April is a celebration month in Japan. With the back-to-school period starting and the famous cherry trees blooming, Japanese people invade parks and gardens, searching for the best spot to spread their blue blanket and enjoy picnicking with friends and family. Vendors selling popular local food fan out near shrines and temples and draw hungry visitors coming to witness the wonders of the traditional landscapes.
April is among one of the three main tourist periods in Japan. Recognized by travel experts as one of, or even the most, beautiful season of the year, the Japanese spring appeals to a dense crowd of foreign visitors, from western countries and from Asia.
Booking your travel months in advance is warmly advised, especially as accommodations for group travel fill quickly. Because the Japanese people will be on vacation only during the Golden Week starting around April 29th, they join the tourists in the evenings and on the weekends earlier in the month.
Climate and weather
Temperatures become nicer with an average of 12 to 14°C (53 to 57°F) in the main cities. At midday, the sunny weather will bring a pleasant heat with a temperature close to 20°C (68°F). This climate is totally suitable for outdoor urban wanderings. Hiking in the mountains remains cold and slippery if it is raining.
The sun rises around 5:15 a.m. and sets around 6:15 p.m.; therefore, we can count about 13 hours of sunlight per day. Nocturnal events usually begin before 7 p.m.
Some days in the month see rain and wind. Japanese weather experts carefully watch the weather as it favors the fall of the cherry blossom trees’ flower petals, called fubuki, and therefore accelerates the end of the blooming, which is already ephemeral.
National public holidays
A transitional month, April displays only one public holiday, marking the beginning of the Japanese Golden Week:
- April 29 -- 昭和の日 Showa no Hi : Showa Day (birthday of Emperor Hirohito)
There is also another important date:
- April 8 -- Hana Matsuri, a floral festival celebrating Buddha’s Birthday
Top things to do
During this important period of the year, cherry blossoms can be admired throughout the whole archipelago, depending on the climatic conditions. The main regions, which are Kanto, Kansai, the Shikoku and Kyushu islands, reach their flowering peak up to mid-April. Chubu and north of Tohoku (above Sendai) come next and should be visited at the end of the month.
The blooming cherry trees delight all Japanese people, including the geiko of Kyoto. Therefore, from the beginning of April, each hanamachi presents its spring dance show:
- Kamishichiken (Kitano Odori)
- Miyagawacho (Kyo Odori)
- Gion Kobu (Miyako Odori) or
- Pontocho (Kamogawa Odori in May)
The shows are held in a theatre in the city, last about one hour, and can include a tea ceremony. Booking in advance is mandatory.
Below is a list of Japanese seasonal attractions and events in April:
|Date||What to do||Where||Related|
|All month long||Enjoy festivals of seasonal flowers such as cherry trees, tulips, azaleas, and wisterias in public parks and botanical gardens, close to Japanese castles||Everywhere in Japan||Visit|
|All month long||Taste Japanese specialties with "sakura flavor": mochi, dorayaki, ice cream, biscuits, and latte coffee||Everywhere in Japan||Food|
April 1 to 21
|Admire a dance show of Maiko, geishas’ apprentices, during the Miyako Odori festival||Kyoto||Tradition|
|Early April||Walk along the Meguro River in the evening under illuminated and blooming cherry trees||Tokyo||Visit|
|First weekend in April||Attend Inuyama’s festival with its procession of 13 floats illuminated with lanterns going down the Kiso River, not far from the castle, when the sun sets||Inuyama||Event|
|First or second weekend in April||Admire the warriors’ parade during the Shingen-ko festival, in honor of samurai Takeda Shingen||Kofu (Yamanashi)||Event|
|First Sunday in April||Go to Kanamara Matsuri, the celebration for the organ of masculine fertility||Kawasaki (Kanagawa)||Event|
|April 8||Celebrate Buddha's birthday during the floral celebration Hana Matsuri by pouring ama-cha, sweetened tea, on a small Buddhist statue in all temples of the archipelago (Shitenno-ji in Osaka or Senso-ji, Gokoku-ji in Tokyo)||Everywhere in Japan||Spirituality|
|First week in April||Visit the hot springs festival and enjoy the springs, or onsen, free||Beppu||Visit|
|Until mid-April||Walk the long path among blooming cherry trees in mountain||Mont Yoshino||Hiking|
|From Mid-April||Contemplate the flowering of phlox subulata with Mount Fuji in the background during Fuji Shibazakura||Motosu (Yamanashi)||Visit|
|Second and third Sunday in April||Participate in the Kamakura festival honoring traditional shizuka no mai dance and yabusame, archery on horseback, in Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine||Kamakura||Event|
|April 13 to 17||Celebrate spring during the Yayoi festival at Futarasan Shrine||Nikko||Event|
|April 14 to 15||Attend Sanno Matsuri, the spring edition of the Takayama festival||Takayama||Event|
|Third weekend in April||See Ushibuka Haiya Matsuri, including traditional dances and parades of fishermen in their boats||Amakusa (Shimoshima Island in Kumamoto)||Event|
|Around April 22||Celebrate Earth Day in Yoyogi Park, where charities, green companies, vegetarian and vegan food stands gather over a whole weekend||Tokyo||Visit|
|Third Sunday in April||Go to the Shinko-sai festival around 11 a.m. to watch the parade of 6 mikoshi carried from the Matsuno-o Shrine to join the Katsura River||Kyoto||Event|
|April 23 to 24||Attend the festival of hot spring in honor of the founder of the city, Dochi Shonin||Kinosaki||Event|
Travel packing tips
Pack a mixed suitcase, with winter clothes for cloudy, colder days and mid-season clothes for warm afternoons. A good closed and waterproof pair of shoes to easily walk around blooming nature is required. Sunglasses perfectly complete this outfit.
With numerous open-air events, from days to nights, pack an antibacterial gel and a small towel to keep your hands clean and ready to welcome another culinary discovery.