“Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Each season in Japan has distinctive characteristics, different aesthetics, and is wonderful in its own way.”
4th Year, Interdisciplinary Arts Major
What is your favorite season?
I think this is a common question that everyone has heard at least once in their life. I have been asked several times, so I should be used to this question, but every time, I cannot give a clear answer… because I like every season!
Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Each season in Japan has distinctive characteristics, different aesthetics, and is wonderful in its own way. As a Japanese who likes every season, I would like to introduce things to look forward to in each season.
Spring in Japan usually starts in March. When you start to see flower buds, it is a sign that spring is just around the corner. The days are getting warmer little by little, trees and flowers are beginning to bloom, and sometimes a strong wind blows to let everyone know spring has arrived.
It is a famous and common thing, but the first thing to look forward to in spring is the cherry blossoms. We wait a long time for them to bloom, but after it blooms, they will only last about a week or two weeks. This transience is the aesthetic of cherry blossoms. It leaves you a little bit of sadness, but a shower of cherry blossoms gives us a beautiful dream-like feeling. 舞鶴城 (Maizuru-jo, Maizuru castle) is a good place to go see cherry blossoms. It is only a few minutes’ walk from Kofu Station, so you can go there to see cherry blossoms easily.
Also, spring has nice weather to have a walk or picnic. Spring brings back colors to the world that have been colorless during winter. Flowers bloom, leaves come back, and everything seems full of energy (maybe it’s because spring is the season of a new start). It is nice to have a walk and explore near Kofu Station especially if you are new to Yamanashi or Japan.
According to the calendar, summer is from June to August, but it starts around June and lasts until early September. Before summer starts, there is a rainy season called 梅雨 (Tsuyu). During the rainy season, it will be cloudy or raining most of the time for a month. It doesn’t sound fun, and actually, it makes me feel blue sometimes, but there is a good thing too. It is the hydrangea near Kofu Station. I found them while I was heading to the public library. Their beautiful green leaves and flowers with vivid colors give a bright feeling to the cloudy rainy season.
After the rainy season, the temperature jumps, and summer starts. You might start missing other seasons since Japan’s summer is very humid and hot. Especially in Kofu, because of its geographical characteristics, the temperature will rise to about 38℃ (100℉). It is really hot and makes you feel like staying in your room for the whole day.
The food you might want to check out is ほうとう (Houtou noodles), a traditional dish in Yamanashi. Usually, it is served with hot pot, but during the Summer, they have おざら (Ozara), Houtou noodle served with cold soup. If Ozara is only for summer, then why don’t you give it a try?
Autumn is from the middle of September to November. There will be fewer hot days, and the temperature will lower slowly. At beginning of the autumn, it is hot during the daytime, but the temperature falls during the morning and night. I like to keep my window a little bit open, let cold air come in, enjoy the moon, and read some books before I go to bed. We can see the moon in any season, but because we have 十五夜 (Jugo-ya), the day to enjoy the moon-viewing and thank for the good harvest in September, I tend to enjoy the moon more during autumn.
Japanese culture has different terms for enjoying autumn such as 読書の秋 (Dokusho-no-Aki, Autumn of the Books/Reading), 食欲の秋 (Shokuyoku-no-Aki, Autumn of the Foods), 芸術の秋 (Geijutsu-no-Aki, Autumn of the Arts). Since autumn has a good temperature and is comfortable, autumn is said to be a great season for reading, foods, arts, and/or other things. What I do is pick one and enjoy it throughout the autumn. I often choose Autumn of Foods to make an excuse for eating a lot of delicious food.
Also, you don’t want to miss colored leaves. 紅葉狩り (Momiji-gari) is a term for going to see colored leaves, and it is a popular activity in Japan. 昇仙峡 (Shosenkyo), a gorge in the northern part of Kofu is a great place to visit. It is beautiful throughout the year, but I would recommend going during autumn especially when leaves changed their color.
Winter starts around December and lasts until February. The days are getting cold, and the air gets crisp. For me, the first thing to do during winter is to wait for snow. Yamanashi does not snow often, so every time when the weather forecast says it snowed in a place where it rarely snows, I will be excited that Yamanashi might have snow as well. Small excitement that I have when I’m wondering if it will snow or not is a kind of fun thing to do in the winter. It will be even better when it actually snows though.
The thing you should really look forward to during the winter is Mt. Fuji with snow on its top. Starting from summer, Mt. Fuji loses its snow on the top because the snow melts. When the days get cold, slowly, Mt. Fuji will start to get snow back on its top. It gives me the feeling of “Finally, Mr. Fuji is back”. Mt. Fuji without snow is magnificent too, but still, I prefer Mt. Fuji with snow simply because it’s more familiar.
These are based on my preference so ideas are limited, but there are many more things to look forward to in each season. I hope these ideas will help you to maximize your experience in Japan.
Nanaho is a 4th-year iCLA student majoring in Interdisciplinary Arts with a focus on Literature. She is from Japan, but started studying English at a young age. Outside of studying, Nanaho loves to read books, listen to music, and travel. Her main academic interest is Literature, but also has a great interest in Political Science. Nanaho is also an iCLA Student Ambassador.