The Seasons in Japan
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
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
Arashiyama: 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 places places to see the autumn leaves in Tokyo & Kyoto below.
by Will Yong
Autumn Leaves in Kyoto The Best Places to See the Fall Colors in Kyoto
Kyoto is justly famous for the splendor of its autumn leaves on display in its hundreds of historic temple gardens and shrines. Kyoto draws thousands of visitors to view the beauty of its fall every year from all over Japan and the rest of the world.
Read a guide to the best places to admire and appreciate the fall colors in Kyoto including Eikando Zenrinji Temple, Kiyomizudera, Tenryuji, Tofukuji, Sekizanzenin, Shorenin and Yoshiminedera temples.
Autumn Leaves in Tokyo The Best Places to See the Fall Colors in Tokyo
Tokyo may not be as famous as the ancient capital of Kyoto for its fall colors but the modern capital's many parks and gardens are excellent places to observe the change of the season from humid summer to refreshing autumn.
Top places to view the autumn leaves in Tokyo include the ginkgo trees in Meiji Jingu Gaien Park around the Meiji Jingu Shrine, momiji in the Imperial Palace ("Kokyo"), Kiyosumi Teien Garden, Koishikawa Korakuen, Mt. Takao, Rikugien Garden and surrounding areas in Saitama Prefecture and Kamakura. Read more about autumn leaf viewing in Tokyo.
Autumn Leaves in Japan The Best Places to See the Fall Colors in Japan
The whole of Japan has places to admire and appreciate the beauty of its autumn leaves. Japan's many mountains and gorges become vivid kaleidoscopes of color in the fall.
We list the best places in Japan to view the autumn landscape including places in the four main islands of Japan: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu.
Autumn Higanbana, the Flower of the Dead
Graveyards will be densely 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
Autumn Flowers Kinchakuda Higanbana Fields & Mount Hiwada
The city of Hidaka in Saitama Prefecture contains the largest Cluster Amaryllis (higanbana) fields in Japan.
The amount of red and, in a few cases, white amaryllis is overwhelming. The flowers completely cover the ground under the trees close to the river. It's an incredible sea of Spider Lily, to cite another name for them.
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.
Abashiri Drift Ice
Abashiri Drift Ice. The ice at Abashiri generally arrives in February and may stay until early March. In some years, the ice freezes to solid pack ice. You can walk on it and the icebreakers will have to work hard to cut a path through it. In other years, 2009, for example, no drift ice arrived at all. In 2010, it made an impressive but very short appearance.
Aside from following the Japanese weather news which always reports the arrival of the ice and getting there at the right time, there is nothing you can do but simply hope for the best of luck.
It's a breathtaking view - the sea covered with ice floes all the way to the snow-capped mountains of the peninsula. Everything appears in different hues of white and blue - the ship, the floes, the mountains and the sky.
by Johannes Schonherr
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.
Wakuwaku Winter Festival
Wakuwaku is a Japanese phrase that means excitement and thrills. And Wakuwaku Farm, in Shibata, Niigata, stimulated visitors to feel excited and thrilled during the Wakuwaku Winter Festival on the first weekend in February.
Festivities include digging snow caves, watching and hearing a crackling bonfire of bamboo and rice straw, playing ball games, drawing pictures, painting bamboo candle holders, petting and feeding a friendly nanny goat, pounding mochi, and eating traditional and regional foods. The Wakuwaku Winter Festival also injects yen into the local economy and promotes homegrown agricultural products and art.