Spring in Japan
The most popular season to travel to Japan is spring, and of course, there are good reasons for this popularity. The spring season in Japan is spectacular in many ways. After a few months of mainly staying cooped up in their houses, most people in Japan are very happy to start going outside again. During early spring it is the plum blossoms that make people go to the parks in droves, but the most famous blossoms come a bit later during the peak blooming period of the cherry blossoms. That is considered to be the real start of spring and a reason to go out, drink, and be merry under the cherry trees. After that, it is one blooming season after another with shibazakura, azalea, and hydrangea delighting the people who venture outside.
The weather is also often good for outdoor activities, it will slowly get warmer once April starts and from May you will barely need to wear a coat anymore. Rain happens on and off, but it is still too early for typhoons. Many festivals also happen during spring, so there is always something to do in this season.
Spring Weather in Japan
In March, Tokyo’s temperature reaches an average of 13 ° C (56 ° F) during the afternoon and 5 ° C (41 ° F) during the night. In April, the afternoon temperatures reach an average of 18.5 ° C (65 ° F) in the afternoon, while temperatures in the morning and night are around 10.5 ° C (51 ° F). In May, during the afternoons it becomes around 21 ° C (73 ° F), while in the evenings and mornings temperature decreases to around 15 ° C (59 ° F).
It does rain sometimes during spring, but usually not for days on end. Early in the spring season, the temperatures can still fluctuate quite a lot, but from mid-May onwards, the temperatures become more stable and usually don’t go under 18 ° C in the day time.
Spring Events in Japan
From the end of March until the beginning of May, cherry blossoms bloom throughout Japan. Making their way from south to north, starting Kyushu and ending in Hokkaido, this flowering process is followed by almost the entire population through the news on television. The peak of the blooming period only lasts for one to two weeks, and people in Japan make the most of it by organizing picnics under the blooming trees called ‘hanami‘. If you happen to be in Japan during hanami season, feel free to join the festivities and buy your own picnic mat, snacks, and drinks in places like the Yoyogi park or the Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo and the Maruyama Park or Kamogawa (Kitaoji street) in Kyoto.
The Fuji Shibazakura Festival is one of the best events to enjoy the Japanese spring. Various types of Shibazakura bloom throughout the area, coloring it brightly. You cannot miss the best places to take pictures, with the carpet of the Shibazakura and the beautiful Mount Fuji in the background. From April to May, the small flowers of approximately 1.5 cm in diameter, in red, pink, white, or purple will be in full bloom. It is a vine plant that covers the ground like a lawn and, therefore, is called ‘cherry trees of the lawn’ in Japanese.
Golden Week comes at a usually very pleasant time of the year in Japan weather-wise; temperatures are neither too cold nor too hot. Golden Week is the given name of series of holidays from the end of April until the beginning of May, during which almost all Japanese employees receive a week of vacation and many people thus travel to resort areas. For international tourists coming to Japan, it is not recommended to travel during this time as hotel prices tend to surge because of domestic demand. Just before or after Golden Week is a much better time to come.
Every May 5th, it is Kodomo no Hi or ‘Children’s Day’ in Japan. Families fly koinobori banners in the shape of a carp (a type of fish) for each child in their house. In Japanese folklore, the carp is a symbol of determination and vigor, overcoming all obstacles to swim upstream. Samurai warrior figurines and samurai kabuto helmets are also displayed in homes with sons to inspire strength and bravery.
The Kanda Matsuri Festival in May is one of the three largest festivals in Tokyo, and indeed in all of Japan. The grand six-day celebration attracts the largest crowds. In the Shinko-sai parade, portable shrines called mikoshi weave from Kanda to Nihonbashi, to the Ote-Marunouchi area, and to Akihabara. In the Mikoshi Miya-iri procession, a hundred floats prepared by the parish towns enter the shrine premises to be worshipped. Both events offer the chance to see the wonderful energy of Japanese mikoshi parades.
Considered one of the three most important festivals in Kyoto, the Aoi Matsuri takes place on the 15th of May each year. It is held by the important Kamo Shrines, Kamigamo Shrine, and Shimogamo Shrine, and the origins of the festival can be traced all the way back to rites performed to appease the gods and pray for bountiful harvests in the 6th century. It was established as a more formal annual ritual in the 8th-century Heian period when Kyoto became the capital and the Emperor recognized the importance of the Kamo shrines to the capital’s prosperity.
Food and Drinks
Mochi is Japanese-style sticky rice cake, and mochi making is associated with many important occasions in Japan. There are many varieties of mochi available here based on the location, season, etc. Sakura mochi is the sweet pink-colored mochi of spring that is often eaten at festivals or during hanami.
Young Bamboo Shoots
Young bamboo shoots, or takenoko in Japanese, are often used in cooking during the spring and summer. It is usually served with rice or seasoned with a sauce. People used to go out digging for these seasonal shoots, but nowadays it is usually bought at the supermarket or enjoyed in traditional Japanese restaurants.
Many people love strawberries, and after you have tried strawberries from Japan you will love them even more. Quality is high and the sweetness of Japanese strawberries is amazing. Strawberries are featured in most desserts and sweets of spring as it is the main fruit of the season. Tochigi prefecture has a lot of farms where you can pick your own strawberries, and in Tokyo, you can try this in for example Setagaya Ichigo Juku or Niikura Noen Farm.
Sakura-themed Food and Drinks
There’s a lot of commercial establishments that offer limited edition drinks in spring that have sakura as an ingredient. Coffee, chocolates, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages are just some examples of food and drinks that can be sakura-flavored. As these special editions only last for a little while they tend to be very popular with the locals!