Updated: April 17, 2018
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17 Worthwhile Things To Do In Japan In Spring!

Japan has countless special festivals and traditions that occur in the spring. Read through this article to get ideas of how to get the most of Japan from March to May.

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Attend a spectacular fire torch festival in Nara Prefecture

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This is called Omizutori(お水取り) and is a Buddhist event held annually in March, at Todaiji temple in Nara. Its history goes back to the Heian period, more than 1200 years ago. During the event, priests with a torchlight in hand descend repeatedly from the Nigatsudo hall to the holy well at the base of the temple. Drawing water from the well, which literally means Omizutori in Japanese. 6 to 8 meters tall fire torches will be carried up to the Nigatsudo hall and lit on fire. From the ancient times, the fire was regarded as something sacred and onlookers pray for a safe year by looking up at the burning embers.
Event date and time schedules

<Date and start time>
March 1st-11th: 19:00 20min.
March 12th: 19:30 45min.
March 13th: 19:00 20min.
March 14th: 18:30 10min.

See doll displays of the Hinamatsuri

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Hinamatsuri is an important festival in Japan that is held on the 3rd of March. It is sometimes referred to in English as "girls' day" or "dolls' day". Leading up to the day, there you can see impressive doll displays. The Kyoto National Museum and the Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo are famous spots to see some of the most amazing ones in the country.

Spring Skiing

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Although the weather is getting quite mild in Japan in March, many ski resorts stay open well into late spring. If you are an alpine sports enthusiast, considering a ski trip in Japan in March is an excellent idea. You can not only enjoy the world-class slopes but also Japan's onsen (hot springs) culture. For many Japanese, a ski trip and relaxing in hot springs at the end of the day go hand in hand. Check out the article below for some information about some popular resorts.

Doing hanami (cherry blossoms viewing)

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This is such an essential part of enjoying Japan in the spring. Make yourself a bento lunch box, bring a picnic sheet and have cherry blossom viewing afternoon in good company! In Japan' it's perfectly acceptable in most parks to drink as well, so make sure to brink a bottle of sake. If you want to know about the good spots in Tokyo to do hanami, please read the article below. In the Kanto region, cherry blossoms usually bloom from mid to late March.

Enjoy seasonal spring foods

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In Japan, people are generally quite sensitive about the changing of the seasons and this is reflected in their food culture. In the spring, you'll find some special desserts that highlight the arrival of the season. Why not try some sakura mochi (pictured above). These rice cake traditional desserts are made with real cherry blossoms. There are many other spring desserts that come out in March. Enjoy them while they last.

See the beautiful floats of the Takayama Matsuri

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There are many omikoshi (float) festival in Japan but the one in Takayama is something quite special. The gorgeous mikoshi floats are classified as an Important Tangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan. On them, karakuri doll shows are performed by professional puppeteers! The dolls move as if they are alive. Puppet shows last about 50 minutes. The Spring Festival is held annually on April 14th and 15th.

Attend a geisha dance performance in Kyoto

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Miyako odori (都をどり) is a traditional dance event annually held in Kyoto. Geishas and maikos are the dancers and performers. You can enjoy the beautiful "mai" (舞) performed by them. Miyako odori is constructed in 8 scenes, each of them describing an aspect of Japanese life in Kyoto and the life of Geishas or maikos. Miyako odori will be held at the Kyoto Art Theater Sunjuza from April 1st to 24th.

See the carp kites (koinobori) of "Kodomo No Hi"

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The carp kites are hoisted to celebrate in Japan Children's Day (Kodomo No Hi), which is on May 5th, but the displays are there from April. Carp kites are called koinobori. There are many good spots to see them around Japan. If you are in Tokyo, try going to the Tokyo Tower from April 5th. he emblematic tower measures 333 meters so 333 carp kites hoisted. It's also a fun spot to visit because there are many good restaurants around it and lots of things to do in that area.

Celebrate Earth Day in Yoyogi Park

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Tokyo has its own celebration for Earth Day and the place to be is in Yoyogi Park in Shibuya. The event is popular among the youth of Japan. In Yoyogi Park's festival, this translates into many NPOs joining together and providing information about their cause. Earth Day has a festive vibe and you'll find a plethora of food stalls and shops selling environmentally friendly goods. There is also a free concert, so enjoy the music and the awesome atmosphere of Earth Day in Tokyo!

Attend the Inuyama Matsuri in Aichi to see 3 story floats

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Founded in 1635, Inuyama Matsuri is a festival held annually on the first weekend of April. The main event of Inuyama festival are the floats which have 3 stories. You can enjoy it during the day and in the evening as well. When it gets dark, the lantern ornated floats are particularly beautiful.

Go to the Kanamara ("steal penis") Festival

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Does this sound like a strange festival to you? You might be surprised to know that it's a Shinto religious tradition many conservative Japanese folks take seriously. Kanamara (金まら) literally means steal phallus. It symbolizes protection from STDs, but also more broadly fertility and sexual harmony in a couple. The festival consists of a procession of portable shrines with some giant penises on them. Over the years, the matsuri has become very festive and inclusive. People of all ages and sexual orientations participate and tourists are also very welcomed. It has become a huge event attracting about 50,000 people every year.

Attend the Sanja Matsuri in Tokyo

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Sanja Matsuri is one of the major spring festivals in Japan. It is held in Asakusa on the grounds of the Senso-ji temple. The festival is a celebration for three deities that each has its own huge floats called omikoshi. Dozens of smaller ones are also carried by different groups. Looking at the procession of floats is the way to enjoy this high-intensity festival. Expect lots of people and a lot of noise. There are plenty of food stalls, so make sure to enjoy the foods and drinks as well. What's more, this is a rare chance for you to see real Yakuza members displaying their tattoos in public special because they have a special relationship with the Shinto festival for some historical reasons.

Go to the Aoi Matsuri in Kyoto

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Aoi Matsuri is one of the three main festivals of Kyoto. You can see processions of people dressed in Heian Era traditional aristocratic garments carrying portable shrines. There is also an equestrian archer show, and one float carries a young woman called "saio-dai" (斎王代), which performs a ritual once she arrives at the Kamo Shrine in the northern part of the city.

Visit the Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture

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The park is one of the most famous in the country, and for good reasons! You get to see a scene of almost unimaginable beauty: old and majestic wisteria trees in full bloom. The best season to visit it for the wisteria flowers is from mid-April to mid-May. Aside from 150-year-old trees that are supported by a grid system that makes the branches grow horizontally, there are tunnels of wisteria flowers of different colors you can walk through.

Enjoy the Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo

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Imagine taking part in a traditional festival that has its roots in the Edo Era. Kanda Matsuri is just that: A huge mikoshi (portable floats) festival related to the Shinto religion. It is one of the three main matsuris of the sort in Japan (the other two being the Sanno Matsuri and the Fukagawa Matsuri). Kanda Matsuri is held on odd years in May. The event lasts a full week, but the main thing to see is the procession of the mikoshi on the weekend. On Saturday, there are the three main mikoshis of the Kanda shrine that are carried through the Nihonbashi, Akihabara areas.

Seize a rare chance to see traditional geisha dance at Kamogawa Odori in Kyoto

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Kamogawa Odori is a popular annual Geisha dance event that takes place every year in Kyoto from the 1st to the 24th of May. This is a rare chance to see real geishas and their apprentices called maikos. The performances often recount historical events. Even if you are not knowledgeable about the stories and do not understand Japanese, watching the graceful synchronized dance of the geishas and maikos is enjoyable in itself.

Visit Yuki No Otani in Toyama Prefecture in Toyama

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Leave it to the Japanese to build a road in the middle of one of the snowiest places on the planet called Yuki No Otani (雪の大谷). The Japanese word literally means "large valley of snow". It is such a surreal place that you might want to visit it if you go to Japan in the spring or winter. Spring is quite a good period to see the impressive snow walls along the road because the temperature is mild and the snow is still near its peak even though it has started to melt.

Lastly...

These are just some major events and traditions that you can enjoy in Japan in the spring. As you can see, there are plenty of things to do aside from the doing cherry blossom viewing. If you happen to be in Japan during a different season, you may find the guides below interesting as well.

Also, consult the following for the list of things to do by spring month.

tabikamome
Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.

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