EPIC ROAD'S SAFARI BLOG

Entries in visit japan in the spring (2)

Thursday
May102018

Travel to Kanazawa, Japan’s Best Hidden Secret

It would take a lifetime to discover the best of Japan’s hidden secrets, and many travelers with limited time will only see the highlights of major cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. Even still, it’s possible to maximize your time and see off the beaten path sites in Japan that will give you a more authentic and unique travel experience in this incredible Asian country with so much fascinating history and culture. History buffs should take a trip to beautiful and historic Kanazawa, just two hours by bullet train from Kyoto, where you’ll explore one of the best preserved castle town from the Edo period. Below are some of the best sites and experiences in Kanazawa.

Considered one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan, Kenrokuen Garden is a beautiful place to visit year-round. In the spring, the garden is decorated by colorful plum and cherry springs, flowers such as azaleas bloom in the summer, and fallen leaves of fiery colors make the garden glow in fall. In winter, the snowy garden has "yukizuri" or "snow hangings" built to protect the plants from heavy snowfall, which includes a conical array of ropes that hold up branches to prevent them from breaking. The name "Kenrokuen" means "having six factors," which were used to design the garden’s perfect landscape: expansiveness, peacefulness, artifice, antiquity, water sources, and fantastic views.

The Nagamachi Samurai District was where samurai families lived during the Edo period, and has some buildings that were spared during WW2 and are centuries old. Narrow pedestrian-only lanes, cobblestoned streets, and winding canals make the area very beautiful and photogenic. Some of the former samurai residences and gardens are even open to the public. A visit to this enchanting neighborhood is like going back in time and visiting a fascinating part of Japan’s history.

Kanazawa Castle’s history begins in the early 1546 when it was founded as a religious school for Kanazawa Mido. One of the most interesting features of Kanazawa Castle is the variety of stonewalls located on the castle park grounds. The castle park is sometimes referred to as a "stonewall museum" due the different eras the walls were constructed. Throughout its history the castle has seen a number of fires and a large fire in 1759 almost burned down the entire castle. In 1996, a project was started to rebuild Kanazawa Castle using original construction techniques.

Finally, the most unforgettable part of your trip to Kanazawa will be a visit to a local master sword maker who will show you how to forge your own blade. Planning a trip to Japan can be overwhelming and is best done with the help of a true expert who can help you discover magical places and experiences you would never find otherwise.

Friday
Oct162015

When to Visit Japan

If you're trying to decide when to travel to Japan, you should know first and foremost about a few major events. Golden Week runs from April 29-May 5, mid-July through August is school break season and New Year's Day is a national holiday. Millions of people travel within Japan during these times, which naturally drives up the costs of transportation and accommodation; nonetheless, many foreigners do consider the holidays to be the best time to go to Japan because the larger cities are mostly deserted. Additionally, with the exception of a few days around the New Year, most museums and attractions remain open during the holidays. 

Weather & Climate in Japan

Japan is about the size of the American east coast, and it covers roughly the same latitudes, so temperatures and weather patterns vary greatly by region during the year. Overall, summer is hot and rainy throughout most of Japan, while autumn is cooler and dryer. Winters in northern Japan are snowy and prone to ice storms, yet visitors of southern Japan can get by with just a warm jacket during the late and early parts of the year. Typhoon season runs from late August to late September, and although storms rarely venture inland, expect to get wet wherever you go during this time. 

The Best Time to See the Cherry Blossom Trees

The best time to see the cherry blossom trees is dependent on where you are staying. For example, the best time to see the cherry blossom trees in southern Kyushu is mid-March, but flowers in Hokkaido don't start blooming until the beginning of May. There are dozens of cherry blossom species, each possessing unique beauty, but blooms only last a few days, which is why many will travel across the entire country to see these spectacular flowers arrive in every region during the spring. You can further plan your trip around local attractions like the remains of castle Nangusuku on Okinawa Main Island where the Ryukyu-higan-zakura trees bloom as early as January. Mt. Yoshino is another sight to behold as it is home to 30,000 trees that flood the hills with cherry blossoms during the month of April. 

Japanese Culture & Festivals

Almost every Japanese shrine hosts an annual festival, drawing hundreds of people out into the streets for dancing, games and celebrations. Festival dates often change, so check with the Japan National Tourist Organization if you're planning your visit in accordance with a festival, or you can always ask us as well!

Food in Japan & Kaiseki Cuisine

Kaiseki cuisine combines the best of traditional Japanese hospitality, food and art. Enjoying a traditional Kaiseki means eating a multiple-course meal made only with fresh, local ingredients that are perfectly plated and garnished. You can experience Kaiseki cuisine in a restaurant or as part of your stay in one of Japan's luxury ryokans.

Accommodations & Luxury Japanese Ryokans

Luxury ryokans are traditional, often family-owned, Japanese inns featuring wooden corridors, soft lighting emanating from paper-covered lamps and decorative baskets of wild flowers throughout, and most will serve Kaiseki directly in the privacy of your own room. All rooms in Beniya Mukayu for example, a ryokan in spa town Yamashiro, feature private hot spring baths facing private traditional gardens. Many of these establishments, like the 300-year-old Tawaraya Ryokan in Kyoto, have been hosting guests from all over the world for several centuries.

All in all, the best time to go to Japan really comes down to whenever you can. The weather is always great somewhere, so pick out the regions and attractions you want to visit, and let that guide you in deciding when to travel to Japan. To recap:

Spring (March-May) marks the height of the cherry blossom season, but it also marks one of the busiest travel seasons. Keep in mind that hotels are often booked out as far as 6 months in advance so make sure to contact us early on! 

Fall (September-November) is similarly a busy season but the autumn leaves in Japan are particularly vibrant and colorful and well worth a few crowds. 

Winter, as noted, can get cold and there's always a chance of rain or snow. That being said, crisp blue skies, delicious seafood and fewer crowds also make this a desirable season during which to visit Japan. 

*Our personal favorite time to visit Japan is from late Spring (mid-May to end-June) & late Summer (September to mid-October). The weather is great, the crowds are sparse, and if you're lucky you might just catch the end of the cherry blossom season!