance performed by exchange students
- Samba dance by Megumi Kudo
Peace Flower Project illuminations in Peace Park 18:00-21:00
The final day of the Flower Festival is all about dressing up brightly colored robes, painting your face and doing the energetic yosakoi dance – all day long. The winners perform at the end of the day on the main Carnation Stage in Peace Park. Great for photos!
Giant Calligraphy performance 10:00 In front of the Peace Museum
Yosakoi Dance Parade 11:00-14:45 Peace Boulevard (31 competition teams and 7 invited groups)
Yosakoi Dance Performanceson the Carnation Stage 14:38-18:30 Peace Boulevard
Peace Flower Project illuminations in Peace Park 18:00-20:00
Flower Festival Map
View Hiroshima Flower Festival in a larger map