The J-Festa theme this month is “Japan in May“, so I thought I’d share my top 5 reasons to visit Japan in May. I know May is nearly over, but this way you can plan your trip for next year! March to May is generally considered to be spring in Japan, with summer (starting with the rainy season in most of Honshu) beginning in June. Here’s why you should visit Japan during May…
1. Golden Week
Golden Week is a holiday in Japan which consists of four public holidays in close succession. They are: April 29th – Showa Day, May 3rd – Constitution Memorial Day, May 4th – Greenery Day, and May 5th – Children’s Day. Because of the public holidays being so close together, many companies close for a week at this time, and it is one of the three main holiday periods in Japan (the other two being Obon and New Year). Some people will probably say that Golden Week is a bad time to visit Japan because some things will be closed and tourist attractions will be busier than usual, but I still think it’s a good time to be in Japan. Not only is the weather generally very nice, there is a lot going on at this time and you’ll be able to see Japan mid-celebration. For me, just the sight of a koinobori (carp streamer) blowing in the wind makes me think of Golden Week and being in Japan in April and May.
2. Hamamatsu Festival
Having lived in Hamamatsu (Shizuoka Prefecture) and had the pleasure of attending the Hamamatsu Matsuri (festival) once, I can honestly say it is one of the highlights of being in Japan in May. Although Hamamatsu probably isn’t high on most people’s travel itineraries, if you find yourself in central Japan between 3rd and 5th of May, I would recommend checking out this exciting festival. During the day, huge kites are flown and battled, and by night floats are paraded around town. The whole city comes alive with festival sounds and smells, and it’s one of the most exciting events I’ve ever been to in Japan. You can read more about my experience of the Hamamatsu Matsuri in 2010 here and see photos and videos here. The matsuri happens every year, although it was cancelled in 2011 because of the timing being too close to the Tohoku disaster.
3. Last chance for sakura
Sakura (cherry blossom) blooms from late March to early May, depending on what part of Japan you are in. If you want to try to catch some in May, your best bet is to visit northern Japan (such as Aomori), or even go right up to Hokkaido. This year’s report shows that it was possible to see cherry blossom in Hirosaki, Hakodate and Sapporo in early May.
4. Eating takenoko
Takenoko (bamboo shoots) are usually harvested from March to May in Japan, and are a delicious spring delicacy. Bamboo shoots are great with rice or in a stir-fry, and if you eat them simply boiled they are very low in calories.
5. Cherry picking
Fruit picking is a popular activity in Japan, and cherry picking season is generally May-July (depending on where you go). You might remember that I went cherry picking in 2009 in Yamanashi and I loved it! The only difficult thing is that you usually have to eat all the cherries on the farm and can’t take the ones you’ve picked away with you. You can, however, buy other cherries to take home with you if you want. The usual system is t pay a fixed amount (often something like ￥1,000) for a certain period of time, in which you can pick and eat as many cherries as you like. It’s a fun thing to do with a group of friends.
There are reasons to visit Japan all year round, but I hope this post has given you some ideas for visiting in May. Do you have any more May highlights to add? Please leave a comment below!
This post is an entry for the May J-Festa. Don’t forget to check out all the other entries, and why not enter yourself if you have a blog about Japan!