Celebrations for Ireland’s most famous holiday are gaining in popularity worldwide, and Japan is no exception.

St. Patrick, who helped spread Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century, is the country’s patron saint. Legend has it that he died on March 17, so the Irish celebrate the day by wearing green, symbolizing the shamrock.

Traditionally, the Irish go to Mass on St. Patrick’s Day, but more recently the festival has also become a secular celebration of Irish culture. This year’s St. Patrick’s festival is scheduled to take place from March 12-17 in Dublin. Revellers can expect to enjoy fireworks, comedy shows, live music and a parade that takes place on the last day.

This annual parade is also held in other countries. Surprisingly, the custom first started in the U.S. when Irish soldiers marched along Lower Broadway in New York City on March 17, 1762, according to Hilary Beirne, executive secretary of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

In Japan, people have enjoyed the St. Patrick’s Day parade since 1992. As an international cultural exchange event, it has become more popular, with recent years seeing around 1,000 participants and 50,000 spectators taking part in Omotesando, Tokyo. This year’s parade is on March 14 and starts from Omotesando Hills; it runs from 2 p.m. till 4 p.m. (www.inj.or.jp/stpatrick.html).

Other local areas in Japan will also hold parades. In Yokohama, the parade runs from 1 p.m. till 4 p.m. on Motomachi Shopping Street on March 20, (www.inj-yokohama.com).

In Tsukuba, the parade starts at 3 p.m. in Tsukuba Center Plaza on March 27 (stptsfes.tsukuba.ch).

In Ise, people will parade along a 2-km course, starting at Ise Shrine Geku from midday and finishing at 4 p.m. on March 13 (isepaddysdayparade.googlepages.com).

In Kyoto, about 300 participants will march on Oike Dori from 2:30 p.m. till 4 p.m. on March 14 (www.inj-kansai.com).

In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, parades will take place on land and the Horikawa River on March 14. The land parade starts at midday from Karakoro Plaza. Twenty green boats, will also depart Otemae Horikawa Boat Boarding Point at 11 a.m. and head to Karakoro Plaza. ( www.sanin-japan-ireland.org/festival).

In Okinawa City, participants will walk along Chuo Park Avenue from 3 p.m. on March 13. For details, call (098) 937-9345.

For more information, visit www.inj.or.jp

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