What do you expect to do in the month of March in Japan? Even though Japan is great to visit anytime, March is exceptional in many ways.

In Hokkaido, March is still cold and you can see a lot of snows on the grounds. It’s a busy time for many ski resorts in the region, offering visitors plenty of passions to pursue. However, it can be different in other parts of Japan though, where you won’t see any snow but beautiful flower beds and blossoms. Does it mean that spring has finally arrived?

In late March, travelers can expect to see cherry blossom (sakura) in major cities that include Tokyo, Kyoto, Yokohama, Osaka and Nagoya, to name but a few. You should check out the sakura forecast before you start off your hanami expedition.

If you want to visit Japan in March and wondering what to do then this post will reveal the best highlights that you can explore and experience. You must step outside of your comfort zone and discover new activities while you are in Japan. Have fun!

1. Cherry Blossom Viewing (Hanami)

Sakura in Hachioji, Tokyo. Photo Credit: mrhayata at Flickr.

Japan is home to a number of famous cherry tree varieties. Early and late blooming sakura can be spotted throughout Japan during the cherry blossom season. For example, Kawazu-zakura is a type of sakura which is considered an early blooming sakura. This type of sakura usually starts to bloom in mid February and can be seen till mid-March.

Spring is arguably the best time of year to visit Japan and you can see why. The chance of viewing sakura in their full glory depends on the weather condition. If the weather is warm, they are expected to be bloomed earlier than the average. In general, on the Honshu island of Japan, sakura viewing time arrives between late March and early April. So if you are going to visit Tokyo in late March, be prepared to picnic underneath the iconic sakura blossoms in a park.

Take a walk along the riverside that is lined with hundreds of beautiful cherry trees filled with blossoms. Sumida River is a perfect example of it, where you can relax and walk viewing impressive cherry blossoms.

2. Plum Blossom (ume) Viewing

Plum blossoms at Inabe Plum Grove, Mie Prefecture. Photo Credit: いなべ市 農業公園.

Often this tradition in Japan is overshadowed by hanami (sakura viewing). For some people who don’t know much about Japan and its culture may think that Ume and Sakura is the same flower. The real scenario is that they are not. This post here clearly explains and helps you to understand the differences between these two beautiful flower blossoms.

Ume is a late winter flower blossom but Japanese also recognize it as an early blooming flower of spring. In Japan, there are many places around where plum blossoms can be seen in a large numbers. Most of the plum groves in the city areas are located in parks, and on the grounds of temples and shrines. There are also some plum groves that can be found on the grounds of traditional Japanese castles.

Atami Baien, Soga Bairin (Odawara Plum Festival), Inabe Plum Grove, Akima Bairin, and Mito Kirakuen garden feature plenty of plum blossoms from early February to early March. Yushima Tenjin Shrine in Tokyo hosts an annual plum festival from February 8 to March 8, with various events on weekends and holidays. So if you are thinking of visiting Japan in early March, be sure to visit at least one of these famous plum groves.

3. Skiing and Snowboarding

A view of Mount Yotei, Grand Hirafu in Niseko.

Hokkaido is a ski paradise. Foreign tourists who plan on visiting Japan for once-in-a-lifetime ski vacation prefer Hokkaido’s ski resorts than the ones situated on the Hoshu island of Japan. Packed with long ski runs, endless dry powder, backcountry wilderness, remarkable vistas, restaurants and hotels; Niseko Mt. Resort Grand Hirafu is one of the top ski resorts in Japan. Here, you can even learn skiing from the instructors who runs a ski school. It also provides private lessons.

Find the best ski resorts in Hokkaido.

Skiing or snowboarding is one of winter great pleasures. Some people prefer skiing than snowboarding as it depends on each individual. Besides skiing, you will find a lot of areas for snowboarding at one of the ski resorts in Niseko. If skiing and snowboarding seem to you very tough to deal with, then there are other fun winter activities such as snowmobiling, snow rafting, snowshoeing, reindeer sledding and hiking through the tranquil winter forest covered in white powder.

Here you can find some very good ski areas that are located not far from Sapporo City, capital of Hokkaido.

Juhyo, the Snow Monsters on Japan’s Mount Zao are Japan’s unique highlights of winter season. These snow-covered trees can be seen at Zao Onsen Ski Resort in Yamagata prefecture. You can see the snow monsters (juhyo) below when you take the Zao Ropeway. Skiing or snowboarding is another way of enjoying Juhyo in Zao and the best time to do it in February but early March is still a good time to see them.

4. Winter Events & Snow Festivals

Sky lanterns at Tsunan Snow Festival, Niigata. Photo Credit: Niigata Prefecture Tourism Association.

Visiting Japan in March does not only offer you viewing sakura and ume but also some amazing winter events and snow festivals. It’s true that most of Japan’s best snow festivals are held in February every year. Don’t you be disappointed if you miss experiencing them in February as you can feel similar sort of such atmosphere in March as well!

Held in early March in Tsunan city, Niigata Prefecture, Tsunan Snow Festival is arguably the second most popular snow festival in the prefecture, while the Tokamachi Snow Festival holds the number one position. The main highlight of the festival is the 2,000 sky lanterns that are released at night, making the festival romantic for many couples.

When the paper lanterns are released, the night scenery they create in the sky is very pleasant and unique. Why don’t you release some lanterns with the locals at the Tsunan Snow Festival? It will be very much fun!

Besides, you can also enjoy a number of events such as snowboard jump competition, a fun outdoor activity that lets you observe some crazy tricks performed by snowboarders. Whether you are foodie or not just don’t forget to taste some local foods from the food stalls there. It will be rude if you don’t try some.

Nabana-no-Sato Winter Illumination. Photo Credit: cyber0515 at Wikimedia Commons.

If you are thinking of staying 1 week or 2 in March, be sure to explore the Sounkyo Ice Waterfall Festival at Sounkyo Onsen and Tomamu Ice Village at Hoshino Resorts Tomamu. They are supposed to be perfect treats if you have missed visiting the Sapporo Snow Festival and Otaru Snow Light Path Festival in February.

Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination is another spectacular winter event in Japan, attracting a large number of tourists every year from Mid-October to early-May. This winter illumination event takes place at a family-friendly theme park called Nabana no Sato in Kuwana City of Mie Prefecture. The park is considered the largest display of lights in Japan. If you happen to be on a mission for beautiful night photography, this place is where you need to go to.

If you make a stop in Nagoya while heading towards Kyoto from Tokyo in March, be sure to visit Nabana no Sato. You will be super excited at the same lots of new things to discover.

Here you can check out some interesting winter festivals in Japan that are held in March.

5. Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka

Sumo wrestlers during The March Grand Sumo Tournament, Osaka. Photo Credit: BradBeattie at Wikimedia Commons.

Sumo (wrestling) is Japan’s National Sport. Watching a Sumo match at the time of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament will be a great cultural experience for your Japan trip. This grand tournament takes place in Osaka at Edion Arena Osaka.

The Sumo Grand Tournament is held 6 times a year and 1 happens in Osaka. So if you happen to be in Osaka in March, then you should plan on visiting Edion Arena Osaka and enjoy some Sumo matches.

The schedule of the Sumo Tournament can be found here: http://www.sumo.or.jp/En/

In Tokyo, a lot of tourists want to see Sumo Wrestling practice at a Sumo Stable, which is a different thing than watching real Sumo wrestling at the grand tournament.

6. A Late Winter & Early Spring Festival

A large torch is carried along the deck of Nigatsu-do Temple, Todaiji, Nara Park. Photo Credit: musume miyuki at Flickr.

Nara Park is a sacred place in Nara Prefecture featuring hundreds of freely roaming deer, temples, gardens, museums, archeological artifices and Buddha statues. A visit to this park will be an expedition with full of amazing surprises.

One of the oldest traditional festivals of Japan is Omizutori, which is held at Todaiji temple in Nara Park from March 1 to 14. With more than 1200 years of history, this ritual takes place to welcome spring.

Even though the ceremony is held for 2 weeks, the main highlight takes place in the evening of March 12. This is when the ceremony lasts longer. Giant torches are set on fire, and priests run back and forth along the temple’s balcony and worshipers stands under the ashes for good luck. In addition, water drawing ceremony and Dattan ceremony is also performed by priests.

If you think that you want to experience something awe-inspiring, you can’t miss this sort of festival in March in Nara.

7. Strawberry Picking and Eating

These red strawberries are sweet! Photo Credit: Odyssey at Flickr.

Japanese strawberries are sweet and juicy. March is a perfect time to visit a strawberry farm located not far from Tokyo city that can be easily accessed by train and bus. If you like eating strawberries and want to have some fun picking them in a farm, don’t forget to visit a strawberry farm like Yoshimura Strawberry Park, located in Mashiko town, Tochigi Prefecture.

With 6 different strawberry varieties, the farm offers “All you can eat with no time limit” for a specific amount of fee, less than 2000 Yen. Pick and eat and you are not allowed to take the strawberries out of the farm. You can buy some strawberries from a specific area to take home.

One of the best all-you-can-eat strawberry picking spots near Tokyo is Kamakura Kanko Ichigo Farm. It’s located nearer than the first spot mentioned above. This farm is different than the first one offering a 30-minute strawberry picking experience in which you can pick and eat as many strawberries as you like.