You don’t have to look far in Japan to find references to the changing seasons. From artistic pieces to vibrant festivals, the country is host to a wealth of seasonal celebrations.
Let’s take a look at some of the most loved destinations, and the ways in which these places honour the unique transformation of the landscape.
Spring (Haru) is celebrated with the arrival of the nationally revered cherry blossoms, otherwise known as sakura.
Fukuoka is a prefecture on Japan’s main island of Kyushu and has 1,000 blossoming sakura trees in the spring. You can admire this view by visiting Habu Park in Nakama, and even take a boat to view the blossoms.
The transient nature of Haru is so important for the Japanese you will find daily news reports on hanami (flower viewing). These regular reports reveal the best locations to enjoy lush, beautiful blooms after a cold white winter.
Summer (Natsu) is when the Japanese celebrate Obon. Usually held around the 15th of August, Obon is an annual three-day Buddhist event honouring the nation’s ancestors. It is considered to be one of Japan’s most meaningful religious festivals. Celebrations take place in various locations across the country with live music, dancing, and food offerings – intended to help welcome the spirit’s home.
At the end of the three-days, you can watch in awe as thousands of glowing lanterns are set afloat to commemorate deceased loved ones. This is the tradition of Toro Nagashi – known as Japan’s Floating Lantern Festival. Perhaps the most famous ceremony of its kind is the one held in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture. Here the lanterns allow people to pay respect to those who lost their lives in the world war 2 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Autumn (Aki) witnesses the colourful changing of leaves. The Japanese even have a special word, Koyo, to describe this pass time of watching the natural wonder. Traditionally, people gather across the nation to view the dramatic foliage and celebrate this environmental spectacle.
If you are fortunate to visit in this season, you will be delighted by deciduous trees and the patchwork of colours that surrounds you. Some of the best places to view this breath-taking scenery are Tofukuji Temple in Kyoto, Mount Nasu in Tochigi, and Ueno Park in Tokyo.
Sightseers should be aware that depending on the region, the leaves may change earlier than in other places. So be sure to check before you visit!
Winter (Fuyu) in Japan sees several spectacular snow festivals from ice sculptures to illuminations making it a fantastic season to visit.
The Sapporo Snow Festival is probably the most famed, with sometimes literally millions of people in attendance. The celebrations are held in Sapporo City, Hokkaido, for one week in early February.
Here you can see various sized statues and sculptures made with snow and ice. These can include anything from illuminated monuments to popular characters or famous individuals. It is an incredible sight to behold.
Whatever time of year you choose to visit Japan, you’ll be sure to experience the wonders of nature and the festivals that celebrate them.
About the Author :
Carla Francis is the internationally recognized author behind the 5th edition guidebook and blog, ‘Travelling with Pets’. Carla’s work has been extensively featured in the UK, across Australia, on SBS radio. Carla has made significant contributions to the Japan Times, as a staff writer for major pet food companies, and travel magazines. She is also the in-house pet travel expert for PetsForever app, and her latest book, a travel memoir , is soon to be featured in The Reader’s Digest.