In spring, the icy chill of winter abates little by little. In the early half of the season, mornings and evenings remain slightly chilly but afternoons can get quite warm. In the latter half, the temperatures rise but the humidity of summer doesn’t seep in just yet. The gentle climate of Japan’s spring season and flowers attract visitors from all over the world in droves.
Here are some suggestions for things to do in April during your next trip to Japan.
In April, the cherry blossom season hits central Japan and floats up north. In the Kanto region, the small, delicate flowers usually appear towards the end of March and into early April. Both rural areas and big cities crawl with travelers determined to catch the short-lived season. Even the concrete jungle of Tokyo becomes a jungle of pink. In Ueno Park, over 1,000 Japanese sakura trees grow closely together creating a dense tunnel of petals.
Outside of Tokyo, if you go to Hakone, you’ll cruise around Lake Ashi, where you can see the cherry blossoms in strikingly picturesque landscapes with Mt. Fuji in the distance. The northernmost island, Hokkaido, is the last to get cherry blossoms. Sakura spotters usually predict Hokkaido’s season to start in late April, but in the past few years, popular destinations like Odori Park in Sapporo haven’t experienced a full bloom until the first week of May.
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The Takayama Sanno Spring Festival is one of the most well-known festivals in Japan. During this event, 1,000 people participate in a procession straight out of the 15th century. The musicians leading the parade beat drums, sound bells, and wear hats adorned with bird feathers. Meanwhile, dancers perform the shishimai (lion dance) and wear headgear designed to look like lions. At the end of the parade, over 10 yatai (giant floats) are pulled through the streets.
These yatai have all sorts of decorations including marionettes that move from systems of pulleys built inside of them. The marionettes move so fluidly, you'll find it difficult to believe they were developed during the Edo period! At night, 100 paper lanterns are placed on each float creating an even more spectacular sight. It’s no wonder that the Sanno Festival is the pride of the small mountain town of Takayama.
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If you love flowers, take an hour and a half ride from Tokyo on the bullet train to Tochigi Prefecture’s Ashikaga Flower Park. All year, you can see different types of seasonal flowers and a stunning LED light display in the winter.
Ashikaga Flower Park’s main attraction is the wisteria flowers that bloom from mid-April to mid-May. During this time, you can walk through an 80-meter (262 foot) wisteria tunnel and see one of Tochigi Prefecture’s greatest treasures: A 100-year-old wisteria tree so massive its branches have to be supported by beams.
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Geisha—women trained in traditional Japanese arts—are the very embodiment of Japanese beauty and culture. Travelers to Japan often scramble for the chance to catch just a glimpse of a geisha on the streets or have the opportunity to meet one. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. Geisha don’t step out on the streets in full get-up unless they’re dashing to a taxi on their way to work, and to schedule a meeting with a geisha you must go through a third party—like our well-connected staff at All Japan Tours.
In April, however, geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) put on a public performance at the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theater in Kyoto called the Miyako Odori. Shows happen every day through April, but be warned: this event often sells out quickly as the theater can only hold about 900 people!
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From April 29th to May 5th, you might start to notice more and more Japanese people spending their time leisurely. During this season, five national holidays and two weekends pass in a period known as Golden Week. Many Japanese businesses and all schools close on these days. Locals usually take this opportunity to travel either domestically or abroad (Showa Day being one of the biggest days for travel in Japan), hence the crowds getting bigger and prices rising. One of the most anticipated holidays is Kodomo no Hi (Children’s Day) which falls on May 5th, but you’ll start to see the preparations during April.
No matter where you are in Japan, you’ll see koinobori (koi fish streamers) hanging from homes and businesses. Koi are said to be the most spirited and strongest fish in Japan because they can swim upstream, thus these windsocks represent children's abilities to overcome challenges. Not only do the colorful koi make for wonderful photos, but some businesses use customized streamers to represent their industries making “koi hunting” a fun activity as you explore Japan!
Whether you prefer to spend your spring strolling through flower gardens or reveling in joyous festivals, Japan has something for everyone! If you plan to continue your vacation itinerary from April to May….