Things to do in Japan in May

Spring is well established in May, calling Japanese people to walk around and go outside. It is the time for school days out at touristy and historical places throughout the country. It will unsurprising to end up in the middle of a group of pupils, easily recognizable by their uniforms. As in, the festival calendar is filled in as we get closer to summertime.

Tourism statistics

May displays lower tourist attendance from foreigners, who go home at the end of April, once the cherry tree blossoming is over in the main areas. It is now time for Japanese people to take a national break at the beginning of the month: local and rural tourism is at its peak. Urban areas are empty, in favor of the travelers who stayed longer and can wander around in a quieter atmosphere.

Theme parks and big botanical gardens see their entrance statistics increase on the weekends.

Climate and weather

With an average temperature of around 20°C (68°F) and a humidity of around 65%, May happens to be one of the most favorable climatic periods during which to visit Japan. With May’s warm but not stifling weather that is sometimes rainy but not moist, tourists in May can appreciate hiking in mountains, gardens and parks in total tranquility. The flowers blossoming following those of fruit trees are absolutely dazzling thanks to their many colorful shades.

Seasides and coastal areas are also demanded by those looking for the sun and wind. It is still too early to go swimming; only the archipelago of Okinawa offers pleasant summer weather at the beginning of the month, before the rainy season. Hiking trails in the midsized mountains open at the end of the winter. We still have to wait for the summer months to hike the great Fuji-san.

National public holidays

As the month of national vacation, May starts with three consecutive non-workdays that constitute the main period of the Japanese Golden Week:

  • May 3 -- 憲法記念日 Kenpo Kinenbi : Constitution Memorial Day
  • May 4 -- 緑の日 Midori no Hi : Greenery Day
  • May 5 -- 子供の日 Kodomo no Hi / Koinobori : Children's Day

There is also:

Top things to do

"Everybody goes out!" could be May’s proverb. Japanese people spend multiple days outside and wander through green areas and by the water, before the arrival of the humid summer months and its mosquitoes.

Public holidays are occasions to organize street processions across the country, in a folkloric and family atmosphere.

Below is a list of Japanese seasonal attractions and events in May:

Date What to do Where Related
May 1 for 24 days Admire spring Maiko and Deiko dance performances during the Kamogawa Odori (Pontocho) Festival at Kaburenjo Theatre Kyoto Tradition
May 3 to 4 Attend folkloric street dances during the busy Hakata Dontaku Festival close to Tenji Station Fukuoka Event
May 3 to 5 Watch kites floating with the wind in front of the ocean Hamamatsu (Shizuoka) Event
May 3 to 5 Celebrate the flower festival with choreographic yosakoi dances in the Peace Memorial Park Hiroshima Event
May 5 Contemplate koinobori garlands (floating koi carpes) in front of houses or in public places to celebrate Children's Day, and taste a kashiwa mochi Everywhere in Japan Tradition
Early May Enjoy the cherry trees blossoming in parks and temple gardens in the north of the archipelago Akita, Aomori, Hokkaido Visit
May 14 to 28 Book seats in advance for the sumo tournament taking place at Kokugikan Stadium Tokyo Tradition
Weekend around May 15 on odd years Participate in one of the three biggest festivals of the capital city, Kanda Matsuri, happening in that neighborhood Tokyo Event
May 15 Follow the traditional procession of Aoi Matsuri from the Imperial Palace to the Shimogamo and then Kamigamo Shrines Kyoto Tradition
From mid-May Have an "after-work" in an open-air beer bar ("beer garden") and settle in for summer at a rooftop or observatory deck in the big cities Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto Visit
May 17 to 18 Attend the great spring festival Shunki Reitaisai, with samurai parades, horseback riding, and archery (yabusame), at Toshogu Shrine Nikko Tradition
May 19 Catch a lucky fan during the Buddhist Uchiwa-maki ceremony happening at Toshodai-ji Nara Tradition
May 19 to 21 Watch gigantic warrior dolls procession during the Mikuni Festival, one of the most important parades of the Hokuriku aera Sakai (Fukui) Event
Third weekend in May for 3 days Attend the Sanja Matsuri Shinto festival, with its parades of mikoshi, and see tattooed yakuza in the Asakusa district Tokyo Event
Third weekend in May Be present at the parade of flamboyant carried floats during Mikawa Okaeri Matsuri at Fujisuka Shrine Hakusan (Ishikawa) Event
Third Sunday in May Contemplate the procession of boats, decorated during the Heian period, at the Mifune Festival from Togetsukyo, Arashiyama’s bridge Kyoto Tradition
Last weekend in May Go to the Design Festa, a musical and artistic festival held at Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba Tokyo Event
All month long Admire the season’s flowers—azaleas, wisterias, nemophila and roses—in floral gardens Everywhere in Japan Visit
All month long Harvest strawberries, cherries and other seasonal fruits in Japanese farms Everywhere in Japan Food
All month long Crossing Kamikochi Valley in the heart of Chubu-Sangaku National Park (hike closed in winter) Matsumoto (Nagano) Sport

Travel packing tips

Prepare a suitcase with lighter clothing, including short- and long-sleeved T-shirts, light pants and some vests. The clothing range looks like the spring collections at clothing stores. Specifically for Japan, warm weather goes along with rain, so plan to bring some waterproof clothes. Otherwise, local clothing stores such as Uniqlo and Muji will offer a range of adapted clothes for the humid heat.

As for shoes, prefer those that are comfortable for walking around. Trendy sneakers are perfect for urban and rural visits. Sunscreen and caps complete the travelers’ accessories for the month of May.

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