Spring in Japan is mostly associated with the cherry blossom festival. It is also one of the best time to visit Japan, hence the busiest and the most expensive too. The trick is to plan your trip in advance and ensure you book your accommodation several months in advance. Spring in Japan is from March to May and the cherry blossom (sakura) are in bloom for about a week. After this, there is a short period where the flowers start to beautifully flutter from the trees, making Japan snow with suave petals. The sakura season or the hanami (flower viewing) represents more than admiring beautiful flowers, but the human life and transience. To properly enjoy the season, I recommend spending at least 2 weeks in Japan.
Spring in Japan - Cherry blossom
The sakura season starts as early as January in Okinawa. However, for the most of Honshu, Sakura starts at the end of March. The further North you travel, the later you experience the bloom. Depending on the weather conditions, the definitive bloom date can be unpredictable. The best place to experience the cherry blossom in the whole of Japan, is Yoshino, a mountainous area located in the Nara prefecture.
Spring in Japan - Festivals
Spring in Japan is also about celebration, as there are several festivals you can attend to make the most out of your visit.
This festival takes place on the third Saturday in May. This is by far Tokyo's biggest and wildest festival. The Yakuza play a huge role in this festival as they sponsor a lot of mikoshi. A mikoshi is a divine portable Shinto shrine which several people carry during one festival. You can sign up for a mikoshi team if you live in Japan and you can connect with people at the local shrine.
On the day, you need to remember that a mikoshi can weigh thousands of kilograms. You will need to wear a uniform and sign your team's chants. If you participate as a mikoshi carrier, remember that you need to be strong and brave. It will be difficult to carry this through a crowd and stairs. Ultimately though, carrying mikoshi is an important rite of passage in Japan that builds a sense of community. It's an excellent way to immerse yourself in Japanese culture.
This festival takes places on the closest weekend to May 15. It is one of Tokyo's big three festivals. There are around 100 mikoshi on the streets and plenty of dance performances.
Tokyo anime fair
If it's Spring in Japan, then it's anime time. The event lasts for four days. The first two days are for the industry experts and press, whilst the other two are open to the public. The Tokyo International Anime Fair takes place at the end of March.
Yushima Tenmangu Matsuri
This festival takes place at the end of May on even years. This is yet another large mikoshi festival with teams and festival attires.
Hanazono Shrine Festival
This festival takes place at the Hanazono Shrine located in Shinjuku. It takes place at the end of May.
Ueno Sakura Matsuri
This is one of many Tokyo's Sakura festivals which takes place at the end of March, beginning of April. All you need is a blanket and some snacks. Head over to Ueno Park and celebrate the sakura season.
This is a Buddhist religious service rather than a festival. It is held in Nara, at the Todaiji Temple between Match 1-14. You will get to see burning torches on the balcony of the wooden temple. It looks pretty glorious at night.
This festival takes place on April 14-15 and it held in Takayama. It features many decorated floats.
This is one of the coolest Spring festivals in Japan. It is held on May 15 in Kyoto, where over 500 people are dressed in the aristocratic style of the Heian Period. Pretty cool, right?
Bunkyo Tsutsuji Matsuri
A month long azalea festival (early April to early May) that features Taiko drum and folk dance performances.
This even translated to the dark night festival and it is held during early May at the Okunitama Shrine. Houses in the neighbourhood dim their lights on the evening. The festival features parades, music, horse riding and lantern hanging competitions.
Kanamara Matsuri is the festival of the steel... phallus. I know what you are thinking, but really, as much as there are weird things in Japan, this matsuri is a fertility festival held in early April and its aim is to raise money for HIV research. So buy and suck on that penis shaped lollipop, knowing that you are doing it in the name of science.
Spring in Japan - Food
Seasons are incredibly important in Japan, and nowhere this is more obvious than right in your plate. Food, flavours and aromas change in Japan, according to each and every season. Spring in Japan brings bamboo shoots, udo, shiitake mushrooms, strawberries, citruses and various seafood. The best part? You can eat salted sakura flowers, sakura flavoured ice cream and all sort of cherry mochi, wrapped in sakura leaf.
Spring in Japan - Packing Guide
Spring in Japan is wonderful not just because of the cherry blossoms, but because the weather starts warming up and all trees and parks come back to life. Japan looks stunning during Spring, which is one of the best times to walk around and photograph the country. The good weather makes people happier and whilst there are still days when a light jacket is needed, visiting during spring in Japan, means packing relatively light. You can also check what to pack for Japan and download your free printable checklist.
Are you ready to enjoy Spring in Japan? When are you going? Tell me all about your plans in the comments section below.