April is a gorgeous time to visit Japan. With the arrival of spring, you’ll likely see cherry blossoms (sakura) in full bloom in many parts of the country. This is also a great time to enjoy matsuri (festivals), try seasonal foods, or just get outside and enjoy the spring weather. Ready to go? Here are some ideas for things to do in Japan in April:
Cherry Blossom Viewing (Hanami)
Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, is a very popular activity this time of year. You can enjoy the blooming cherry trees in many parks, shrines, and temples throughout Japan, such as Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo, Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, and Maruyama Park in Sapporo. Join the locals in strolling, picnicking, and taking in the breathtaking sight of cherry blossoms in full bloom.
This year, we visited Odawara Castle. Since we live in the same prefecture (Kanagawa), it was an easy trip. The entire area was filled with delicate flowers, but since we arrived early (before 9 am), it was easy to avoid crowds. The area got busy very quickly, though, so if you’re planning to go to any special parks or landmarks for Hanami, get up early!
A quick tip: You can go inside the castle, and I’d definitely recommend it. The signage is all in Japanese, so you may not understand everything you’re seeing, but they play a short movie on the second floor and it has English subtitles. The history of the castle and surrounding area is pretty cool!
Typically, the last weeks of March and the first couple weeks of April have been the peak season for cherry blossoms in Japan, but the climate is changing and the dates are becoming less predictable. This year, it’s only the first week of April and we’re already seeing the end of the season. If you’re planning a trip, definitely check the predictions before choosing dates to make sure you see the beautiful cherry blossoms!
As the former capital of Japan, Kyoto is known for its historic temples, shrines, and traditional Japanese culture. It’s honestly one of the most complex, interesting, and incredible places I’ve ever been in my life. In April, the cherry blossoms make it look even more magnificent. It’s a remarkable backdrop for sightseeing and photography!
Don’t miss iconic sites like Kiyomizu-dera, Arashiyama, Nijo Castle, and Fushimi Inari Shrine, which are particularly picturesque during cherry blossom season. My favorite thing to do, though, is leave the city and head into nature.
The best places for forest bathing in Kyoto are (in my opinion!) the areas surrounding Mount Kurama, Kifune Jinja, and Okochi Sanso Villa. Stay at the Hyatt Place Kyoto and you’ll be right at a train station, allowing you to go wherever you want! Just please, please be respectful of the local culture and surroundings. Don’t litter, be mindful of the volume of your voice, and be kind.
Enjoy a Matsuri
Whether you live in Japan or plan to visit, you should make a habit of checking for upcoming matsuri (festivals). Japan loves to celebrate, and we do too. Do a little research ahead of time so that you know about the festival’s history before you go. It will make your experience more meaningful and enjoyable (and you’ll avoid any potentially embarrassing mistakes).
Every major city and region will host their own events, so there’s no way for me to list every possible matsuri you could visit. Some popular ones in April, however, include the Takayama Festival, Beppu hot springs festival, Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, Inuyama Festival, and Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus) in Kawasaki (which we just attended!).
Celebrate Earth Day in Tokyo
Want to show your love for our incredible planet? Earth Day Tokyo is a “whole Earth festival” that offers two fantastic programs. The annual festival is held in Yoyogi Park and Miyashita Park around Earth Day (April 22) each year. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about environmental issues, social issues, human rights, and more.
The theme for Earth Day Tokyo 2023 is “Family Earth.” The goal? To remind everyone that our planet is a “friendly place where everyone is welcomed.” It’s not just for humans, but also for animals, plants, microorganisms, and everything that calls Earth home.
At the Earth Day Marché, there will be more than 170 booths of goods, food, small brands, and more along with the outdoor concert, “Climate Live Japan.” This year, the event will take place over two weekends (April 15-16 and April 22-23). Check out the official website for detailed information about the schedule!
We love many major cities in Japan (including our home, Yokohama!), but Tokyo is the current capital. It’s a great destination for first-time visitors to Japan! The problem is that June and July are the rainy season and then the summer months are oppressively hot and humid. April is an excellent time to see the sites in this bustling metropolis!
Aside from cherry blossom viewing along the streets and in parks, you can also visit popular landmarks such as the Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, and Meiji Shrine. Honestly, the first time I visited the Meiji Shrine, I was blown away because it felt like I was suddenly in the woods even though I was in the middle of Tokyo. It’s a great way to relieve some city stress!
You can also take a stroll in trendy neighborhoods like Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Harajuku, or enjoy traditional Japanese arts and crafts in Asakusa. These places are going to be really busy, especially in the afternoon or on weekends. Try to get there early in the morning so that you can enjoy yourself without all of the crowds.
Go to Tokyo Rainbow Pride
Did you know that Tokyo has a major pride event? Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2023 takes place on April 22 and 23. In fact, Pride Week runs from April 22 to May 7, 2023, and there are many events and activities taking place at Yoyogi Park that you might enjoy!
It takes place during another major holiday (more on that below) but the website promises “a collection of events that dye the Golden Week period in rainbow colors. We will introduce events created by LGBT people all over Japan.”
On April 22, the festival will showcase booths from companies and businesses who’ve shown support for the LGBTQ community (including Don Quijote – I want a rainbow DonPen plushie!). On April 23, the parade starts around 1 pm. See the official site for more details!
Eat Seasonal Japanese Foods
Japan is famous for its delicious food, and April offers an opportunity to enjoy seasonal spring delicacies. Look out for dishes featuring fresh bamboo shoots, mountain vegetables, and sakura-themed sweets and drinks. We personally love the Sakura desserts at convenience stores like 7-11 and Lawson!
You can also try traditional tea ceremonies, sushi-making classes, and food tours to indulge in the diverse flavors of Japanese cuisine. If you’re in Kobe, be sure to check out this post about the must-try foods in that area!
Visit Hiroshima and Miyajima
April is a great time to visit Hiroshima and the nearby island of Miyajima. You can see cherry blossoms blooming at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which commemorates the atomic bombing in 1945. This park is one of our favorite places in Japan!
Complete your visit by taking a ferry to Miyajima, known for its iconic floating torii gate and friendly wild deer. As locals have complained about over-tourism and daytrippers in the past, we recommend staying overnight in the area to fully appreciate the culture while showing support for local businesses.
Engage in Outdoor Activities
One of my favorite early morning activities is going on hikes. The average temperature in April makes it easy to enjoy outdoor activities. Every day, I try to take a long walk around my neighborhood before stopping at a shrine and then the grocery store for supplies.
It’s a bit of a luxury because I live here, so if you’re only here for a brief period, you probably want to plan more mindfully. I’ll say this, though — the mountainous areas of this country are so magnificent, so see them if you can! Just be sure to check the weather conditions since the forecast may be different at higher altitudes. Also, always check the website of the place you’re visiting is an active volcano!
If you’re into hiking, you should check out the Japan Alps (or the “Roof of Japan”) which extend into Niigata Prefecture, Toyama Prefecture, Yamanashi Prefecture, Nagano Prefecture, Gifu Prefecture, Shizuoka Prefecture. The highest point is Mount Kita.
Not a hiker? You can enjoy cycling along scenic paths, or take a boat cruise on Lake Kawaguchi to admire the stunning views of Mount Fuji. Don’t forget to grab a snack or meal at a restaurant with an outdoor patio. Food just tastes better out in the fresh spring air!
Avoid Golden Week
If you’re planning to visit Japan in late April, you should know that this is one of the busiest times of the year. Japanese people will be enjoying a series of national holidays at the end of April during a time known as Golden Week. If you’ve got your heart set on seeing a popular tourist attraction, this is NOT the time to go.
If you’re planning to be in Japan during late April or early May, you might find these Golden Week Travel Tips from Japan Rail Pass helpful. It may not be the best time for avoiding crowds, but you’ll be guaranteed a memorable trip!
Enjoy April in Japan
These are just a few ideas for things to do in Japan in April. As mentioned, the exact timing of cherry blossom season may vary depending on the region and weather conditions, so be sure to check the cherry blossom forecast for the specific destinations you plan to visit.
If you’re hoping to see many parts of Japan, you can do domestic flights or get a Japan Rail Pass to use on the extensive (and awesome!) train system. April is a perfect month for enjoying pleasant temperatures and the beauty of cherry blossoms as well as various events and festivals.
Enjoy your trip to Japan! Happy travels!