Spring in Japan: Traveling, Clothing and Weather in March-May
Japan has four seasons, with spring spanning from March to May. This article contains information on weather and travel activities for those planning to visit Japan is spring. Enjoy your trip to the fullest by taking part in spring festivals and events!
Spring is an exciting season in Japan, with sakura (cherry blossoms), new budding leaves and plenty of beautiful things to see, as well as delicious types of food to eat. Also, in Japan both the school year and business year start in April, so spring is a season full of new meetings, activities and liveliness. We gathered some information that will come in handy to anybody visiting Japan in spring.
What are Some of Spring's Highlights and Delicious Foods?
Spring in Japan is generally a three month period, from March to May.
Spring Weather in Japan
In March, Tokyo's spring weather is an average of 13 degrees during the afternoon, and 5 degrees Celsius during the morning and evening. In April, the afternoon temperatures reach an average of 18.5 degrees, while temperatures in the morning and night are around 10.5 degrees Celsius. In May, during the afternoons we can experience around 23 degrees Celsius, while in the evenings and mornings temperature decreases to around 15 degrees.
Even though it's spring, during the first half of the season there are mostly cold days with plenty of snow, while the second half has plenty of sunny days with clear weather.
The Best Parts of Spring
One of the best parts of spring is definitely the cherry blossoms. They bloom in parks, on street roads, on the mountains or along the river sides. Sakura trees planted in various places all burst into a light pink at the same time. The time that the sakura bloom depends on the climate each year, but usually around March the cherry blossoms slowly start blossoming from the Southern regions of Japan, working their way up to the Northern areas.
The average time for the sakura to bloom is May 3rd in the Hokkaidō, Sapporo area, and they should be in full bloom by May 8th. In the Tokyo area they will start blooming around March 25th, and should be in full bloom by around April 6th. In Ōsaka the cherry blossoms will start blooming around March 28th, and should be in full bloom by April 6th. In Kyoto the dates for blooming are March 27th, and the flowers are expected to be in full bloom by April 9th. As the time the cherry blossoms are actually in bloom is not very long, you should plan your trip while taking a look at this year's sakura bloom predictions.
Picture from: The Weeping Cherry Trees in Okazaki, Kyoto
Sakura are of course beautiful when they are in full bloom, but they are just as beautiful when the petals begin falling from trees, and it looks like snow falling. The cherry blossoms are great to be observed not only in the afternoon, but also in the evening. This is called yozakura (night time sakura viewing), and presents a different view of these flowers' beauty.
In Japan, hanami(cherry blossom viewing) is the long established custom of friends, family and even coworkers to go out to eat and drink together underneath the sakura trees during this time.
Delicious Spring Foods
Spring in Japan is a time of sprouting. Bamboo shoots, aralia elata, Japanese butterbur, and other wild greens such as broccolini, and spring cabbage amongst many other foods you can enjoy in spring, start growing around this time. The bitter taste of these produce is said to detox our bodies from the stuff that it stored during winter.
Foods such as soft seaweed, clams or the Japanese halfbeak are foods that announce that spring has arrived. Also, if there is one fruit we could say is representative of spring, it's strawberries. Strawberries in Japan have been improved upon, and feature many varieties, all of which are sweet and shiny like precious stones.
What Should You Wear When You Go Sightseeing In Tokyo?
March is still quite cold, so you will need a thick coat.
In April there are more and more warm days. You will need to take a cardigan, jacket or coat of some sort on bad weather days, windy days and days when you're planning to go out at night.
May has pretty pleasant weather. You will probably do well with a long sleeve T-shirt and cardigan.
Spring in Japan, especially the season when sakura are in bloom, features good weather and beautiful sights, so we highly recommend that you visit Japan during this time.
Enjoy Spring in Japan by Taking Part in Spring Festivals and Events!
Omizutori, which is held for two weeks from March 1st every year at Nara’s Tōdai-ji Temple’s Nigatsudō Hall, is a rite dedicated to welcoming the arrival of spring. It has been held ever the eighth century.
Photo By Eiji Murakami
The festival reaches its climax at the midnight of March 12th (around 1:30 AM on the 13th). A large cedarwood torch is lit, and a ceremony is held in which okōzui (water taken from a well called Wakasai in order to be offered to Kannon bodhisattva) is drawn up. It is an exciting festival and well worth watching until the end. However, make sure you keep warm, as it can become very cold during the night in March.
Hinamatsuri - Dolls' Festival
Held on March 3rd, Hinamatsuri, or Doll Festival, is one of the most impressive festivals held in spring in Japan. Originally a rite in which people pray for the healthy growth of girls, on this day households with young daughters usually set up a multi-layered display decorated with traditional dolls wearing aristocratic clothing. These hina dolls represent the imperial family and court of the Heian era. The house is decorated with peach blossoms in addition to the hina dolls, and special drinks and dishes including sweet white sake, sushi and soup with clams are enjoyed by the family.
At Hokyoji Temple in Fukui, which is known as the“Temple of Dolls”, items such as dolls owned by female royalty are displayed every year from March 1st to April 3rd. On March 1st (11:00 to 11:30), Japanese dances as well as biwa (Japanese lute) performances are presented in the main hall, which is decorated with traditional dolls.
Hanami - Flower Viewing
Spring in Japan means first of all sakura! The Japanese commonly refer to viewing the cherry blossoms as hanami. The brief period during which the delicate flowers make their appearance lasts only a few days, making the sakura viewing spots very popular, as they fill with revelers seeking to enjoy the fleeting beauty of the flowers together with friends, family, or coworkers.
School entrance ceremony
Photo by shinobu sugiyama
While autumn is the season associated with the start of the school year in western countries, Japan holds its school entrance ceremony (nyūgakushiki) in April. Similarly, the entrance ceremonies held by companies accepting new college graduates are held in April. Even Japan’s fiscal year begins in April! The school entrance ceremonies, which are seen as a celebration, are featured on TV news, along with the beautiful cherry blossoms in the schoolyards.
Photo by Teruhide Tomori
Yabusame Shinji, an event in which archers shoot arrows from atop galloping horses, is a ritual held every year on May 3rd at Shimogamo Shrine in Sakyō Ward, Kyoto. The sight of these archers in their old noblemen's attire shooting three targets with 100 m between each of them on a 35 m wide race track is simply amazing. It runs from 13:00 to 15:30, and is free to the public.
Photo By Nobuhiro Suhara
The Aoi Festival is one of Kyoto’s top three festivals along with the Gion Festival and the Historic Festival. Nearly 500 people in elegant outfits, along with several horses, cows, and ox carriages, walk along the 8 km long road which leads from the Kyoto Imperial Palace to Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine. The procession leaves the Kyoto Imperial Palace at 10:30 and arrives around 15:00 at Kamigamo Shrine. It's rescheduled in the case of rain.
Tango no Sekku - Boys' Festival
May 5th is called Boys' Festival (Tango no sekku), and it has been traditionally a celebration dedicated to the boys. Since 1948, this day has been declared a national holiday and is also known as Children’s Day.
Photo By Toshi KMR
Homes with boys will place koinobori (carp banners) outside their house. The koinobori are inspired by the carp, which are supposed to be a symbol of success due to their vitality.
Enjoy spring in Japan to the fullest by taking part in some of these unique festivals and events! If you wish to find out more about Japan’s spring festivals, please refer to the following article: Experience Spring Festivals and Events in Japan from March to May