How Japan Celebrates Spring!
Written by @addyharajuku
Spring is that exciting time of year when nature starts fresh and we begin to feel the optimism the sunshine brings, this is no different for Japan. However, as per usual, Japan goes all out to celebrate the changing seasons, everything from traditional festivals to rebranding their fast food (no wonder spring is one of the most popular times for tourists to visit the country!). Here are some of the coolest ways that Japan celebrates springtime!
Hanami (blossom viewing) is a cultural tradition during the spring months. Throughout the middle of spring, Japanese locals and tourists migrate to parks to take part in gatherings and picnics, taking in the gorgeous cherry blossom views. Hanami is a pretty famous Japanese event and because of this you’ll find flight and hotel prices during this season are way higher (usually by a couple thousand at least!). If you’re hoping to see the cherry blossoms for yourself, we suggest you plan and save a couple of years in advance!
Sakura food & drinks
If you’re going to be attending a Hanami picnic, you probably want some cute food and drink to take photos with, luckily Japan has you covered. Spring is an amazing time if you’re a foodie in Japan, the changing of seasons can be seen throughout Japans food culture, with popular snacks and dishes incorporating cherry blossom inspired flavours. All the big brands also embrace the blossoms, putting out the cutest food and accessories.
Starbucks is one of the most well-known brands that love to have fun during the spring season, creating a wide selection of sakura themed drinks such as strawberry and sakura Frappuccinos (even changing the plastic takeaway cups to be sakura themed). Starbucks also creates yearly cherry blossom mugs and tumbler collections, with each year having a slightly different design. The infamous cat paw glass first came from these yearly sakura releases, with the glass becoming an instant sell-out overnight.
You may already know a little about earth day from franchises like animal crossing, but In Tokyo’s Yoyogi park people gather to celebrate environmental wellness and community togetherness. During this event, you can experience a range of music and performative arts, as well as be spoiled for choice with a selection of healthy seasonal food and drinks. This event usually takes place on the backend of April when the weather is starting to get warmer and brighter.
Japan is well known for its gorgeous festivities, and Matsuri’s are a big part of Japanese tradition and celebration. One of the biggest spring Matsuri festivals is the Sanja Matsuri that takes place at Senso-ji temple (Asakusa, Tokyo), with Asakusa being one of the best-preserved traditional parts of Tokyo, it’s a stunning setting for such a big event. Throughout the event, you’ll hear traditional music performed live and see a variety of floats (omikoshi’s) being carried around.
Other things you can experience during this spring festival are:
- Geisha performances
- Festival foods (shaved ice, sugar-coated fruit, cotton candy, yakisoba)
- See real yakuza body art
- Seasonal flowers and displays
Matsuri festivals (especially this one) can be super busy, so if you decide to get immersed in one make sure to plan your day accordingly!
Girls day (Hinamatsuri)
Here’s another Japanese celebration you may know from pop-culture, Hinamatsuri (girls day) is a yearly event that takes place early March. One of the main displays during girls day are the hina dolls, these get displayed on a red tiered platform according to imperial hierarchy (emperor and empress at the top). Girls day also has its own special set of foods including inari sushi, colourful rice cakes, and snacks like Sakura mochi.
Japan has many wonderful ways of celebrating the changing of seasons and appreciating its traditions, with many of these motifs and event ideas starting to seep into pop-culture and spread worldwide. With many of us around the world in lockdown, lots of us have started to spend more of our time outside. With springtime seeping in, backyard and park picnics surrounded by nature may become a bigger cultural norm in the west too.
Written by @addyharajuku