Spring is definitely the most wonderful time of year to visit Japan — the climate is delightfully cool, cherry blossoms are everywhere, and there’s an entire string of intriguing festivals and activities to join in. If you’re lucky enough to be in Japan during this beautiful time of year, look no further than KKday’s spring travel guide to Japan!
1. Enjoy Hanami
It is no secret that spring in Japan is stunningly beautiful, with full credits going to the exquisite sakura flower. The delicate flower showers the country in a blanket of pink, drawing people from far and wide to its parks, gardens and lakes for the hanami (flower viewing) season.
Albeit gorgeous, cherry blossoms are tragically short-lived. Full bloom only lasts an average of one week in Japan, and its fleeting lifespan is exactly what makes the sakura season so precious.
>> Admire the short-lived cherry blossoms with a train ride down the Hozugawa River Gorge.
2. Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route may be enveloped in snow but think twice if you thought this route was only meant for winter. In fact, this famous mountain sightseeing route is never opened during the frosty season and is only available from April to November.
Nicknamed as the “Roof of Japan”, the Alpine Route is literally carved from an 18 meter high snow wall. Ecstasy-blue skies and snowcapped peaks can be seen from above, and the route is typically transversed by cable cars, ropeways, tunnel trolley buses, or by foot. If you’re looking for something a lil’ different from the usual spring, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route might just be your calling.
3. Celebrate Buddha’s Birthday
Also known as Hana Matsuri or Kambutsu-e nativity, Japan commemorates the birth of Buddha on April 8th annually. Visitors may arrive at Buddhist temples to see the place adorned with vibrant flowers and a child statue of Buddha, standing in a bowl. Guests pay their respects by pouring scented water or sweet hydrangea tea over the statue using a small ladle.
4. Wisteria Tunnel
Along with cherry blossoms, spring in Japan invites the arrival of wisteria flowers. While these lilac blooms can be found all over Japan, one of the best places to marvel at Wisterias is at Kawachi Fuji Garden in Northern Kyushu. The clusters of cascading Wisterias create an arresting flower tunnel that looks straight out from a fairytale.
5. Clam Digging
Throughout spring, you may come across people scouring muddy beaches or coastlines across Japan. What they’re really searching for is their dinner! Shiohigari (clam digging) is a popular activity in Japan, great for families or friends looking for a bit of fun before bringing home a meal.
If you’re looking to get some clam digging action, head over to the more popular beaches as these places are more likely to provide equipment as well. Prepare rubber boots (for the rocky areas), a couple of towels and extra clothes as you’ll be in for lots of dirt and sweat while clam digging.
6. Daruma Doll Fair
Jindaiji Temple welcomes spring with the annual Daruma Fair. Daruma dolls come in various colors (often red) and designs depending on region. The round dolls are a symbol of perseverance and good luck. When sold, the doll’s eyes are completely white — tradition dictates that you only draw in an eye upon deciding on a goal, and only after the goal has been achieved, may you fill in the second eye.
7. Kamakura Matsuri
Approximately an hour’s journey from Tokyo, the ancient city of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture is one of the political giants of medieval Japan. A city rich in history, Kamakura is home to a number of impressive temples and the famous Great Buddha (Daibutsu) statue.
To celebrate the rich culture and history of Kamakura, a festival is held every second and third Sunday of April, at the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. During the festival, the entire town parties with a plethora of music, performances and parades of mikoshi (portable shrines).
8. Miyako Odori
Geisha performances are mostly held at small, private gatherings where entry is only allowed via introductions from existing clientele. Access to the reclusive world of geishas are almost mission impossible but fortunately, the geisha community do put on annual public shows to perform and present their arts.
One of the most famous shows is the Miyako Odori, performed by the elegant Gion Kobu geisha. Miyako Odori translates as “capital city dances”, a way of raising the spirits of Kyoto’s residents after Tokyo was renamed as Japan’s capital city. This show has been ongoing for 145 seasons, which means that the pioneering performance first began all the way back in 1872.
>> Don on your very own kimono and frolic down Japan’s streets.
9. Takayama Spring Festival
The Takayama Spring Festival in Japan is a huge celebration held in hopes for a fruitful harvest since the 17th century. The festival is famous for its large floats (yatai) that are hauled around the city. These ornate floats are amazingly detailed with decorative wooden carvings and metalworks, draped over with embroidered cloth. Some floats even have mechanical puppets on the top to perform for the passing crowds.
10. Kanamara Matsuri
Trust the Japanese for the strangest festivals. Held yearly at the Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki, the Penis Festival, or otherwise known as Kanamara Matsuri, is dedicated to honor a man’s most precious member — yep, you guessed it — The penis.
Giantic phallus sculptures are seen parading down the streets and despite its offensive nature, the festival holds no sexual intend to it. The festival first began as a way for prostitutes to pray for protection against sexually transmitted diseases, and till today, the money raised goes to funding for HIV awareness and research.
For more travel activities around Japan:
>> Sagano Romantic Train – Cherry Blossom Tour
>> Tokyo Sky Tree Admission E-Ticket for 350m/450m Observatory
>> Tokyo Sakura Sightseeing Tour Bus: Kawazu-zakura Cherry Blossom Festival, Strawberry Picking & Famous Golden Red Snapper In Izu
For more travel guides about Japan: