A Japan For All Seasons

30 April 2016
Read Time: 2.3 mins

Although the quintessential image of Japan is of Mount Fuji framed in the now world-renowned sakura (cherry blossoms), you may wonder what else there is to actually do in Japan, especially if you’re planning to visit outside of the two-week period when the sakura are in bloom.

 Streets of sakura blossoms. (Image: Lauren Bath)

Spring

If flowers are your thing, then you would be remiss to not visit one of the flower festivals held during the spring. Perhaps most well-known is the Fuji Shibazakura Festival, where you can take in fields of pink moss with Mount Fuji in the background, but there are also festivals celebrating tulips, wisteria, azaleas, and more. In early April, why not try your hand at tea picking in Shizuoka prefecture, where you pluck the new shoots used in the first batch of tea?

Nikko Toshogu Shrine in Tochigi prefecture, a short trip from Tokyo, holds its Grand Festival in mid-May. Events include horseback archery and a portable shrine procession. For another lively festival, visit Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka prefecture in early May and watch the kite battles.

 Summer is the ideal time to climb Fuji-san. (Image: Fotolia)

Summer

Stunning fireworks displays, which last up to 90 minutes, take place on hot summer evenings, and are the best places to enjoy Japanese street food like okonomiyaki (a sort of vegetable pancake or Japanese pizza). One of the biggest is Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri.

Another great spectacle to behold is Awa Odori, the largest dance festival in Japan, held in Tokushima City on Shikoku island.

For adventure sports enthusiasts, summer is the time to climb Mount Fuji as the trails are only open from July to September. You can also go whitewater rafting: To-ne River in Gunma prefecture is the largest river in Japan; and Yoshino River in Kochi prefecture on Shikoku island winds through two ancient ravines.


More seasonal inspiration for Japan

Where to have a hanami party. Seeking Sakura: The Search For Japan's Cherry Blossoms

Hot spring etiquette for all seasons. How To Onsen With Confidence


 A Japanese maple tree in autumn colours looks like a traditional artwork. (Image: Shutterstock)

Autumn

As the weather cools down and the leaves start to turn, even non-adventurous types won’t be able to resist hiking trails such as the UNESCO World Heritage Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes in Wakayama prefecture, or the 88 temple pilgrimage across Shikoku island. Autumn is also a lovely time to cycle along the Shimanami-kaido on the Seto Inland Sea, or through Hokkaido.

If you couldn’t make it to the Nikko Toshogu Shrine in spring, they hold an Autumn Grand Festival on a slightly smaller scale. For something different, check out the Miya Festival in Gamagori City (Aichi prefecture), which sees a parade of floats culminating in them being pulled into the ocean.

 The snow monkeys don't mind a dip in an onsen either! (Image: Sean Scott)

Winter

In winter, skiers and snowboarders flock to the slopes of Nagano, made world famous by the 1998 Winter Olympics; or to Hokkaido, the northernmost island. For something new, why not visit one of the world-class ski resorts in Tohoku, the northern part of the main island?

For the non-sporty types (or the sporty types on their days off  the slopes), visit one of the snow and ice festivals, such as Sapporo Snow Festival and Yokote Kamakura Festival, both held in February.

And of course, any trip to Japan, no matter the season, should be rounded off by a dip in an onsen hot spring.

Sally Miles is a Japan specialist, now based in Sydney, Australia. Originally from sunny Los Angeles, she has been to Osaka countless times to visit her family, and during her four years living in the countryside near Mt Fuji, she travelled extensively through the islands, from snowy Hokkaido to the beaches of Okinawa. Now she wants nothing more than to share her passion for Japan, especially the quieter side, with the world.

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