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GUIDE Japan in May

Crowds and radiant warmth

May is the Goldilocks Zone of the Japanese calendar. Neither too hot nor too cold, it's the perfect time to take a trip and just about everyone does. The Golden Week holiday from the end of April to the beginning of May marks the peak of this period with packed trains and hotels being the norm. If you must travel in the first week of May, be sure to book early.

Know Before You Go

  • The Golden Week holiday period is between late April and early May, and is one of Japan's busiest travel periods
  • With major tourist destination packed, May is a good time to explore lower-key options
  • The giant carp streamers you can see around rural Japan in May are koinobori, traditional decorations for Children's Day (May 5)
  • The calmer second half of May is better for traveling and a good chance to see Japan before the rainy season in June

Floral highlights around Japan

Apart from Hokkaido and northern Tohoku where they last till mid-May, cherry blossoms have either thinned out or vanished by the start of the month. The good news is there are plenty of other flowering plants to enjoy in various parts of Japan.

The cherry blossoms in Hakodate last through until mid-May

In Tochigi Prefecture , Ashikaga Flower Park hosts a wisteria viewing event from mid-April to mid-May. The month-long festival showcases 160 year old wisteria trees, illuminated by night for added effect. Within easy reach of Tokyo , it's the perfect way to spend a leisurely night in spring.

Ashikaga Flower Park

Another good place for wisteria is the Kawachi Fujien Wisteria Garden in Fukuoka . Peaking in early May, Kawachi boasts a long wisteria tunnel perfect for photos.

The wisteria tunnel at the Kawachi Fujien Wisteria Garden

You can find other floral hotspots all around Japan. The hillsides of Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki come alive with the soft blue of countless Nemophila blossoms (mid-April to late May), while in Hitsujiyama Park in Saitama pink and purple shibazakura, or moss flox ignite the fields with radiant hues (mid-April to late May).

Shibazakura in Saitama

Spring sumo and festival fun in Tokyo

The May sumo tournament takes place in Tokyo over two weeks from mid- to late May, with advance tickets available online from early April. The last day promises more drama than usual as final results shape the careers of competitors, sometimes cementing all-important rankings.

Tokyo sumo tournaments are held in January, May and September

If you're in the capital around the third week of May, consider attending the Sanja Matsuri at Asakusa Shrine. This major festival event, in which portable shrines are paraded through the streets, attracts over a million people annually.

On a more sedate note, Tokyo Big Site hosts the annual Design Festa in which 10,000 artists from around the world display their works in a huge event space.

Alpine excursions

With Kamikochi and The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route opening in April, another option for exploring the Northern Japan Alps arrives in May with the opening of the Kurobe Gorge Railway .

Snow still lingers in the mountains around Kamikochi in May

Though crowded at peak periods, it offers a nice alternative to the usual tourist fare.

Explore Kurobe Gorge from May

* The information on this page may be subject to change due to COVID-19.

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