Spring is in the air! Most literally. For those who have seasonal allergies, you might be all too familiar with Japan’s infamous hayfever (known as kafunsho 花粉症 ), which leaves residents and visitors alike sniffling and sneezing for a good portion of the early spring months.
The cherry blossom season, which falls in mid to late April in the greater Tokyo-area is one of the most popular times for visitors from abroad to come to Japan as well. But many people are opting to come once the cherry blossom season is over. With Japan’s tourist numbers growing each and every year, it becomes increasingly harder to find places to visit that aren’t over saturated, and hotels and flights can be exorbitant in late April and early May. For the late spring traveler who still wants to see the best of nature that Japan has to offer, we put together a guide for three of our favorite underrated spots. Before we head into tsuyu (梅雨) the rainy season, take a few days and head to one of these breathtaking spots
1. Hachijojima: Your Answer for a Beachy Island Close to Tokyo
Assuming you’ll need to travel to Okinawa in order to see the tropical side of Japan? Think again! Comprising a portion of the Japanese archipelago are several small islands to the southeast of the largest island, Honshu. These islands include Oojima, the closest to Tokyo, and further south, the Ogasawara islands. They are distinct from Japan’s major islands not only in climate but in language and in culture. In particular, the Ogasawara islands have a history of mixing and migration across the Pacific. The Ogasawara islands were said to be settled as many as 2,000 years ago, and periodically deserted. It’s said that in 1830 a group of 5 westerners and 20 Hawai’ians came to call the islands home, and some residents of the island today carry the last names of those first immigrants.
Hachijojima has a wealth of activities to enjoy, from snorkeling and water sports to strolling about the town, where you’ll find neighborhoods that look like a Japan of a slightly different era.
A few popular on island destintions include Mt. Hachijo-Fuji and the islands outdoor onsen hotsprings.
Please note that prices vary by season with August being generally most expensive due to the Obon summer holiday.
Access: a 55 min flight from Haneda Airport or a 10 hour ferry ride from Tokyo
Cost: Roundtrip Airfare 200-250 USD
Roundtrip Ferry: 140 USD+
Official Site: http://www.hachijo.gr.jp/
- .3, May 20th-June 9th
2. Chichibu Tenku Poppy Fields: Flowers Flowers Everywhere!
No, you’re not in Kansas! Or Kansai. This beautiful field of crimson poppies is one of the beautiful natural wonders of Chichibu. Chichibu, found in Saitama prefecture, is a lush oasis, approximately a two hour train ride northwest of Tokyo. Each year, the poppy blossoms arrive in late May, lingering for approximately a month. Taking a short trip out to see these fields is a great opportunity to grab some fresh air and original photos of these little red beauties in their emerald home.
Access: From Shinjuku, approximately 2 hours on the train to Minano Station (Chichibu Rail). From there, ride the shuttle bus for approximately 30 minutes to reach the fields. Roundtrip fare is 500 JPY.
Official Site: https://www.tenku-poppy.jp/access/
3. UNESCO World Heritage Site Shirakami-sanchi, Aomori: Sacred Mountains
Heard of Shinrinyoku (森林浴) ? Sometimes translated as ‘forest bathing,’ shinrinyoku is the practice of escaping into nature for healing. Spending time in a quiet wood, among the trees, with gentle light filtering through the leaves– this is said to be one of the best ways to reset yourself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Anyone in for some healing by nature must make their way north to Shirakami-sanchi.
This area is filled with beautiful spots for hiking and several well known bodies of water. The picture you see here is of Aoike, literally, ‘the blue lake,’ known for its sapphire surface.
An hours distance from both Aomori and the southern part of Akita, Shirakami-sanchi is accessible by plane, and rail. It became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1993 when it was verified that this region contained the last virgin beech forests in Japan, that appeared after the last ice age.
Access: Tokyo to Aomori: Take the Shinkanse to Aomori Station. From Aomori Station to Shirakami Mountains, board the train for 1 hr, followed by bus, also 1 hr.
Official Site: https://www.experience-shirakami.com/