The arrival of spring is one of the most exciting times in Japan. This time of year marks the beginning of cherry blossom season, which is popular among Japanese people and tourists. The mild weather makes it a perfect time to get out and explore most areas of the country without needing to bundle up. Here are some of the best things to do in Japan in March.
Weather in Japan in March
After months of cooler temperatures, the start of spring brings better weather in most areas of Japan. The average temperature high is around 10°C (50°F), but the days seem to get warmer every year. In the Yokohama area near Tokyo, for example, we’ve seen a lot of sunny days where the temps reach 20°C in late March lately, so don’t be surprised if it feels like summer!
Average temps in March (thanks, Live Japan!):
- Sapporo, Hokkaido – 1°C/34°F
- Sendai – 5.2°C/41°F
- Tokyo – 9.5°C/49°F
- Osaka – 9.6°C/49°F
- Hiroshima – 9.2°C/49°F
- Fukuoka – 10.6°C/51°F
- Naha, Okinawa – 19°C/66°F
The most important thing you can do is keep track of the weather conditions in the area you plan to visit. Hokkaido\’s chilly fresh spring climate is very different from the sea temperature in Okinawa. Despite warmer temperatures, some areas will see days of rain so it’s a good idea to carry an umbrella.
As you can see, the maximum temperature can vary greatly from one prefecture to the next, so don’t get caught off guard!
March Events in Japan
Japan is a great place to welcome spring. You’ll find many opportunities to enjoy nature and learn more about Japanese culture. March is a good month to visit Japan before the rainy season and hot summer months.
Related: Best Things to Do in Japan in April
Often called Dolls Day or Girls Day, Hinamatsuri is celebrated each year across Japan. Starting in mid-February, you’ll start to see stores selling the traditional dolls and setting associated with this holiday. Girls are given a set of ornamental dolls, to represent the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians, to commemorate the annual occasion. They are displayed with the male and female dolls seated in a representation of a Heian period wedding.
Typically, families observe this holiday quietly at home, but some shrines and temples hold beautiful events. For example, Shimogama Jinja in Kyoto allows people (for a fee) to participate in the ancient custom of setting paper dolls adrift on the river. Check your local area for similar celebrations!
Date: March 3
Learn more: Hinamatsuri (JRailPass)
Jindaiji Temple Daruma Doll Fair
Many people have seen Daruma dolls but don’t know what they’re for. While some use them simply as decoration or for fun (which has been amplified by Buddhist temples selling them as souvenirs), these round, hollow traditional Japanese dolls have a deeper meaning. They are considered a talisman for good luck and perseverance.
Both eyes are blank when you buy one. When you make a wish, you can paint the left eye with ink. When you achieve your goal, fill in the right eye! I’ve loved having Daruma dolls for many years so I was very excited to learn about the Jindaiji Daruma Festival, which is one of the largest in Japan. While they are normally red, you can find them in many different colors!
Date: March 3 & 4
Learn more: Jindaiji Temple Daruma Festival
The Tokyo Marathon is an annual event that takes runners on a breathtaking course through the capital of Japan. It is a World Athletics Platinum Label marathon and one of the six World Marathon Majors, so it\’s always exciting for both participants and spectators.
Date: Early March
Learn more: Tokyo Marathon
St. Patrick’s Day Parade
You might be surprised to learn that Japan has super fun St. Patrick\’s Day celebrations across the country. They\’re nowhere near as large as the ones in Western countries, but they are still fun.
We recently attended the one in Tokyo and had a fantastic time. The warmer weather was perfect! Each area has its own parade, so be sure to check your local listings for information.
Did you know that Valentine’s Day is quite different in Japan? February 14th is a day for women to confess their feelings (this confession is called “kokuhaku” in Japan) and give chocolate to their crush (or spouse!). Exactly one month later, on March 14th, men return gifts to women and respond to the love confession. It’s pretty cute!
All of the stores push the holiday and offer a wide variety of sweets, treats, and activities. My local grocery store had a board up where you could write your feelings on a paper heart and stick them on the wall for all to see. It was fun! We’ve also noticed that many have included signage that depicts same-sex couples as well. Inclusivity is a good thing.
Date: March 14
Sumo Spring Basho
Sumo is Japan’s national sport. Chances are, you’ve seen some version of this form of wrestling as it extended beyond the country’s borders and entered popular culture. You’ll recognize it instantly by the loincloth (mawashi) the wrestlers are wearing. Some people say it looks like thong underwear!
Interested in sumo? Japan’s grand tournaments are held six times a year and the Spring (Haru) Basho takes place at the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium. The event is held in mid to late March and is a great opportunity to have fun and also experience Japanese culture.
Date: mid to late March
Learn more: Nihon Sumo Kyokai Official Website
Golden Dragon Dance
When planning a trip to Tokyo, one of the most popular destinations is Asakusa. In fact, the area is popular with locals too! It’s the site of the famous Buddhist temple, Senso-ji, which was relatively calm until recently. The tourists are definitely back!
You can enjoy the Golden Dragon Dance every year. The dragon is massive — it’s 18 meters long and weighs 88 kilos. It’s no surprise that it takes eight people to move it! The parade moves down through Nakamise Street and Senso-ji temple and it’s a spectacular experience!
Date: March 18
Learn more: Golden Dragon Dance
Yudate no Shishimai Festival
Hakone is one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever visited. It’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and be immersed in nature. Maybe that’s why it’s such one of Kanto’s most popular hot springs destinations.
While you’re soaking your worries away, why not check out Yudate no Shishimai (lion dance) which is held in late March? A person dressed as a lion performs this traditional dance and sprinkles hot water from a cauldron to wish people good health.
Date: March 27
Cherry Blossom Festivals
The end of March and early April are among the busiest times of year in Japan because people come from all over the world to see the sakura bloom. For the most part, you don’t have to go anywhere special to enjoy the cherry blossoms — walk along the river in most Japanese neighborhoods and you’ll see them. It’s one of my favorite outdoor activities in spring!
There are, however, cherry blossom festivals and special events in major cities where you can have the best time! Here are a few ideas for big cities and historic landmarks:
- Mount Fuji — Best viewing is usually in early to mid-April, but the area is already absolutely beautiful by late March. You can even book a day tour!
- Yoyogi Park (Tokyo) — This is one of the most popular places for cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo as its home to over 700 cherry blossom trees. Want more ideas for the Tokyo area? Click here!
- Osaka Castle Park (Osaka) — You’ll be dazzled by the incredible 3,000 cherry trees and the annual light-up event at Osaka Castle! Want more ideas for the Osaka area? Click here!
- Nijo Castle Sakura Festival (Kyoto) — You\’ll be blown away by the display and tea ceremony at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Learn more.
- Kiyomizu-dera Spring Illuminations (Kyoto) — At night, the temple, pagoda, and Jojuin Garden will light up the sky. (Learn more).
This year, we’re seeing a lot of early-blooming cherry blossom trees across the country. If you’ve got a strict itinerary and have your heart set on seeing the cherry blossoms in full bloom, now would be a good time to check the schedule in the area you plan to visit.