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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Sub-zero temperatures and the greatest of outdoor environments, complemented by sizzling soul food and warm-hearted welcomes. Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Sleek apple-red and electric-green shinkansen whisk you up to a haven of fresh powder snow, fresh fruit and fearsome folk legends Fearsome festivals, fresh powder and vast fruit orchards—the rugged northern territory of Tohoku offers a fresh perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
Mountains and sea meet in one of Japan's wildest regions, and the result is sheer beauty. Once largely inaccessible, Hokuriku is now reachable by shinkansen from Tokyo in a matter of hours An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Characterized by the constant buzz of the world's most populous metropolitan area, the Kanto region is surprisingly green with an array of escapes that include mountainous getaways and subtropical islands Experience diversity at its fullest, from the neon of Tokyo to the ski slopes of Gunma, exotic wildlife of the Ogasawara Islands and cultural heritage of Kamakura
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Served by the shinkansen line that connects Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the Tokai region provides plenty of interesting diversions and easy excursions Tokai means "eastern sea," and this region stretches east from Tokyo to Kyoto and includes blockbuster attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
From raucous nights out to outdoor thrills to peaceful reverie, trying to categorize the Kansai region is a futile task The Kansai region is one of extreme contrasts—the neon lights of Osaka and glittering Kobe nightscape, the peaceful realms of Shiga, Wakayama and Nara, and the cultured refinement of Kyoto
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Less-traveled and delightfully inaccessible at times, the Chugoku region is a reminder that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination Welcome to Japan's warm and friendly western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Providing the stage for literary classics, fevered dancing and natural wonders Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
Easily reached by land, sea and air, the dynamic Kyushu prefectures are bubbling with energy, culture and activity The southern island of Kyushu is home to volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky, succulent seafood, steaming hot springs and the country's hottest entrepreneurial town
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Ruins and recreated castles of the Ryukyu kings nestle amid magnificent beaches in Okinawa, a diver's paradise teeming with an amazing array of coral and undersea life Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

GUIDE March

New beginnings in early spring

With the peak of winter past, the stage is set for new beginnings as Japan eases into spring. Plum blossoms continue to bloom in parts of central Japan and further north. The colorful Hinamatsuri girls’ festival is held nationwide on March 3 and cherry blossoms start blooming in Tokyo and other warmer locations to herald the start of spring proper.

Although the weather in March is significantly warmer and more spring-like than February, temperatures can drop suddenly. Skiing and snowboarding are still possible at most resorts and languid hot spring excursions remain a popular way to spend some of the coldest days.

Tips

  • Temperatures fluctuate heavily in March
  • Winter sports are still possible but expect spring conditions
  • March is a common time for school trips—key areas like Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima can get quite busy
  • Cherry blossom season begins in southerly parts of Japan and warmer locations like Tokyo towards the end of March

Spring snow

The winter sports season is still very much alive at some Japanese ski areas. Major resorts like Niseko and Shiga Kogen actually stay open right up to the first week of May, albeit with diminishing returns in snow quality.

Spring skiing benefits from warmer temperatures and relatively empty slopes compared with winter. Sudden snowfalls do sometimes occur at higher altitudes, though rain is a more likely occurrence. Check weather reports in your area to see if a ski excursion is a viable option on the day.

Getting out and about

With warmer temperatures and slightly longer days, March sees a rise in the number of people taking day trips and weekend excursions. Popular destinations include Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima as well as rural hot spring resorts. Gero Onsen is a noteable resort—accessible from Nagoya, it can be combined with a trip to Takayama and Shirakawa-go.

Gero Onsen—a fun excursion from Nagoya

The rich pageant of Hinamatsuri

As with many Japanese holidays, most people experience Hinamatsuri in a domestic setting inaccessible to short-term visitors. On and around March 3, however, several shrines and temples around the country hold Hinamatsuri celebrations for the general public.

At the Nagashibina event at Shimogamo-jinja in Kyoto, you can pay a small fee and partake in the ancient custom of setting straw dolls adrift on the river. Elsewhere in Kyoto, the shrine festivities at Ichihime-jinja feature live demonstrations of Heian period (794-1185) courtly games by performers in authentic period costumes. Lastly, Hokyoji Temple opens its vast doll collection for public viewing from March 1 to 3.

Nagashibina—an acient custom still continued today

Fire, light, vitality

Light and color figure prominently in March celebrations, with nighttime illuminations being a common feature of festivals in Kansai. Kyoto’s Higashiyama district hosts the Hanatoro Festival (March 9-18) in which thousands of lanterns light up a route stretching from Shoren-in to Kiyomizudera Temple. During this time, various temples along the route extend their hours to stage lavish illuminations for visitors.

Scene from the Hanatoro Festival

The Omizutori event takes place every March 12 at Nigatsudo, a secondary building of Todaiji Temple in Nara. After months of preparation, specially appointed priests perform the ritual of drawing water from a sacred well, while others brandish huge torches on the terrace above to ward off evil spirits. The whole thing marks the culmination of the 1250-year-old Shunie Festival (March 1-14).

The fiery climax of the Omizutori event

Spring sumo

If you’re in Kansai, you can take advantage of a generous two-week window to attend the March Grand Sumo Tournament at Edion Arena in Osaka. It is advisable to book in advance, as only a small number of tickets are allocated for sale on the day. For information on schedules and booking, please consult the following link: http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnTicket/

An early sign of spring

Less famous and fewer in number than cherry blossoms, plum blossoms are also a favorite in Japan and a symbol of early spring. Typically, the season begins in February and lasts into March, with dates varying from place to place. The famous Kairakuen Garden in Ibaraki has a season beginning in late February and ending in mid-March. Bairin Park in Gifu Prefecture spans the month of March, peaking somewhere around the middle of the month.

Plum trees in bloom at Kairakuen Garden

Cherry blossom season closes in

Warmer areas of Japan start to welcome cherry blossoms in late March, and you can generally count on seeing them in Tokyo during the last ten days of the month. Other big cities like Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka follow a similar timeline, varying from year to year. While cherry blossom season is short in individual locations, it runs nationwide, through April and into early May. The following has a useful guide for peak blossoming periods around Japan: https://www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/index.php

Cherry blossoms in the capital

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