Traditional & cultural experiences in Japan by season

Traditional & cultural experiences in Japan by season

Here at JNTO Sydney office, we’re lucky enough to get to meet and hear from many Australian and New Zealander travellers through our work. That means we’re also well aware that Aussie and Kiwi travellers aren’t necessarily the same :). With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of Traditional & Cultural Experiences in Japan, by season, with our Kiwi friends in mind (we’ve based our picks on survey data we’ve collected from New Zealanders regarding travel to Japan.).

Our survey data showed that New Zealanders were especially interested in traditional and historical Japanese cultural experiences. Coupled with the distinctive climate of Japan’s four seasons (opposite of those in New Zealand), Japan is a great destination for a pleasant climate and cultural change. Check out our list dedicated to Kiwi travellers. Enjoy!

Spring | Summer | Autumn | Winter | Japan Events Near You

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Hinamatsuri aka Girl’s Day

Hinamatsuri is celebrated on March 3rd to pray for the happiness and healthy upbringing of girls. Families with young daughters display a special set of ornamental dolls inside the house and offer rice crackers and other foods to the dolls. Boy’s Day, or Kodomo no Hi is celebrated on May the 5th.

A view worthy of a Lord

In spring, these culturally, historically and aesthetically beautiful castles become even more captivating.  Many castles throughout Japan are circled with remarkable sakura (cherry blossoms) trees; the phenomenal contrast of the bold architecture and the dynamic sea of soft pink is absolutely breathtaking.

Traditional tea time

Sakura (cherry blossoms) are enjoyed not only for their its beauty, but also for their its scent and flavour in the form of Japanese sweets, or wagashi. Known for their exquisite shapes and delicate sweetness, wagashi they can be purchased throughout Japan.

Tip: Try them at a Japanese tea house with a bowl of matcha green tea for a truly traditional experience.

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Local festive fever

While Japan has a courteous and reserved culture, when in comes to festivals, they go all out to celebrate in traditional fashion.  From small local ones with lines of exciting food and activity stalls to more larger ones with thousands of dancers and chanters, the summer festivals here all buzz with exuberant energy. Some famous festivals include the Nebuta (colourful light float parade in Aomori) and Awaodori (traditional group dances in Tokushima).

Shrines that shine

Japan is famous for its long history and beautiful fireworks. While there are hundreds of festivals across Japan, at the Miyajima Water Fireworks, the iconic O-torii Gate is silhouetted by the grand firework displays.
Tips: For a true cultural experience, wear a yukata (casual summer kimono) and enjoy the show like the locals.

Festival street foods

Stalls at the festivals will be selling some inexpensive hot foods that can be enjoyed while walking around. Some popular dishes include okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes with a variety of ingredients such as cabbage, meats and seafood) and takoyaki (ball-shaped snacks with octopus).

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Ride through centuries

Jinrikisha, or pulled rickshaws can be found in some tourist locations across Japan. Come in autumn and the rickshaw operators will guide you around some of the most amazing spots to appreciate the bright-red leaves that extend throughout the traditional and modern scenes of Japan today.

The many faces of beauty

Depending on the season in Japan, the same place will look completely different. Take Kyoto’s Kiyomizu temple for example. The bright yellow-red foliage enhance the sacred architecture during autumn. Often, at night, many attractions have spectacular illumination exhibitions so that you can enjoy beauty that’s quite different from daytime.

Attention all foodies

Autumn is also the ‘Season of a Healthy Appetite’ as it is crop harvesting season, and eating in-season foods is a big part of the culture.  Some foods in season include fish with superb amounts of healthy fats such as salmon and saury. Seasonal fruits include apple and persimmons; fruit-picking tours are popular and available throughout Japan.

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New Year’s shrine visit – Hatsumode

If you’re in Japan during New Year, join the local crowds for hatsumode– the first visit to a shrine or temple for the year. Generally, wishes for the New Year are made and new omamori charms are purchased to provide various forms of luck and protection.

Snow & traditional culture

New Zealand has its share of snow, but coupling it with the extraordinary traditional Japanese architecture creates a different vibe. The farmhouses in Shirakawa-go in Gifu prefecture have steep roofs to withstand the huge amounts of heavy snow. This UNESCO world heritage site is a must-see village!

Everyone, huddle over and warm up!

Winter in Japan can get pretty chilly, and at dinner, the Japanese often circle around delicious nabe hot pots to keep themselves warm. While it’s generally a dish for home, it can also be enjoyed at restaurants as well.

Tips: The locals finish the flavourful leftover soup by adding rice or noodles as a last course for the meal.

Upcoming Japan events for New Zealand

Save the date for Canterbury Japan Day in Christchurch!

Come and join our festival with a ‘winter in Japan’ theme. From delicious food stalls to exciting performances, there are plenty of ways to experience Japanese culture!

Date: Sunday 6 March 2016
Time: 10:00 – 17:00
Venue: Riccarton Park, 165 Racecourse Road, Upper Riccarton, Christchurch

Visit the Japanese Society of Canterbury’s Facebook page or the official event website for more information.


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