What’s On in Japan This Spring

Spring has sprung in Japan, marking the first year since 2019 that travelers can see the country’s iconic cherry blossoms in bloom. With mild temperatures and a number of festivals and events celebrating spring and traditional culture, here are suggestions for hanami (the custom of flower viewing in Japan) and Golden Week:

The Most Unique Ways to View Cherry Blossoms

Illuminated Blossoms at Nakameguro Sakura Festival, Tokyo Prefecture (March 18-April 9, 2023)

Just a five-minute train ride from ShibuyaNakameguro and its cherry blossom-lined streets host more than 3 million visitors every spring. Travelers can have local seasonal food and beverages, and escape the crowds at Meguro River Park during nighttime with more than 1,000 cherry blossom trees illuminated by lantern light.

Cruise the Matsukawa River, Toyama Prefecture (mid-March through mid-April)

Travelers can enjoy cherry blossoms against the beautiful landscapes of Toyama Prefecture on a special cruise along the Matsukawa River. They can drift along with the relaxing current and make their way through tunnels of cherry blossom trees. Cruises begin and end outside of the Matsukawa Tea House, so travelers can enjoy a cup of tea after a peaceful afternoon of hanami.

Moka Railway Ride in Tochigi Prefecture (April)

The Moka Railway in Tochigi Prefecture, which has been operating for over 100 years, transforms into a popular attraction as its track is almost completely surrounded by cherry blossoms and rape flowers. Travelers can book a trip on the scenic railway between Mogi station and Shimodate station for a hanami ride.

Golden Week Festivals and Events

Human Chess Match at Tendo Sakura Matsuri, Yamagata Prefecture (April 15-16, 2023)

Ninety percent of Japanese chess pieces, or shogi, are produced in the city of Tendo. Every April, locals and travelers alike gather to watch a human chess match, or shogi battle, in Maizuru Park, where two professional chess players compete with humans dressed as samurai and servants in place of chess pieces. The festival also includes taiko (Japanese drum) performances and delicious festival foods.

Aoi Matsuri, Kyoto (May 15, 2023)

The Aoi Matsuri, or Hollyhock Festival, is held every year in central Kyoto on May 15. This spring festival is one of the three major festivals of Kyoto along with Gion Matsuri and Jidai Matsuri. It offers a glimpse back to the golden days of Kyoto's history and a chance to see locals in ancient costumes.

The Great Wisteria Festival, Tochigi Prefecture (mid-April through mid-May)

Considered one of the most beautiful flower parks in Japan, the Ashikaga Flower Park hosts a month-long Great Wisteria Festival showcasing its 160-year-old wisteria trees in full bloom, which are illuminated at night for added effect. Within easy reach of Tokyo, it's an ideal way to spend a leisurely night in the springtime.

Sanja Festival, Tokyo (May 19-21, 2023)

During the third full weekend in May, a hundred portable mikoshi (palanquin-like Shinto shrines) come together on a stately parade through the Senso-ji Temple and out through Asakusa’s Kaminarimon Gate. Combined with food stalls and lots of sake, the Asakusa Sanja Festival is considered one of Tokyo’s top festivals.

For more information, check out www.japan.travel/spring-guide.

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