Festivals, food, funky features, and flowers. Japan offers all this and more in abundance – at all times throughout the year. Of course, June and September are the monsoon and typhoon seasons in Japan respectively, so you may not want to do sight-seeing during these months. But otherwise, every season brings with it unique and fascinating things for you to see and do, so you are bound to have the time of your life. Do take note of the following seasonal highlights so that you can choose the season that is aligned with your personality and passions and plan for your best timing to travel in Japan!
Spring in Japan
Making its highly-anticipated arrival in late March, spring is when the entire nation springs (no pun intended) to life as people celebrate the blossoming of sakura (cherry blossoms). Indeed, spring is synonymous with sakura, and prime spots like Ueno Park in Tokyo and Tenryu-ji Temple in Kyoto are fantabulous places for enjoying the ephemeral beauty of sakura. Besides sakura, other flowers like tulips and azaleas bloom in all their unbridled glory as well, so nature lovers will definitely delight in the sensational sights offered by Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park in Hokkaido and Tsutsujigaoka azalea park in Gunma.
If you wish to see snow but would rather not suffer the harsh winter, despair no longer. You can still admire high walls of porcelain-white snow forming a gorgeously long corridor that is juxtaposed against a brilliant blue sky at the Towada-Hachimantai National Park straddling Iwate and Akita prefectures. Experiencing snow at mild spring temperatures? What a deal!
-English Name: Hachimantai
-Japanese Name: 八幡平
-Open Hours/Closed Day: Sightseeing is possible from mid-April to early May.
-Address: Matsuoyoriki, Hachimantai-shi
-Lat/Long: (39.904758, 140.97462)
-Phone number: 0195-78-3500 (Hachimantai Tourism Association)
Summer in Japan
Japan’s summer provides the perfect opportunity to engage in some cool outdoor activities, work out a sweat and generate endorphins that are great for boosting one’s happiness. For instance, you may want to head down to Shimoda in Shizuoka prefecture, which is a convenient three-hour train ride away from Tokyo. Once you reach there, you can choose from nine glorious beaches in which to engage in surfing and beach volleyball. You may even want to befriend some Japanese people who are playing suika wari (a game that involves one to be blindfolded while hitting a watermelon repeatedly until it is spilt open)! Not forgetting that Mount Fuji will be open for climbing during July and August. Boasting various routes in which both amateur climbers and avid mountaineers will feel challenged by, Mount Fuji rewards climbers with a spectacular goroke (sunrise) that will surely be the highlight of their trip. After all, Japan is the Land of the Rising Sun, and watching the sun bursting its golden rays of sunshine through the misty clouds will do wonders for your soul.
-English Name: Mount Fuji
-Japanese Name: 富士山
-Open Hours/Closed Day: July & August
-Address: Mount Fuji, Kitayama, Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture 418-0112, Japan
-Budget: 1000 yen (Climbing fee)
-Lat/Long: (35.360556, 138.727778)
-Phone number: 0555-72-0259 (Yamanashi Prefectural Fuji Visitor Centre)
Japan also has exceptionally fun festivals that will be right up your alley. Hour-long fireworks festivals? Check. Odori (dance) festivals? Check. Traditional tanabata (star festivals)? Check. Summertime festivals which inexplicably combine explosive energy with gentle grace into an exciting extravaganza are not to be missed. From All-Okinawa Eisa Festival in Okinawa to Sapporo Summer Festival in Hokkaido, there are bound to be festivals that fit your travel itinerary and pique your curiosity!
Autumn in Japan
October and November are the months when Japan turns into a vivid and dazzling display of colours. Imagine explosions of red, tangerine and brown that bombard your sight and put a grin on your face. One of the best places to take in the unparalleled beauty of Japan’s autumn foliage has got to be Kyoto, in which the colorful leaves juxtapose prettily against the stately feel of World Heritage-listed shrines. If you would much prefer to be one with nature, hiking in Hokkaido’s national parks or Tohoku’s Hachimantai Mountains will enable you to get up close and personal with this vibrant palette of nature!
Kyoho grapes and persimmons (kaki in Japanese) also take centre stage in autumn as they are fruits that are harvested in autumn. Big and juicy Kyoho grapes – mainly grown in Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures – make for a delectable sweet treat. Persimmons, on the other hand, are dried in the sun so as to accentuate their sweetness; they are a refreshing snack that pairs especially well with green tea. In fact, why not buy some dried persimmons (hoshigaki in Japanese) and bring them to Yatsushiro National Fireworks Festival, a rare fireworks festival that is held in autumn in Japan? Tucking into hoshigaki while soaking up the zing of Kyushu’s largest fireworks festival is a cultural experience that will stay etched in your mind!
-English Name: Yatsushiro Fireworks Festival
-Japanese Name: やつしろ花火大会
-Open Hours/Closed Day: 3rd Saturday of October
-Address: Yatsushiro City, Kumamoto Kuma River Green Area
-Lat/Long: (32.462821, 130.612596)
-Phone number: 0965-33-4115 (Yatsushiro National Fireworks Festival Executive Committee Office)
Best time to visit Japan
Japan is a paradise for skiing buffs as they have a multitude of skiing resorts to choose from in order to hone their skills. Hokkaido is the obvious choice for skiing enthusiasts as it is home to stunning landscapes…plus some cool amenities! Fancy a drink at a snow some ice bar after your skiing session? Or a rejuvenating dip at an outdoor bath? Hokkaido serves all this up along with delectable delicacies like Ishikari nabe. This hot-pot dish combines tender salmon from the Ishikari River and Hokkaido’s famous miso broth into a steaming, hearty dish!
If you would rather engage in less sporty activities, you will also be duly entertained as Japan transforms into a sparkling wonderland with bright LED lights and even crystal chandeliers! Certainly, the illumination displays at Odaiba, Tokyo Midtown, and Shidome, among others in Tokyo are not to be missed. Last but not least, travellers who wish to skip the cold altogether can make their way to Okinawa, where the winter is mild and novel experiences like humpback whale watching await. Who knows? If you time your trip nicely, you may just be able to view dark pink cherry blossoms near the end of January! Consider joining the Nakijin Gusuku Cherry Blossom Festival whereby the World Heritage-listed castle ruins and the lit-up cherry blossoms make for an impressive sight.
-English Name: Nakijin Gusuku Cherry Blossom Festival
-Japanese Name: 今帰仁城さくら祭
-Open Hours/Closed Day: Cherry Blossom Illumination (from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.) during late January to early February
-Address: 5101 Imadomari, Nakijin-son 905-0428
-Budget: ￥400 for adults
-Lat/Long: (26.692519, 127.928072)
-Phone number: 0980-56-2256 (Nakijin Gusuku Sakura Festival Executive Committee)
Seeing snow in spring. Admiring fireworks in autumn. Viewing cherry blossoms in winter. Such is Japan’s charm that you will be able to put together your ideal itinerary, regardless of when you visit Japan. So hurry and book that plane ticket to the Land of the Rising Sun now!