May arrives in Japan with energy and colour as the last cherry blossoms drift away. The warm spring weather brings an array of exciting activities and events to experience, from hiking majestic Mount Fuji to soaking in hot springs surrounded by blooming flowers. May is a month of renewal and celebration in Japan, with many festivals and traditions honouring the country’s rich culture and history. As vibrant green leaves replace Sakura’s pink and white petals, the country is transformed into a lush paradise, ready to be explored and enjoyed.
Whether you’re an adventure seeker or a nature lover, Japan offers something for everyone. So, pack your bags to prepare for a journey filled with unforgettable experiences, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality. Welcome to May in Japan, where new beginnings and endless possibilities await! Japan is a country that has so much to offer, from its unique and lively culture to its rich traditional heritage to its stunning and diverse landscapes. While Japan has something for everyone every season, May is one of the best months to experience the charm of Japan. Here are some reasons why you should visit Japan in May.
Hike to Mt. Fuji
This active volcano is a famous tourist site for Japanese and foreign visitors, drawing hikers worldwide. The most excellent part of visiting Mount Fuji in May is that you can take in the fresh air and vegetation while still seeing snow on the mountain’s pinnacle. Hiking Mount Fuji at this time of year allows you to enjoy the excitement of mountain climbing while escaping the harsh winter weather. The beautiful views from Mount Fuji’s peak are spectacular, and it’s best to come early in the morning to avoid crowds. The ascent to the mountain’s peak is also a favourite pastime for couples, with many individuals proposing to their spouses at the summit.
Mount Fuji should be on your agenda if you travel with your significant other and have the same plans. Aside from hiking, the Fuji Shibazakura Festival, which takes place in May, is another event worth attending. This event highlights the kilometres of pink moss that blanket the Fuji Five Lakes region. From mid-April through the end of May, the shibazakura blossoms bloom in total, creating colourful patterns of pink, blue, purple, and white against the backdrop of Mount Fuji. The event has a variety of food vendors, souvenir stores, and live music performances, making it a fun experience for people of all ages.
Hakata Dontaku Festival (May 3-4)
The Hakata Dontaku Festival dates back to the 12th century when it was a ritual to pray for good harvests and peace. Because the festival has occurred on the first Sunday of May since the Edo Period (1603-1868), the name Dontaku derives from the Dutch word Zondag, which means Sunday or holiday. It features various performances and activities, such as traditional dances, music, comedy, martial arts, etc. One of the highlights is the Shamoji Dance, where thousands of people dance with wooden rice paddles in their hands.
Another highlight is the Dontaku Port Festival, where fireworks and laser shows light up the night sky over Hakata Bay. The Festival is an excellent opportunity to experience the culture and spirit of Fukuoka, a city known for its food, history and hospitality. You can enjoy local delicacies such as Hakata ramen, mentaiko (spicy cod roe) and motsunabe (hot pot with beef or pork innards). You can also visit historical sites such as Kushida Shrine, Fukuoka Castle and Hakata Machiya Folk Museum.
Children’s Day (5 May)
One of Children’s Day’s most colourful and fun traditions is to fly carp-shaped windsocks called koinobori outside the house. The carp symbolises success and perseverance in Japan, as it is said to swim upstream and become a dragon. The koinobori usually have different colours for different family members: black for the father, red or pink for the mother, and one for each child. Another tradition is to display samurai dolls, and helmets called gogatsu ningyo or musha ningyo inside the house. It means to inspire children to be brave and honourable like the samurai warriors. Some families also display irises or shobu, plants with sword-like leaves. It believes in warding off evil spirits.
Children’s Day is a public holiday on May 5 every year. It is a day to honour children’s individuality and happiness and to thank their mothers for their love and care. Some fun activities are yabusame, horseback archery, origami, paper folding, and kabuto origami, paper helmets.Children’s day has its roots in an ancient ceremony called Tango no Sekku, celebrates on the fifth day of the fifth month in the old Chinese calendar. It was also known as Boys’ Day, a day for boys to show their courage and strength. Girls had their day on March 3, called Hinamatsuri, or Doll’s Festival. In 1948, the Japanese government made May 5 a national holiday for all children, regardless of gender.
Kanda Matsuri (May 7-13)
If you are in Tokyo on an odd year, check out the Kanda Matsuri, one of the city’s largest and most spectacular festivals. It lasts for eight days and features impressive parades on the weekend. On Saturday, you can see a procession of people in colourful costumes, horses, floats and musicians. On Sunday, you can see the Mikoshi Parades, where portable shrines arrive to bring good fortune to the surrounding neighbourhoods. The Kanda Matsuri is a biennial festival in Tokyo in odd years. It is one of the city’s most magnificent and festive events, spanning eight days of celebrations.
The highlight is the weekend parades, where you can watch a grand procession of floats, horses, performers and music on Saturday, and a series of Mikoshi Parades on Sunday, where portable shrines are transported through the streets to bless the locals. Every two years on odd years, Tokyo hosts the Kanda Matsuri, one of its biggest and most splendid festivals. The festival goes on for eight days and culminates in the weekend parades. On Saturday, there is a main procession that showcases a variety of floats, horses, costumes and music. On Sunday, Mikoshi Parades carry portable shrines along the streets to spread good luck to the residents.
Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament (May 10-24)
The Sumo Hatsu Basho is a series of sumo tournaments that take place throughout the year, and one of them is the Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament in May. It is a significant sumo event that attracts a lot of fans and spectators, both local and foreign. You must buy tickets in advance to watch the matches, especially the ones featuring the top-ranked sumo wrestlers. One of the highlights of the Sumo Hatsu Basho, a seasonal sumo tournament, is the Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament every May. To see the matches, it is a big deal for sumo enthusiasts and admirers from Japan and abroad. Tickets are required to attend the tournament, and they sell out quickly, especially for the games with the most famous sumo wrestlers.
The Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament is a prestigious sumo event in May as part of the Sumo Hatsu Basho, a yearly sumo tournament. It draws a large crowd of sumo fans and curious visitors from Japan and overseas who want to witness the matches. Tickets are essential to enter the tournament and are in high demand, especially for games with the best sumo wrestlers.
Aoi Matsuri (May 14)
The Aoi Matsuri (Kamo Matsuri) festival celebrates Kyoto’s heritage and culture. It features a parade of people in costumes from the Heian Period when Kyoto was Japan’s capital. The festival has a long history, dating back to the 6th century when it was a ritual to appease the gods after a series of natural disasters. The festival closely links to the shrines, where ceremonies and performs offerings.
A festival that reflects Kyoto’s past and traditions, the Aoi Matsuri (Kamo Matsuri) has a parade of people dressed in Heian Period attire when Kyoto was Japan’s centre. The festival originated in the 6th century as a way to pray to the gods for protection from natural calamities. The Kamo Matsuri festival because of its connection to the shrines, where rituals and offerings occur.
The Aoi Matsuri (Kamo Matsuri) festival honours Kyoto’s ancient history and customs. It has a parade of people wearing costumes from the Heian Period when Kyoto was the seat of power in Japan. The festival started in the 6th century as a response to natural disasters that plagued the city. The festival derives after the hollyhock leaves worn by the participants and later occurs in the ceremonies and offerings.
Sanja Festival (May 14-17)
Every May, the streets of Asakusa come alive with the Sanja Festival, a three-day celebration of the founders of the Senso-ji temple. The festival attracts millions of visitors who want to witness the spectacle of over 100 portable shrines, or mikoshi, being carried by enthusiastic locals. The festival is known for its loud and festive atmosphere, with music, dancing, food stalls, and colourful costumes.
The festival’s highlight is the parade of three giant mikoshi on the second day, representing the three founders. The mikoshi believes in bringing good luck and prosperity to the area and its people. The Sanja Festival is one of Tokyo’s most popular and exciting events and a great way to experience Japan’s traditional culture and spirit.
Late Blooming Cherry Blossom (Last week of May)
Cherry blossom, or sakura, is one of the most iconic symbols of Japan. Every spring, people flock to parks and gardens to enjoy the beauty and fragrance of the delicate pink flowers. However, not all cherry trees bloom at the same time. Some varieties, such as yaezakura and kanzan, have a later blooming season than the more common somei yoshino. You can find the late-blooming cherry trees in various locations across Japan, such as Hokkaido, Tohoku, and the Japanese Alps. They usually peak in late April or early May when the weather is warmer and more pleasant.
Late-blooming cherry blossom offers a different charm and atmosphere than the early-blooming ones. They tend to have more petals and a deeper colour, creating a stunning contrast with the green leaves and the blue sky. They also attract fewer crowds, making them ideal for a relaxing and peaceful hanami or flower viewing. Late-blooming cherry blossom in Japan is a beautiful sight and a perfect way to enjoy spring. In addition, the Tohoku region contains various cherry blossom viewing areas, including Hirosaki, a city in Japan, The Shiroishi River, Park Hanamiyama and the Nicchu Line.
Hitachi Seaside Park
Hitachi Seaside Park, located in Ibaraki prefecture, Japan, is renowned for its incredible yearly floral displays. Still, in May, it becomes a breathtaking sea of blue, thanks to the Nemophila flowers. With 4.5 million Nemophila blooming, the hills in the park are covered with sky-blue coloured flowers with white centres that grow to be about 15-20 cm tall, creating a magnificent carpet of blue on the ground. The sight of the blue flowers contrasted against the lush green grass is stunning and mesmerising.
The best time to visit the Hitachi Seaside Park to witness the Nemophila is from late April to mid-May, when they are in full bloom. The park also features several other attractions, including a ferris wheel, a cycling course, a playground for children, and a barbecue area. Throughout the year, the park is home to various other flowers, such as tulips, poppies, and roses, making it a beautiful destination anytime. The park is only two hours away from Tokyo by train and bus, and the admission fee is 450 yen for adults and free for children. The park is open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, and the last entry is at 4:00 pm.
Hitachi Seaside Park is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places to experience the magic of flowers in Japan. A visit to the park in May will make you feel happy, relaxed, and captivated by the stunning sea of blue created by the Nemophila flowers.