where2travel's Japan seasonal travel guide16 May 2019
Every time of year in Japan brings its own special wonder, and everything from food, to cultural activities, even the colour of a Geisha’s kimono, is influenced by this country’s love affair with the seasons. Here is where2travel's guide to what is happening when.
Japan is like nowhere else in the world. Its isolated history and rich culture have enabled this unique civilisation to blossom over the years, and today it thrives in an eclectic mix of contrasting traditional and modern way of life. It has one of the world’s most advanced economies, but it is the Japanese spirit, which is strong, warm, and incredibly welcoming, which has enabled the maintenance of a very traditional society. From food and clothing to worship and customs, your experience in Japan will be like no other anywhere in the world.
Over the years, Japan has observed and refined the cultural treasures of Asia, to create something distinctly Japanese. From the beauty of a Kyoto Geisha dance to the fascination of a Zen rock garden, Japan has the power to enthral every visitor. Traditional culture is only half the story: a growing contemporary-art scene and an appetite for western pop-music all help shape the fascinating old-meets-new cultural landscape.
Japanese cuisine is another great reason to visit Japan. You can sample all the regional specialities in many sublime restaurants on your travels. Try just one meal in a top-flight Tokyo sushi restaurant – and sample fresh noodles at a station counter – and you’ll see why. The Japanese attention to detail is immense and their presentation and the use of the finest ingredients results in food like no other.
Japan has so much to offer from taking in Mount Fuji to exploring the coral reefs of Okinawa, walking the streets of Kyoto to taking a bullet train, exploring Buddhist temples and visiting Hiroshima – you will be amazed by this fascinating country.
And you never have to travel far in Japan to get out into nature: in major hubs like Kyoto, just a short trip from the city will get you into forested mountains. Come in spring and see the famous cherry blossoms that scent the city with their delicate fragrance.
Your seasonal guide
Cherry Blossom Season
The Japanese have been writing poetry and painting pictures of cherry blossoms for centuries, and even have a dedicated word for going out to fields and parks to appreciate it – ‘hanami’ which translates as ‘looking at flowers’. When you gaze on the sea of soft pink flowers it’s easy to see why many international visitors are so enamoured. Starting in late January in the sub-tropical south, the blossoms sweep up the country, reaching Tokyo and Kyoto sometime between March and May, depending on the weather. In the two weeks after they first bloom, locals and visitors alike stroll, sit and picnic beneath the laden boughs, but we particularly like to enjoy them lit up by lanterns at twilight. Cherry blossom season is extremely popular, and our tours often sell out a long way in advance. If you want to travel during this period, make sure you book early!
Recommended Cherry Blossom Season itinerary:
Wendy Wu's Jewels of Japan: March – April departures 2020, 10 days from $9,860pp.
Japan’s deep and rich autumn colours travel the opposite way to the cherry blossom, starting in the very north in September and travelling downwards, reaching its peak in Tokyo, Kyoto and the surrounding areas from November. In the parks and temple gardens of the cities, the leaves of the multitude of maple and gingko trees turn vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange; if you are travelling into the Japanese Alps, you’re in for an even more spectacular sight.
Recommended autumn itinerary:
Wendy Wu's Trails of Japan: September – November departures 2020, 14 days from $9,640pp.
Sun and snow
Japan’s summer, June to August, may be hot and humid but it is the season for festivals and fireworks. Enjoy impromptu celebrations or escape to the mountains to find the cooler climes and maybe do some hiking – this is also the only time of year that you are able to climb Mt Fuji. In the winter, outside the cities, the country becomes a snow-covered wonderland. Vibrant ski resorts spring into action, ice festivals take place (Sapporo’s is the world’s biggest) and the Japanese Macaques earn their Snow Monkey moniker. Oh, and there is nothing better than the glorious warm waters of an onsen on a cold winter’s day!
Recommended snow season itinerary:
Wendy Wu's Sapporo and Snow Monkeys: February departures 2020, 13 days from $8,660pp.
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