03 May 2018
Millions of Japanese citizens and tourists celebrate the sakura (cherry blossom) each spring, where pastel pink blooms are spread across the land. But as lovely as spring is, each season in Japan has a charm of its own.
With a team who have lived in Japan and arranged thousands of small group tours and self-guided travel, Inside Japan Tours know the country and seasons better than anyone.
While temperatures do rise in summer, so does excitement. From street parades, to fireworks displays and outdoor concerts, the summer calendar is packed with matsuri (festivals). For a music festival with a difference, you can even swap Glastonbury for the Fuji Rock Festival; not only does it have the striking mountain range of Niigata Prefecture as a backdrop, but legendary singer Bob Dylan is the headliner in 2018!
Those staying in Tokyo can combine festival fun with one of the most special Japanese experiences: climbing Mount Fuji. Summer is the only time of year that you can climb the famous snow-capped mountain, and a great way to escape some of the humidity.
Temperatures are also cooler in Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido. You can take a fly-drive holiday to explore the volcanic national parks and flower fields of this lesser-explored corner of the country. Or sun seekers can head down south to the subtropical islands of Okinawa; perfect for a mixture of sand sprawling and scuba diving.
While just as striking as spring’s cherry blossom, the koyo (changing leaves) in autumn are often overlooked. Unlike the transient sakura that only lasts for weeks in each place, the autumn leaves take their time to travel through the country over a couple of months, transforming the green landscape into warm shades of red and gold.
The carefully manicured gardens and temples in Japan’s cultural capital, Kyoto, are even more beautiful when surrounded by the vibrant red of the Japanese maple. For an extra special stay in Kyoto this autumn, Inside Japan will be arranging a private garden party with a geisha on their exclusive 10-night Luxury Japan escorted tour. The tour travels around Japan’s top destinations with stays in the finest hotels, and also includes a sake evening with an expert in Tokyo.
Renowned for having some of the world’s best and most reliable powder snow, Japan draws keen skiers from far and wide. As well as these incredible conditions, Japan’s unique culture makes skiing here unlike anywhere else. After all, there’s nothing more special than sinking into a hot spring bath while snowflakes melt around you.
Niseko, which is located on northern island Hokkaido, is perhaps the most famous resort with its friendly village feel, challenging slopes and English-speaking instructors. Its proximity to the Sea of Japan means it receives the lion’s share of snow. The 15-night Niseko Deluxe self-guided trip with Inside Japan Tours combines five nights here with time in the famous cities of Tokyo, and Kyoto, and a stop in Yudanaka – home of the snow monkeys.
But Hokkaido has plenty to offer other than skiing. Opportunities to see dancing cranes and rare birds make it perfect for wildlife lovers, and the city of Sapporo has one of Japan’s most remarkable festivals. The whole city comes alive with building-sized works of art crafted from snow, previous highlights include St Paul’s Cathedral and the Taj Mahal. Back on Japan’s main island of Honshu, winter is also a quieter time to explore. It’s not unheard of to have temples and shrines to yourself, and with crisp days and clear blue skies, it is the best time to take photographs of Mount Fuji.
If you are still yearning to see the cherry blossom then don’t delay – spring 2019 is already booking up fast. It’s popular for a reason, not only do sakura paint Japan’s already lovely landscape with fluffy pink flowers, but parks are full of cheerful hanami parties with locals having picnics to admire it.
The cherry blossom blooms as early as February down in Okinawa, before climbing north to peak in Tokyo and Kyoto in early April, finally reaching Hokkaido by late May. Escorted tours for March and April 2019 are already on sale, and accommodation fills up fast so if you would like to book with Inside Japan Tours, contact your Travel Counsellor today.