Spring has always been my favorite season: longer daylight hours, more frequent sunny days, temperatures that allow you to just take your wardrobe and re-invent last year clothes with new addictions. Japan’s Spring is not just hanami: it’s nature’s awakening, it’s spending time outside, surrounded by green and flowers or participating to a festival…. and so on and on. These are five things to do in Japan in Spring.
Buy a bento in a konbini and look for an area where you can admire the cherry blossoms: as many do, you can lay out a towel and sit under the pink and white cascade of buds and flowers already bloomed, but you can also choose a bench, a shore, a less busy park. Usually the parks and gardens, including the perimeter of the Imperial Palace East Gardens in Tokyo, are packed and it is difficult to find a place. Cherry blossoms are particularly loved by the Japanese, but many, especially the elderly, like to hanami under plum or wisteria flowers.
If you don’t find a place or don’t want to spend a lot of time in this activity, it may be a good idea to simply stroll about in parks like Ueno Park in Tokyo or Osaka Castle’s Park, or choose a cruise on the Sumida river, day or night: you will see that some cherry trees and / or the nearby areas are lit, just to take advantage of the flowering period as much as possible.
2. The snow corridor of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
Venture along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (立山黒部アルペンルート, Tateyama Kurobe Alpen Route) in the Northern Alps and reach the snow corridor between the stations of Midagahara and Murodo. Completed in the 70s, the Route connects the cities of Toyama, in the prefecture of the same name, and Omachi, in Nagano prefecture. The Route is inaccessible from December to April, but in Spring and Summer its main attraction change: in April it’s the snow corridor, whose walls reach 20m, the result of heavy snowfall in the winter months and an excellent excavation work. For 2018, the snow corridor of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is open from April 15 to June 22.
3. Shopping & eating in pink
Spring in Japan is the moment when shops are painted in pink: everyone will try to theme the most possible products on cherry blossoms, and every year the products change. If you are going to go shopping wild like there’s no tomorrow, well, travel with a light suitcase, buy a trolley there or get ready for various journeys to the post. Various objects, stuffed toys, gadgets, kitchen utensils, anything that could come to mind, there is. Pink and with stylized cherry blossoms above. A paradise for those who love pink like me. To add more, perfumes, make-up, things for your home … Look online, if you don’t have time to fly to Japan, but want to feel part of this lovely pink madness: it will cheer you up after the long winter.
But if you don’t your bag to be stuffed and your wallet to be empty, think of all the delicious things you can eat. Buy a sakura drink at a vending machine, go in a cafe for a dessert, buy dango, mochi and anything else that has a cherry blossom filling at a stall along the way. At Sensoji in Asakusa, stop by the ice-cream stall in a corner for a cone and at the tea shop for an infusion, strictly all with cherry blossoms.
I really envy Lady Penelope (Thunderbirds).
4. Collect strawberries
The strawberry season begins in February to continue throughout Spring, as strawberries are considered a symbol of this season as much as cherry blossoms. Looking for a farm that offers strawberries collection services can be a pleasant diversion, both for adults and children, to spend an unusual day. You can choose the collection mode, between the ‘collect and take home’ or the ‘collect and eat’, whose option often includes a bowl of condensed milk, with which the Japanese love to taste strawberries.
You are spoilt for choice, look for the nearest farm and go for a feast! Meanwhile, I’d go for an ichigo parfait …
5. Spring festivals
As I have already said, Spring is awakening and festivals, to celebrate and thank gods for sowing and future harvesting. You can also try to leave the hotel in the morning and look for a festival nearby, but it would be nice to plan, just to know what festival it is and what is happening. Listing of festivals here is a bit like rolling a dice, so I’ll give you just a couple of suggestions, for the rest, follow your interests.
Ichiyo Sakura Matsuri, Asakusa, Tokyo – April 14.
Haru no Takayama Matsuri, Takayama, Gifu Prefecture – April 14-15.
Aoi Matsuri, Kamigamo Shrine, Kyoto – May 15.
Sanja Matsuri, Asakusa Shrine, Tokyo – May 18-20.
Alternatively, you can indulge in the Golden Week festivities, including Kodomo no Hi, on May 5, when you can admire the decorations in the form of koi carps scattered around.