The best things to do in Japan: Spring Edition!

The best things to do in Japan: Spring Edition!

Spring is one of the most highly anticipated seasons in Japan. It’s the time of the year where you get to say goodbye to the winter breeze and hello to the new spring blooms. Foreigners and locals alike travel nationwide to witness various aspects of Japanese spring. 

If your next trip to Japan is planned for this blooming season, you’re going to have a packed schedule. There are so many things to do during this season! We’ve highlighted the top 10 fun things you can do in Japan during the spring season!

1. Hanami

Of course, what’s spring in Japan without sakura (桜)? Sakura are Japanese cherry blossoms, and unofficially the flower of the nation. The most popular activity to celebrate these pale pink flowers is by going for flower viewings, called hanami (花み).

This is when you lay down a mat under the cherry blossom trees, a packed bento (弁当) in one hand an a can of beer in another. You can enjoy this activity with friends, family or colleagues. I like to go hanami when it’s towards the end of the blooming season to witness the petals falling down on me!

2. Festivals 

Japan is full of festivals, or matsuri (祭り), all year round. The spring season is no exception. If you’re wondering what to do in Japan in spring, definitely look out for festivals all throughout the nation.

Festivals in Japan feature food stalls, performances and other cultural events. Sanja Matsuri, one of the most popular ones in Tokyo and half in Asakusa, is a three-day long festival. You’d get to see portable shrines, parades and tons of traditional dancing! 

Another famous spring festival is the Hana Matsuri, or Kambutsu-e nativity. This falls on the 8th of April, and Japan celebrates the birth of Buddha on this day. You can go to any Buddhist temple and see tons of vibrant flowers decorating the area. To pay your respects, pour scented water or sweet hydrangea tea over the child statue of Buddha.

3. Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

This next activity isn’t something one would normally do in spring, but you’d want to do this in Japan when you’re here. Visit the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, available only from April to November. This mountain sightseeing route is covered in snow, but during winter, it’s actually closed! 

Some call this place the “Roof of Japan”, because the route is carved from an 18 meter high snow wall! It’s not a normal sight – I can tell you that much. Change up that spring landscape of blooms with snow walls going on for miles!

4. Clam digging 

One of the most popular activities for when the weather gets warmer is clam digging. It might not be something you thought of doing in Japan, but when in Rome, as they say. This is also known as shohigari (潮干狩り).

Typically from March to July, shores of Japanese beaches are full of people participating in this activity. Tokyo Bay, especially, is crowded just for this because it’s known for asari (あさり), or short-neck clams. If you plan to do this in Japan, be sure to pack some clothes suitable for the activity!

5. Strawberry picking

If you want a calmer activity to partake in, how about strawberry picking? The early spring season is known for the beginning of strawberry season, and it’s one of the most popular harvest periods in the country. 

Depending on the farm that you go to, you might be charged by either the weight of the fruits picked or by the period you’re in for. I recommend S-Berry Farm in Hari Cho in Nara Prefecture. Regardless of where you go for your strawberry picking adventures, be sure to make a reservation in advance! 

6. Miyako Odori

What you should do in Japan during the spring season is go to a geisha show. Usually, geisha performances are exclusive and held during private gatherings. Fortunately, there are annual shows open to the public. One of them is called Miyako Odori (都踊り), translated to “capital city dance”. 

This famous show is held in Kyoto and performed by Gion Kobe geisha. It came about when Tokyo became the capital city, and the people of Kyoto were in low spirits as they used to be the capital city. This means that the first performance was held in 1872!

7. Daruma Doll Fair

Other than festivals and shows, Japanese spring offers unique fairs, including the Daruma Doll Fair. This is held in Jindaiji Temple where daruma dolls are available in various colours and designs. These dolls symbolise perseverance and good luck. 

The dolls’ eyes are completely white, and tradition has it that when you buy one, you draw in one of the eyes after deciding a goal. You should only fill in the other eye when your goal is achieved. 

8. Savour seasonal cuisine

Japan is very attentive to the changing seasons. When a new season comes around, new seasonal dishes come out on menus. Why not include this in one of your to-do activities in Japan?

Of course, spring cuisine involves a lot of sakura-themed dishes, like sakura mochi (桜もち). This traditional rice cake is made from real cherry blossoms! And that’s not the only seasonal dessert you can get. All around Japan, you can try all sorts of spring seasonal Japanese cuisine to your heart’s desire.

9. See koinobori

Don’t forget to look out for carp kites when you’re in Japan during spring! Known as koinobori (鯉のぼり), these are placed outside houses to celebrate Children’ Day (Kodomo no Hi, 子供の日). While it falls on the 5th of May, these carp kites are on display from April.

There are also specific areas in the country that have them, too. For example, in Tokyo, Tokyo Tower has 333 carp kites (because the tower is measured 333 meters) hoisted from the 5th of April!

10. View spring flowers

Last but not least, what you should do in Japan during spring is to view other spring flowers. Sure, sakura are pretty and all, but they’re not the only flowers to bloom during this season. You can find everything from hydrangeas and wisterias everywhere. Parks, botanical gardens and some shrines are great places for this activity. 

Are you excited for spring in Japan?

These 10 activities are just the tip of the iceberg. There are tons of other things you can do in Japan during the season. This island nation is full of nothing but activities! So pack your bags and get pumped for your trip to Japan during spring! 

Beautiful Japanese words for Spring!

Beautiful Japanese words for Spring!

Spring is a beautiful time of year. Spring might soon be done for the year, but we are always striving to learn Japanese! And there’s always next spring. Let’s hope by then, COVID-19 is gone and we’re allowed to travel again. Why not prepare ourselves for our next Japanese spring holiday?

Other than booking flights and accommodation, equip yourself with some Japanese words for Spring! You’re a scroll away from a list of essential spring words in the Japanese language!

Haru (春)

The first word on the list is haru (春). What’s more essential than the Japanese word for “spring”? I love the spring season (haru no kisetsu, 春の季節). Blooming flowers take over the whole landscape. The specific term for that is haru no hana (春の花), which means “spring flowers”.

When it’s the beginning of spring (harusaki, 春先), we get to say goodbye to puffy jackets. They’re replaced with shades of pink and yellow, just like the colours of spring (or shunshoku, 春色).

The best part for the kids is the haruyasumi (春休み), spring holiday! But that’s not the first thing that lets us know the change of season. It’s the haruichiban (春一番), the first storm of spring. Be careful of the spring winds (harukaze, 春風), they’re quite strong!

Sakura (桜)

When we think of spring, we think of sakura (桜). Cherry blossoms are the unofficial flower of Japan because the connection between the two is so strong. 

There are so many types of sakura trees in Japan. One iconic one is the shidarezakura (枝垂れ桜), the weeping cherry blossom trees. Locals and foreigners alike explore the country looking for them. It’s as popular as viewing cherry blossoms at night, or yozakura (夜桜).

The sakurazensen (桜前線, cherry blossom front) moves northward as the warmer weather hits Japan at different times. Because of that, the flowers don’t bloom at the same time.

At the end of sakura season, you’ll see hazakura (葉桜). These are sakura leaves that signify the end of the blooming season. But before that, you’ll get a grand farewell with a blizzard of falling cherry blossoms known as sakurafubuki (桜吹雪).

Hana (花)

We know the name of the cherry blossom flower, but what is “flower” in Japanese? That’s hana (花). The most popular term using this word is hanami (花見) to refer to cherry blossom viewing. This is an activity where groups of people lay out a mat under the cherry trees. Usually, there’s alcohol involved. Drinking starts as early as noon. Heck, you might even see locals with a can of beer in the morning.

During a hanafubuki (花吹雪), hanabira (花びら, flower petals) fall from the trees. Every street would be filled with flower petals. It’s as beautiful as when they’re still on the trees.

One word that’s interesting using the word “hana” is hanagasumi (花霞). This refers to the appearance of flowers from afar like it’s white mist. 

Mankai (満開)

If you’re a huge cherry blossom enthusiast like me, you’d want to keep an eye out for the mankai (満開). This refers to the full bloom of the cherry blossoms. You can use this term for other flowers but it’s commonly used for sakura.

During a mankai, all the trees are full of flowers. There’s nothing quite like a full bloom scenery.

Kaikayosou (開花予想)

So how do you know when the cherry blossoms are going to bloom? Check the kaikayosou (開花予想), of course. This is the blooming forecast that’s broadcasted on the news and online. Plan your exact dates for your spring trip based on the forecast. You’ll get the best chances at viewing cherry blossoms at its peak.

Shunbun (春分)

We mentioned spring holiday earlier for the kids. There’s one public holiday that the adults can look forward to: shunbun (春分), Vernal Equinox Day. It usually falls on March 20th or 21st. This holiday marks the beginning of spring astrologically.

This day is special because it’s when daytime and nighttime are exactly the same length. There’s a special way to celebrate this day, but that’s an article all on its own.

Shingakki (新学期)

Not all of spring is a holiday. You also have the start of the new school term in spring, which is shingakki (新学期). When school starts up again in spring, you’ll be greeted with a wonderful landscape of cherry blossoms. What a way to start the semester.

Kafun (花粉)

Spring is beautiful, but it’s not perfect. Some don’t like this season because of kafun (花粉, pollen). With the blooming flowers come the powdery substance. Not everyone’s immune to that.

In fact, some prefer the other seasons because spring gives them hay fever. That’s called kafunsho (花粉症) in Japanese. Having allergies is not the best way to celebrate a season, is it? 

If you haven’t noticed yet, a lot of the spring words are related to flowers. Isn’t that what we love about spring, anyway? Whether the good or the bad, the warming up of the weather is a good sign for everyone. After all, summer comes after! Keep an eye out for essential Japanese summer words!