Japanese festivals are great, but if you want to get a good seat so you can enjoy them properly, you usually have to arrive an hour or two before they start. I arrived about 90 minutes early for this one, because I remembered the last time I went to Mt. Takao during the autumn foliage season, when there were thousands of people lined up for the cable car and the main trail up the mountain was so crowded there were human traffic jams at several choke points.
I got a really pleasant surprise, though, because despite the beautiful spring weather, there were no crowds at all. In fact, the participants probably outnumbered the spectators.
Takao’s spring festival starts off with a chigo procession. Chigo are children dressed up as members of the Heian Period (794-1195) nobility. They’re joined by Yamabushi (an ascetic sect of mountain priests), a marching band, and some fire fighters from the local town who put on an acrobatic performance atop 7-meter high ladders later on.
The festival is held on the third Sunday in April every year. To get there take the Keio Line to Takao-san guchi (be careful because JR Takao Station is pretty far from the trail heads). The procession starts from the cable car station near the top of the mountain at 11 AM.