⛩I know. A trip to the grocery store is about as much of a vacation as anyone is getting right now. But while we’re waiting for it to be safe and fun to travel again, wouldn’t you like to think about when’s the best time to take that trip to Japan you were looking forward to for so long?
The good news is, missing the cherry blossoms might just be a golden opportunity to experience some of the secretly undiscovered stuff that nobody has seen yet (but will want to, after they see your killer pix!) Travel planners are so obsessed with sending people to see the pink things, they overlook countless other fantastic Japan experiences that happen at other times of year, without the crowds. Just for starters…
Here are twenty-six reasons that’ll make you’ll be happy you missed the cherry blossoms
Setagaya Boroichi, , happens every year on January 15-16. This market is so vast, it takes a whole day to walk through it, and you can buy everything from vintage kimonos to a home shrine to antique wooden sweets molds, for bargain prices the mother of all Japanese flea markets
is like no car show you’ve ever seen, anywhere in the world Tokyo Auto Salon
There aren’t any flowers blooming yet in January, but for sheer eye-candy extravaganza, you can’t beat the that bloom after dark in January winter illuminations
The cloth dyeing district of Tokyo sponsors a great event called Some-no-komichi in February, where miles of canals are festooned with lengths of gorgeous kimono cloth
These aren’t cherry blossoms! These fragrant bloom gloriously in February. See all the crowds? Me neither. plum trees
Girls’ Day is March 3rd, and the Hina Matsuri are epic doll displays
If you come before The Official Season, you can see the like these, at Shinjuku Gyō-en. Still amazing, but no crowds, just sayin’ early blooming cherries
The best-kept secret in Tokyo is that there’s a FREE amateur sumo tournament at the Yasukuni Shrine every April, and there’s nothing better than watching kids (from nipper-sized to the big kahunas) compete in the shrine’s outdoor amphitheater
If you thought cherry blossoms would knock your socks off, you haven’t seen the . They bloom in awesome gardens all over Tokyo after the cherry blossoms are history azaleas
The Sanja Matsuri festival in Asakusa (mid-May) is the biggest, rowdiest three-day extravaganza you’ll see in Tokyo all year. An endless number of portable shrines are paraded through the streets, with each team trying to outdo the next
If you didn’t think that could ever rival the cherry blossoms, think again. This is wisteria one plant
Read on: More reasons to come to Japan in MAY
Is there anything nicer than a beer garden at the top of a mountain in summertime, looking out over the lights of Tokyo?
June is when the famous bloom, and you can still go see the places that were featured in famous woodblock prints! Japanese iris gardens
Read on: More reasons to come to Japan in JUNE
Lanterns float across the Shinobazu pond during the toro nagashi ceremony in July
Lotus-spotting is the best flower sport of July, with the sacred blooms as big as dinner plates opening fresh every morning in all the gardens
Summer means in Japan, and there are incredible shows nearly every weekend in August, at which they shoot off over 35,000 “fire flowers.” You’ve never seen colors and combinations like these, and it’s also a great chance to see both men and women dressed up in summer kimonos fireworks
You’ve never experienced the serenity of a until you’ve strolled through one in the summertime, and sipped a bowl of green tea at the teahouse Japanese garden
Always wanted to walk through an enchanted forest? These native red amaryllis known as higanbana bloom for miles and miles, in mindboggling profusion, at this preserve near Tokyo, for a few days right around the autumn solstice
The serves up all the choice cat cosplays you can imagine Bakeneko Crazy Cat parade
At the festival of 10,000 lanterns, three thousand people dance and parade through the streets, bearing lit-up, flower-garlanded pagodas Oeshiki Ikegami
? Yes, please! You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a Japanese garden blazing with fall color Autumn leaves
Where else can you pedal an exercise bike and light up a piece of art? The turns the entire waterfront into an interactive gallery for three days Yokohama Smart Illumination
Yep, they’re A Thing in November. Bonsai chrysanthemums.
The New Year’s Eve begins at midnight. If you’re not there, you’ll have REGRETS fox parade
Lights, music, animation! don’t get any better than the incredible displays they put in in Tokyo in December Holiday illuminations
And just a personal note: I hope you’ll consider coming to Japan sometime other than cherry blossom season. Not only do I tell my friends that I’d rather take them to see things that are so much more interesting than the cherry blossoms, there are lots of fabulous restaurants and other businesses dependent on tourism that are going to be hit devastatingly hard by this virus shutdown. If you come back sooner then next cherry blossom season, I guarantee you’ll be welcomed with open arms and much gratitude, just for coming to enjoy the most amazing country on earth.
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
For three hundred years, a missing tea bowl passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it… read more
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.”
Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine , and blogs at Japanagram and Only In Japan The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had
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