The Seasons in Japan
Spring Falling Cherry Blossoms: sakura
The fleeting beauty of the cherry blossoms is symbolic to the Japanese. They liken the petals to the life of the samurai - a brief explosion of colour, bright for the duration of their short life, before they wither and die.
Cherry blossom viewing in Japan: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka - find the best places in Japan's major cities to experience hanami both along river banks and in public parks as well as Japan's gardens, temples and shrines.
by Sian Thatcher
A typical rainy season day in Tokyo
Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
Japan's unofficial national flower - the cherry blossom - holds a position of central significance in Japanese art, architecture, fashion and traditional culture.
With dozens of varieties of cherry tree in different regions of the country, the blossoms come out each spring for a few days, and viewing festivals, or 'Hanami' are held.
Here are some of the top spots for blossom viewings if you're in Tokyo at the right time of year.
Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto
Kyoto draws visitors from all over Japan and the world to see its historic temples and shrines against a backdrop of brilliant pink sakura - cherry blossom.
Find a listing of the best spots for cherry blossom viewing in Kyoto including Maruyama Koen in the Gion district, Kyoto Botanical Garden and the Kamo River. Find which temples and shrines have the best cherry blossoms.
Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC
The cherry blossom festival is a two-week, annual event that celebrates springtime in Washington, DC as well as the 1912 gift of the cherry blossom trees and the long lasting friendship between the people of the United States and Japan.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) organization that coordinates, produces, and supports creative and diverse activities promoting traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty and the environment, and community spirit and youth education.
Summer Outdoor Dining on the Decks of the Kamogawa River, Kyoto: kawadoko
The warmer months in Kyoto are welcomed with the chance to eat outside by the Kamogawa River on raised decks.
The Kamogawa River, which flows through central Kyoto, is where Kyotoites go to play and enjoy, romance and dine.
After a day of culture or work, Kyoto's kawadoko decks offer a place to enjoy a beer or cold sake and wonderful food--all as you enjoy the breeze and the view of the Higashiyama mountains and Mount Hiei in the distance.
by C. Ogawa
Autumn Maple Leaves in Arashiyama, Kyoto: momiji
Intensifying to their most vivid red just before they expire, the maple leaves of autumn are a spectacular final flourish to nature's annual performance.
Ranging from crimson reds that upstage even the torii gates of Shinto shrines, to eye-catching yellows, it seemed as if every tree has its own distinctive hue.
See the autumn leaves in Tokyo & Kyoto.
by Will Yong
Autumn Higanbana, the Flower of the Dead
Graveyards will be densily covered in bizarrely shaped crimson flowers brightly glistening in the autumn sun. Like violently shed blood rising straight out of the ground. That's the higanbana.
See the autumn higanbana throughout Japan, where the best way to enjoy their dark beauty on a sunny, autumn day is a stroll through the rice paddies.
by Johannes Schonherr
New Year - New Year Poems In The Year of the Rabbit
Dedicated to her daughter born in the Year of the Rabbit and turning twelve as a "Toshi-Onna", the author composes poems with a special New Year theme; these poems are made in fun and in celebration of the New Year's Traditions that we love in Japan, from watching the first sunrise, to eating mochi, to playing ha-go-I-ta, to visiting a shrine and watching the Ko-haku music spectacular on TV.
Happy New Year!
by Joanne G. Yoshida
Winter Sapporo Snow Festival
Deep in the Hokkaido winter, one event has visitors flocking to the city of Sapporo, braving the subzero temperatures for a week of icy fun and excitement.
The Sapporo Snow Festival now attracts more than 2 million people every year to Hokkaido making it one of the biggest events of Japan's festival calendar. From humble beginnings, it has certainly come a long way.
by Will Yong
Yuki-gakoi & Yuki-tsuri
Yuki-gakoi & Yuki-tsuri. Each autumn the urban and suburban landscape of central and northern Japan sprouts strange new 'sculptures' Yuki-gakoi and Yuki-tsuri.
To the uninitiated, it is as if some courtesy wrapping service at a department store has gone crazy and broken out into a cross between landscape wrapping and art, with a sculptured theme. To understand the significance of this seasonal wrapping frenzy (no it's not related to Christmas or year end gifts) you need to understand the extremes of the Japanese climate. Particularly in the central regions of Honshu, the Sea of Japan coast, northern Honshu and Hokkaido, the annual range in temperatures is dramatic and these regions trade hot, humid summers for cool, cold, or even frigid winters with varying amounts of snowfall.
Omi-watari. As the ice begins to expand on Japan's northern lakes during the relative warmth of daytime, the great cracked sheets meet again and are forced together by expansion, their edges collide and rise upwards, cracking and breaking into a jumble of jagged ice fragments that form a ragged ridge across Lake Suwa that may continue for many kilometres in a form known as Omi-watari. Omi are gods, and the name Omi-watari relates to the gods of Lake Suwa in Nagano Prefecture.
When the god Takeminakata-no-kami of the Upper Suwa Shrine, walks across the frozen lake to visit Goddess Yasakatome-no-kami of the Lower Shrine in winter, he leaves behind a trail of his passing - the Omi-watari. The presence of Omi-watari was considered a sign by local people, indicating that if it was safe for a god to cross, then it was safe for them too and they went out on to the ice for ice fishing.