All throughout the month of March, graduation ceremonies (sotsugyôshiki in Japanese) occur at each school in Japan, announcing the end of the academic year. Spring vacation, which lasts several weeks, allows Japanese families to visit theme parks and other attractions.
The first influx of tourists arrives within the month, and crowds peak around March 20th at the start of ohanami, as the season of blooming cherry trees is one of the best times to visit Japan.
Japanese people follow the same trend and assiduously visit the most beautiful gardens and temples of the archipelago. Workers do so in the evenings or at nights, and retired people visit them early in the morning.
As March goes on, the occupancy rate of accommodation increases in the big cities, especially in Kyoto and its surroundings, as people seek gorgeous views of sakura. Airfare prices skyrocket for last-minute travelers hoping to find vacant seats.
Climate and weather
We are definitely out of the negative temperatures for most of the country except in the north, from Tohoku to Hokkaido, which still have snow and open ski resorts at the beginning of the month.
Overcast skies with some rains cover Japan in March, lowering the visibility in the mountains. Otherwise, sunny days offer a pleasant and ideal warmth, encouraging people to venture outside to lunch in parks and under the trees.
National public holidays
Just like February, the third month of the year has only one public holiday:
- March 20 or 21 -- 春分の日 Shunbun no Hi : Vernal Equinox Day
There are two other important dates for families and couples:
- March 3 -- Hina Matsuri, special Girl's Day in Japan
- March 14 -- White Day, Japan’s second Valentine’s Day
Top things to do
As soon as the first flower petals arrive, the calendar brings an avalanche of sakura matsuri happening outdoors in the country’s green spaces. Parks offering excellent cherry blossom views have longer hours have longer hours, and their walking paths grow crowded with popular food and drink stands.
The war between the photographers is also declared as people compete for the best angles, and setting up a camera on a tripod to take picture at night is often banned in the most crowded temples, especially in Kyoto.
Apart from the lively atmosphere surrounding cherry blossom season, Japan in March has several celebrations, both traditional and commercial
Below is a list of Japanese seasonal attractions and events in March:
|Date||What to do||Where||Related|
|March 1 to 14||Attend the Omizutori festival, a Buddhist fire ceremony called Otaimatsu that takes place when the sun sets at Todai-ji Temple||Nara||Event|
|March 1 to 3||Visit Iwatsuki district, renowned for its traditional Japanese dolls, or ningyo||Saitama||Tradition|
|March 3||Celebrate Hina Matsuri, the girls’ and women’s festival, by admiring hundreds of dolls made in the likeness of the Heian-era imperial court at Tomisaki Shrine||Katsuura (Chiba)||Event|
|March 3||Enjoy the send-off of Hina-dolls for the day of Hinamatsuri at Awashima Shrine||Wakayama||Event|
|Beginning March 3||Participate in the Hina Matsuri celebrations by admiring the parade of Ohina-sama on a dozen small boats, which occurs a Sunday at the beginning of the month||Yanagawa||Event|
|March 3 and 4||Discover the Daruma doll festival at Jindai-ji Temple||Chofu||Event|
|Second Sunday in March||See the fire purification festival, or Hiwatari-sai, consisting of walking on ashes at Yakunoin Temple||Mount Takao||Event|
|March 12 to 26||Watch Sumo wrestling during the second national tournament of the year at EDION Arena||Osaka||Tradition|
|March 14||Savor marshmallows or other sweets during White Day with your boyfriend of girlfriend||Everywhere in Japan||Tradition|
|March 15||Go to Honen Matsuri, the masculine fertility festival||Komaki (close to Nagoya)||Event|
|From mid-March||Enjoy freesia blooming||Hachijojima Island (Tokyo)||Event|
|Around March 17||See the St. Patrick’s parade, held on the weekend in the big cities||Everywhere in Japan||Event|
|March 18||Attend the golden dragon dance, or Kinryu no Mai, at Senso-ji in Asakusa||Tokyo||Event|
|Sunday in March||Go to Sakaisuji Avenue in the Nipponbashi district to enjoy the cosplays during the Nipponbashi Street Festa||Osaka||Event|
|Beginning March 21||Admire the beginning of cherry blossom season in most parks and gardens of temples and shrines||Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo, etc.||Visit|
|All month long||Enjoy the seasonal flowers: magnolia, camellia, thought, violet, daffodil, narcissus, crocuses, snowdrops||Everywhere in Japan||Visit|
|All month long||Taste the new spring vegetables of the year: tender bamboo shoots (takenoko), fragrant butterbur buds (fukinoko) or moutain asparagus (yama udo)||Everywhere in Japan||Food|
|End of March||Attend the international animation festival AnimeJapan at Tokyo Big Sight during a weekend||Tokyo (Odaiba)||Event|
Travel packing tips
Mornings and evenings are still cool and require a warm, thick coat. In case of rain that lasts several days, it is wise to plan to bring two pairs of shoes to keep your feet dry. Transparent umbrellas, which are cheap and sold in Japanese konbini, are efficient enough for a few hours’ strolling.
With the opening of the picnic season, it can be interesting to bring your own blanket or tablecloth to stretch out on the ground. Also, a backpack of average capacity will allow you to bring snacks and bento during a day-long excursion.
The ephemeral beauty of the blooming landscapes will quickly fill your camera, so think about taking extra memory cards, batteries, and film (for silver-based photography amateurs).