Hands down, springs is the best time to visit Japan. Cherry blossoms are in full bloom from the last week of March to the first to second week of April. People go out and enjoy the warmer weather and cherry blossoms in full bloom. This is called Hanami, meaning flower viewing. Cherry blossoms are called Sakura in Japan and people go out and have picnics under Sakura trees while enjoying beer, sake ( Japanese rice wine ), and bento ( a boxed collection of seasonal delicacies ). There are a lot of festivities associated with Hanami season. Here are some of the popular Hanami spots in Tokyo area; Ueno Park, Yoyogi Park and Sumida River. Another favorite place to see gorgeous array of the pink flowers is the mort around the Imperial Palace ( Kokyo ).
Best dish to eat in spring is Takenoko ( Bamboo Shoot ) Rice. It’s a simple rice side dish steamed with fresh bamboo shoots, soy sauce and other traditional Japanese seasonings.
It’s all about staying cool during the season. Summer in Japan is from the end of June to the middle of September. It’s quite hot and humid in the mainland and people find escape from the heat in the northern parts of the island and in Hokkaido, the northern most island. You can’t miss the summer festivals and fireworks all over the country. Tanabata Festival which celebrates once a year meeting of the two lovers on July 7th. The story is that the two lovers Altair and Vega were separated by the Milky Way thousands of years ago. People hang colorful strips of Origami paper with wishes written on bamboo tree branches for Tanabata.
Cold noodles called Nagashisomen appeal to almost everyone in summer. Nagashisomen are thin cold noodles and they are served in a tube of flowing water. You’ll have gained a very good chop stick skill after eating this dish. Still not cool enough? Enjoy beer and condiments at one of many beer gardens or go for Kakigori, Japanese style shave ice. There are so many toppings on Kakigori like strawberry, Matcha (Japanese Green Tea Powder ), sweet bean paste and more.
Leaves start turning colors in October. It’s the nicest time of the year to be outdoors and hiking is a popular activity to see Koyo, colorful autumn leaves. Koyo is what is compared to Hanami in spring. Koyo moves from the northern island of Hokkaido to the south. Depending on the location, time to enjoy Koyo would differ slightly but generally until the beginning of November in southern parts of the mainland. Here are some of the popular places to go: Temple gardens in Kyoto ( the ancient capital of Japan ), Hakone and Fuji Five Lakes near Mt. Fuji.
Matsutake mushrooms or pine mushrooms are in season and enjoyed in many dishes. This is another steamed rice dish but can be enjoyed only during this time of the year because of rarity and price of the mushrooms. There is a variety of other mushrooms in season as well. Samma, pike mackerel fish and persimmons are considered delicacies of autumn.
Winter climate in Japan can vary significantly depending on location. Most people embrace the cold and snow. The Snow Festival in Sapporo, Hokkaido, is held in the first two weeks of February every year. Giant snow sculptures made by people from all over the world are displayed and enjoyed. Skiing and snowboarding are popular activities in Hokkaido. Furano Ski Resort is famous for its powder snow and attracts skiers and snowboarders from both Asia and West. Furano is located in the central Hokkaido and located 59 km ( 36 miles ) from Asahikawa where there is a domestic airport and train station.
To stay warm, hot pot dishes and sake go hand in hand during the winter months. Hot pot is called Nabemono and there are several ways you can make it. The concept is that everything is cooked in one pot; You could put in beef, pork or fish along with tofu and vegetables. There are different kinds of dipping sauces to use after meats and vegetables are cooked in a hot pot.