Spring in Japan is renowned for being a wondrous experience, and there’s no more perfect time to visit. Not only is there some of the best weather in Japan on offer, but there’s seemingly endless events and goings-on throughout the country. If you do decide to visit Japan in spring, you’d better plan ahead – we’ll take you through some of the essential experiences that are unlike anywhere else in the world.
1. Cherry Blossoms
This list can’t really start with anything else. Japanese spring is defined by beautiful cherry blossoms (sakura
), which bloom in parks, street-side, up on mountains, by the side of river…pretty much everywhere! It completely takes over the scenery and becomes a symbol of the country as a whole – even the rugby team are known as the Brave Blossoms! We’ve previously written a blog on flower symbolism in Japanese culture
, where we give an in-depth look at how the natural and the spiritual combine.
Cherry blossoms have a relatively short time in full bloom though – only about a week – so you’ve got to be organised beforehand. VisitJapan have got a really useful guide on the best places and times to see cherry blossom season
, which can help you be really prepared. You should also take part in the Japanese custom of hanami
– literally the art of ‘flower viewing’. Friends and family gather to admire the flowers’ beauty, have picnics, and generally have a lovely time.
2. Speciality Food
When the season changes, something else changes too – the menu! Japanese cuisine is more varied once spring rolls in, as vegetables are well into their growing stages and post-winter animal migration is underway.
In spring, you can expect to see bamboo and aralia elata
(Japanese Angelica Tree) shoots take centre stage of many dishes. Bamboo must be boiled to remove natural toxins and so is often found in soups or broths, or made into the condiment menma for ramen dishes. Aralia elata
is often fried in tempura butter and served alongside fish.
3. Strawberry Picking
Spring is also right in the middle of strawberry picking season in Japan. While it may be thought of as a traditionally English event, strawberry picking is a popular spring activity all across Japan. While the picking season properly starts at the end of winter, by spring it is well underway and the fruits are at their ripest.
It is customary in Japan to gift fruits to family and friends upon returning from a trip away, and strawberries fit the bill perfectly. There are many picking farms all around the country, and there are many within a short train ride from Tokyo for the city-breakers.
4. Kodomo no Hi
The nationwide Spring festival Kodomo no Hi
(also known as ‘Children’s Day’) is a day dedicated to celebrating the children of Japan. Its celebrations aim to promote health and happiness for the younger generation.
The day is filled with symbolic gestures and rituals. Early in the day, Japanese Iris flowers are fixed to the front doors of houses. This is to ward off evil and protect those who reside inside the house. After this, children take a shobu-yu
bath – a bath with Japanese iris floating in the water. It’s similar to the ritual with flowers on the door, and is believed to prevent misfortune and illness.
The most well-known part of the day is the flying of paper-made carp kites through the streets. This is symbolic of the Japanese legend of the carp, who perseveres swimming upstream and turns into a dragon, and this endeavour is believed to be passed on to the children. Many festivals make use of animal symbolism
in Japan to bring communities together.
5. Golden Week
Golden Week is a collection of public holidays within a short space of time from the end of April and into the start of May. Kodomo no Hi
takes place at the end of the week, but there are many events in Golden Week that come beforehand – another one of our blogs explains everything to do with Golden Week
, which we would recommend looking at.
In Golden Week, because the public holidays are spread out, Japanese people often take the ‘gap days’ off as holiday – giving a full week (or more) to spend time with family, travel, or just kick back and relax. The week also sees some of Japan’s best weather, and so is often very busy around tourist locations – great if you’re after a bit of a buzz! The Japanese film industry also sees a big boom in this time, and many of the big blockbuster films are released in time for Golden week. If you’re a Japanese film buff then this is the time for you to go!
Spring is a time for celebration in Japan, so make sure that you’re well-stocked up with authentic Japanese gifts! If you’re keen to find out more about Japanese culture, check out our other blog posts for more in-depth articles and discussions.