Spring, or haru (春) in Japanese, occurs during the months of March, April and May. The last frost disappears as nature comes back to life in colors of green and pink. Cherry blossoms will bloom as the season’s greatest delight, welcoming in milder weather.
Spring may not have arrived yet, but we’ve rounded up ten amazing reasons why you should visit Japan during this floral season. Excited? Let’s get into it!
(1) To go Skiing
To get some great deals and save some extra cash to grab a bowl of ramen, take a ski trip between March and early April. The weather is perfect as it gets milder compared to the frosty winter and is enjoyable for piste skiers and snowboarders who prefer more stunning and clearer views.
Nothing feels better than dipping yourself into a relaxing onsen (Japanese hot spring) after your chilly trip, which is why you would find most ski resorts fully equipped with these natural baths to warm you up!
(2) To see sakura (Hanami)
With 花 (hana) meaning flowers and 見 (mi) meaning viewing, hanami is a traditional Japanese custom known as “flower viewing”.
From the end of March to early May, people pay particular attention to the Meteorological Agency, taking note of when the cherry blossoms flower. Dates will differ across the nation, and people tend to plan ahead as these pink phenomenons only bloom for approximately two weeks.
It’s a special event to the Japanese people as the flowers are quickly whisked away with the wind, so it’s vital to catch the opportune time!
Hanami can be a gentle stroll in the park or, more traditionally, holding a picnic party under the blooming trees. Famous cherry blossom spots can be overcrowded, so it’s common to see people reserve spots ahead of time.
It gets even better when night falls. Take a trip to Takada Park in Niigata to go nighttime blossom viewing.This park is well known for its open castle grounds where you can stroll and admire its amazing blossom corridor.
(3) To eat lots of sakura themed foods
Did you think cherry blossoms were only for viewing? Guess again! This pink floral beauty is also edible and has been adapted for many culinary uses like sakura mochi, a type of wagashi (traditional Japanese sweet) which is made with sweet pink mochi, filled with sweet red bean paste. However, what adds to the spring experience is the cherry blossom leaves used to wrap it.
How about grabbing a sakura manju (steamed sweet bun with red bean and sakura leaf paste) or sakura-an (sweet white bean paste with chopped, salted sakura leaves). If you are heading out for hanami, don’t forget to savour hanami dango (skewered glutinous rice balls). The colors refer to the pink sakura blooming among the green grass that have arrived for spring.
Not the sweet tooth type? They also make savoury sakura themed goodies! Sakura onigiri have a salty, crunchy texture due to the pickled cherry blossoms used to make them. How about a sakura inarizushi? Yes, they have cherry blossoms mixed into rice and stuffed into fried tofu skin as well.
But now I’m thirsty! Well, there are sakura themed drinks to help you out. Sakura have been incorporated into teas, soft drinks, beers, sake and coffee. Honestly the creations are wild!
(4) Go celebrate at the Hana Matsuri
Hana Matsuri, which means “flower festival” in Japanese, used to take place on the 8th day of the 4th month in the Lunar calendar. After the Gregorian calendar was adopted in Japan, it was later established as a religious holiday that now takes place on April 8th each year.
This day is also referred to as Kanbutsue, meaning “Buddha Bathing Party”, as it is dedicated to celebrating Buddha’s birthday. On this day, most Buddhists will prepare for their religious celebrations by decorating the area with flowers and placing a newborn baby Buddha statue in the temple.
When people visit, they would pour ama-cha, a sweet tea infusion prepared for pouring on the statue’s head. It symbolizes the bathing of the newborn which is based on the tradition that dragons came down from the sky to pour fragrant hot water onto Buddha when he was born.
With respect to the celebrations, some temples hold parades where children dress in historical costumes and participate with music, dance and plays.
(5) See the night sky under the stars
The weather is the most favorable at this time of the year, and thus, it is a calling to all outdoor adventurers. As the frost disappears, this is the perfect season to go outdoors and enjoy a camping experience. With Japan currently having over 3000 camping sites, you will surely find one that suits your adventurous needs.
Grab your sleeping bag and camping gear and head to Mount Fuji, a popular camping site. For those who prefer a getaway from the city, imagine sleeping under the universe of stars. Most visitors stay at these grounds to get a look at the amazing Diamond Fuji, a point at which the sun rises on the mountain and looks like a shining diamond.
Just a small tip for your camping experience: please research the campsite you wish to visit as the rules and regulations can vary.
(6) Visit a green tea farm
Are you a green tea enthusiast? I’ll raise my hand to this for sure! Green tea has fascinated me ever since I was introduced to it, and I still remain a huge fan!
Do you know the different types of green tea or how they are made? Ever wondered why your favorite tin of matcha costs so much or why one tea brews a different color to the other? Then why not visit a green tea farm in spring?
A common beverage consumed in Japan and considered a way of life in their culture, not a day goes by without consuming green tea as it is highly valued for its health benefits. The country itself is well known for its green tea production, spanning across many prefectures. The most well-known being Shizuoka, which produces about 40% of the green tea grown in Japan.
Why not take a green tea farm tour at the oldest green tea producing region Uji, found in Kyoto. Gaze off the mountaintop fields and soak in the breathtaking views. When the walking has tired you out, why not drink some freshly brewed green tea at a tea workshop.
Tip: Always check with a tea farm before booking as offers will vary.
(7) Going strawberry picking
Fruit picking is a very common activity in Japan, with many farms across the country opening up to locals and foreigners who can enjoy the opportunity of picking their own fruits.
Picking season spans from December to early May, with over 300 varieties of strawberry or Ichigo (イチゴ) in Japanese. The strawberries grown in Japan are red, delicious, and juicy fruits you can pick during the spring to enjoy.
For a small price, be it through reservation or walk-in, strawberry farm staff members are very welcoming of your visit to come and enjoy the “fruits of their hard work”. If you’re an adult or child, prices and the length of your visit can vary between farms. However, what is more surprising is that it can vary between the months, as prices decrease closer to the end of the season.
Finding a great farm near you may be tricky as it depends on if the fruits are greenhouse cultivated or open-field cultivated. You also need to be aware of the region of Japan that you are in, whether it be to the north or south, the strawberry picking seasons will vary.
(8) Attending a spring matsuri
During this season, there are many matsuri (festivals) taking place across Japan. If you are in Gifu prefecture, check out the Takayama Matsuri, with gorgeous mikoshi floats with karakuri doll shows. These look super realistic as they are performed by professional puppeteers, taking place on April 14th &15th annually.
Head over to Aichi prefecture and marvel at their 3-story floats at Inuyama Matsuri. After enjoying the daytime events, do not miss out on the beautiful illuminated lantern floats which brighten up the nighttime view!
While touring Tokyo, join in on the Sanja Matsuri celebrations. Held in Asakusa, it acknowledges three deities portrayed on three large floats in a procession with various smaller floats. Don’t forget to enjoy the food and drinks from the nearby stalls.
Take the shinkansen (bullet train) over to Kyoto, where they hold the Aoi Matsuri, attracting a crowd as people dressed in traditional Heian era clothing carrying portable shrines.
(9) Celebrating Earth Day
In the Tokyo area, you may be familiar with Yoyogi Park, a famous destination in Shibuya, especially for viewing cherry blossoms.
Earth Day, a global celebration, takes place annually on April 22nd. You can head over to Yoyogi Park to take part in the Earth Day events and activities. Visitors can look forward to enjoying an open air market, eating healthy foods or soaking in the lively music.
When the evening sets in, lectures are held for educational purposes, and you can enjoy the Earth Day entertainment in the form of music and dance performances. Not to worry though! Admission is totally free, so it’s a superb event to stop by and enjoy with family or friends.
(10) Seeing a sumo tournament
Sumo tournaments actually occur six times per year, so if you happen to visit during spring, be sure to catch one in May if you’re a huge wrestling fan. A tournament spans over fifteen days, where wrestlers participate in at least one match per day. With tickets being sold out almost a month in advance, you would definitely want to book your chance at this experience early.
For the hardcore fans, this is a great time to book an appointment with a sumo stable, the area where sumo wrestlers live and train. It is not easy to find one which allows visitations, but if you do, it is important to follow the house rules clearly as it may cause a disturbance to the training, and it is highly recommended to hire a translator for the day.
Did you enjoy discovering the many activities and food that come with a visit to Japan in the spring season? I hope I made you super excited to begin planning for your next trip to Japan!
Please stay tuned because spring is not the only season with exciting adventures that awaits you. Look out for our next blog on ten reasons why you should visit Japan during the summer season.
Dreaming about your trip to Japan during Spring season, check out our Online Hanami Experience to get a feeling for the season.
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