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Cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji in spring at sunrise in Shizuoka.
Cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji in spring at sunrise in Shizuoka. Image: tawatchaiprakobkit/iStock
travel japan by the stars

Use your star sign as a guide to step into Japan's cherry blossom season in 2024

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By Jessica Sayuri Boissy

This year’s vernal equinox falls on March 20, commencing the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the start of the astrological new year with the sun’s ingress into Aries ― the first of the 12 zodiac signs.

Marking a moment where daylight and darkness are in equal measure, the gentle scent and exuberant sight of cherry blossoms set against a brilliant blue sky are tell-tale signs that waxing days of sunlight are upon us.

Before finding ourselves on this precipice of change, however, we must paddle through the nebulous waters of Pisces season (Feb. 19 to Mar. 20), whose co-rulership falls under enlightening Jupiter and illusory Neptune. This entails deceivingly cold days of distorted reality when bright-colored plum blossoms beckon us to abandon our coats at home — despite being in the gray grip of winter’s passage.

In actuality, the guise of spring having arrived in full force is a subtle reminder of the Piscean-like Japanese motto mono no aware: the art of impermanence of all transient things.

Whether waving goodbye to the gently melting snow or welcoming nature’s awakening from its winter slumber, these transitional weeks reflect new beginnings that come with the annual promise of light overcoming darkness ― a solar principle pioneered by the zodiacal leader, Aries.

This monthly travel series is sprinkled with astrological insights ― from your sun and rising sign ― to personalize travel destinations across Japan alongside the zodiac constellations and their ruling planets.

1. Aries (Mar. 20-Apr. 20): Ryogoku Spring Grand Sumo Tournament

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There is a sumo statue at Ryogoku station, the nearest station to Ryogoku Kokugikan, which is famous for sumo matches. Image: Taiki Kawasaki/iStock

Like rams going head to head, the sight of rikishi (professional sumo wrestlers) battling for a win inside the dohyo (sumo ring) is an adrenaline-pumping experience for athletes and spectators alike.

Under rulership of swift and sharp Mars, Arians possess a primal “need for speed” ― to quote the maverick fighter pilot in the testosterone-filled Top Gun. Similarly, the Haru Basho (Spring Grand Sumo Tournament) is not only where the top dog of the dohyo is crowned, but a high-ranked combatant may snag yokozuna (grand champion) status.

Held from March 10 to 24 at Edion Arena Osaka, this 15-day match ― one of six annual honbasho, or tournaments, is the year’s second competition following the Hatsu (New Year) Basho at Tokyo’s famed Ryogoku Kokugikan in January. See bare-chested sumo heavyweights thrusting their opponents with open palms while raucous fans scream support from their seats or hurl zabuton (cushions) when a favorite loses. ​​

The raw enthusiasm for Japan’s national sport, from the stands to the sumo ring, will pump up the passionate Aries! So get in on the action and chant: “Dosukoi!”

2. Taurus (Apr. 21-May 21): Sakura Fes Nihonbashi

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Somei-Yoshino cherry blossoms in full bloom forming a tunnel over one of the streets in Nihonbashi, Tokyo's business district. Image: magicflute002/iStock

From ancient Egypt’s devout deity worship of Apis to legends of the golden calf in the Exodus, the bull has long been regarded as a sacred animal of fertility. It was believed to provide fertile land, producing plentiful crops and economic prosperity.

The same symbolism is attributed to Taurus, the sign where Venus ― the luxury-loving goddess governing wealth ― calls her planetary home. The Moon ― the luminary associated with the Part of Fortune ― is welcomed as an honored guest.

Taureans need to look no further than Nihonbashi, the financial district housing the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the Bank of Japan, to get a taste of the “Charging Bull” cloaked in cherry blossoms come springtime. Held annually from mid-March to early April, Sakura Fes Nihonbashi is where historical landmarks (known as Japan’s “Wall Street”) get a pretty-in-pink makeover with cherry blossom-themed art installations, illuminations and pop-up food stalls.

Catch sight of around 170 Somei-Yoshino cherry trees in full bloom along the namesake street, Edo Sakura-dori, while savoring seasonal treats during hanami (flower-viewing) season.

Then at nightfall, Taureans can marvel at immersive art illuminations that set office buildings and shopping malls, including the Mitsui Building and Coredo Muromachi, alight with a shimmering sakura backdrop.

3. Gemini (May 22-June 22): Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

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Kitano Tenmangu plum garden. Image: GaijinPot Travel

Merchants, mercantile transactions and marketplaces all fall under Mercury’s domain.

That’s because the winged messenger is a jack of all trades. Ever-omnipresent at commercial hubs where bustling exchanges take place (think Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar or New York’s Wall Street), and the communication gap between customers and vendors is bridged ― not unlike the gap bridged by our brain and neural pathways in speech.

Bestowed with the gift of gab, Geminis will be in their element at the lively flea market held on the 25th of each month at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto. Dedicated to the deity of learning, Sugawara no Michizane (845-903) ― another nod to Mercury’s mental faculties, who rules the celestial twin ― the premises come alive with about 50 varieties of plum blossoms from early February to late March.

Among the 1,500 plum trees ― a personal favorite of the deified Heian scholar and poet ― Geminians will spot swarms of students twinning in prayer positions during entrance exam season in winter. Aside from petitioning for academic success, the twins can place their faith in finding treasure at the shrine’s flea market, affectionately coined Tejin-san by locals.

From stalls selling antiques to second-hand kimono, the monthly market will be a mecca for great fun and great finds to add to the Gemini’s cabinet of curiosities.

4. Cancer (June 23-July 22): Ueno Park Cherry Blossom Festival

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One of Tokyo's most popular cherry blossom festivals features thousands of cherry trees in full bloom, along with food stalls, traditional performances, and swan boat rentals on Shinobazu Pond. Image: GaijinPot Travel

Ever the family-oriented water sign ― the element most associated with connectivity and emotional connections ― Cancerians relish any opportunity to spend time with their tight-knit tribe. In other words: the hard-shelled crustacean has a soft spot for kinship, whether between one’s biological bonds or chosen family.

Come spring, Tokyo’s Ueno Park is the perfect venue to pack a bento lunch box and partake in the Japanese pastime of hanami under pale-pink cherry trees. As the planetary abode of two planets conducive to life ― the nurturing, nocturnal moon bestowed rulership and seed-sowing Jupiter as its exalted guest ― the season most synonymous with life’s awakening is exponentially more fun when you bring the fam!

The Ueno Cherry Blossom Festival, a much-anticipated annual tradition from mid-March to early April, sees the premises transformed with nearly 800 blossoming Somei-Yoshino trees illuminated with hundreds of hanging bonbori (paper covered lanterns) and lively hanami-goers partaking in the seasonal pairing of sake and sakura. There’ll also be plenty of food stalls to satisfy the stomachs of Cancers, a sign known for providing and prizing creature comforts.

After getting the “crabby” crew together, swap your picnic blanket for a waterproof blue tarpaulin and savor this fleeting moment of ephemeral beauty ― much like the moon’s ever-changing phases ― while seated under the pale blooms.

5. Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): Nikko Toshogu Shrine

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Nikko Toshogu Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, features elaborate dragon carvings on its buildings, including the Yomeimon Gate and the Shinkyusha Sacred Stable. Image: GaijinPot Travel

February’s new moon in Aquarius ushered in the start of a new Chinese zodiac sign at the Lunar New Year. It was a changing of the guard involving the swift-footed rabbit replaced by the divine dragon.

Call it coincidence or fate, the mythical creature in Chinese folklore and the “king of the beasts” in the 12 astrological signs are both fifth in line among their respective pantheon. Plus, the auspicious dragon and light-shining Leo boast shared symbolisms of strength, prosperity and imperial power.

Hence, the rationale behind this month’s travel pick for Leonians being the Baroque-like Nikko Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture. This architecturally elaborate sanctuary ― lavishly decorated with gold leaf and wood carvings featuring all manner of beasts ― is also home to the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), the famed feudal warlord who was enshrined following his death.

Leo’s correspondence with the Strength card in the tarot’s major arcana is equally fitting for this shogun who seized power across Japan during the 17th century.

So don’t be fooled by shrine-goers swarming around the Sanzaru (Three Wise Monkeys)! There are serpentine pillars and grand imagery of dragons galore, including the gigantic Nakiryu (Crying Dragon) soaring on the panel-lined ceiling of Yakushi-do Temple within the precinct.

6. Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Mount Yoshino

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Mount Yoshino at twilight during the spring. Image: SeanPavonePhoto/iStock

If you’re a Virgo, has the thought of heading to the mountains to renounce the material world ever crossed your mind?

Although ruled by multitasking Mercury, this winged maiden is a mutable (aka double-bodied) earth sign who generally has her feet on the ground ― as opposed to soaring the high skies like airy Gemini, the other mercurial sign governed by the winged messenger.

Thus, mindfulness and meditation for the practical, productive yet anxiety-prone Virgo may just be what the naturopath ordered.

Mount Yoshino in Nara Prefecture is the perfect natural remedy for Virgoans to get away from the demands of the physical plane. This sacred summit has been a spiritual mecca beckoning shugendo (mountain asceticism) practitioners, spiritual seekers and pilgrims from ancient times to the present day. Comprising a series of pilgrimage routes, this relatively remote location secured UNESCO World Heritage status in 2004 ― cementing its reputation not only among ascetics here but also across the globe.

So take some deep belly breaths ― a nod to the sign’s anatomical rulership over the abdomen ― and sink into serenity with Mother Nature.

7. Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Hotel Gajoen Tokyo: Hyakudan Hina Matsuri 2024

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The Hyakudan Hina Matsuri, also known as the "100 Steps Hina Doll Festival," typically takes place at the Hotel Gajoen Tokyo in Meguro. Image: GaijinPot Travel

Literary masterpieces and poetic prose flourished during the peaceful Heian period (794-1185). This era spanning roughly 390 years literally translates to “peace and tranquility.”

Librans, “the great equalizer” whose glyph depicts balancing scales, are well aware that lofty ideals of peace and justice are not simply ethical pillars of civil society. Rather, this sociable air sign is convinced these principles contribute to the aesthetic backdrop of intellectual pursuits and cultural refinement ― Venusian values of diplomacy intertwining with the finesse of fine art.

The historic Hotel Gajoen Tokyo in Meguro Ward is one such venue where Librans can revel in the refinements of Hina dolls dressed like court nobles from Jan. 20 to March 10. This custom of displaying opulent emperor and empress dolls, or hina, dates back to Heian times and marks the annual celebration of Hina Matsuri (Girls’ Day) on March 3.

As advocates of equality, Librans know you don’t need to be female to partake in the seasonal fun at this year’s Hyakudan-Hina Matsuri event. Each room in the hyakudan kaidan (100-step staircase) will elicit “oohs” and “aahs” as 1,300 diminutive dolls donning kimono showcase various classical periods and prefectural variations.

8. Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22): Tagata Shrine's Honen Festival

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Located east of Kyoto in central Chubu, Aichi has long flourished as an important center of trade and manufacturing in Japan. Image: GaijinPot Travel

Synonymous with fertility, vitality and rebirth, spring has long been celebrated as a season of sexual awakening by monotheists and pagans alike.

One particularly sultry zodiac sign is already “in the know” about the subterranean powers of sexuality, harnessing its transformative energy as a creative force.

Look no further than the glyph for Scorpio and its traditional planetary ruler, Mars, to see the blatantly phallic symbolism. Yes, I’m referring to the upward-pointing arrow acting as an emblem of manhood. There’s no innuendo with Scorpios, known for cutting to the chase and getting straight to the down-and-dirty point.

Once a year, Tagata Shrine in Aichi Prefecture’s Komaki City exhibits this scorpionic ethos with private parts ― anatomically associated with Scorpio ― paraded out in the open! A slab of hinoki (Japanese cypress) carved into a two-meter-long phallus is the pinnacle of the parade procession during the Honen (fertility) Festival held annually on March 15.

With the water signs being the most fertile among the zodiac bunch, this is especially fitting for Scorpios who don’t bat an eye to taboo topics ― be it sizzling, steamy or seedy acts done behind closed doors.

However, be forewarned: this lively festival may not be ideal for shrinking violets!

9. Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): Philosopher's Path

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Philosopher's Path in Kyoto during springtime. Image: SeanPavonePhoto/iStock

“Optimist” and “idealist” are adjectives commonly attached to Sagittarians, a sign susceptible to becoming naive Pollyannas at the best and worst of times.

But don’t downplay their jolly demeanor! Under the expansive influence of Jupiter, Sagittarius has the mental capacity to see beyond the rose-colored veil and philosophize about the nature of reality. Better yet, the centaur can pontificate about its philosophy of “living the good life” along the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto.

This scenic pathway in the Higashiyama district is bursting with cherry blossoms along the sakura-lined canal come spring. Beyond a breath of fresh air, the contemplative centaur can connect to something bigger than the self ― spiritual and philosophical pursuits prompted by high-minded Jupiter ― while strolling this well-trod footpath.

In fact, it was a favorite spot for meditative walks among Japanese intellectuals, scholars and  philosophers — most notably Kitaro Nishida (1870-1945).

Gain freedom ― another Jupitarian principle ― from your thoughts through this stress-busting, mood-boosting mindful walk amidst the ephemeral beauty of cherry blossoms.

10. Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 21): Sagano Romantic Train

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The Sagano Romantic Train route passes through the countryside, including cherry blossom-filled areas. Open-air carriages provide views of lush forests, mountains, and the Hozugawa River. Image: GaijinPot Travel

All work and no play makes Capricorn a dull sign. That’s because under the rule of restrictive Saturn, the serious sea-goat can easily forgo fun for the call of duty.

Instead, why not answer to the call of nature? After all, Capricorn is a sign operating in the realm of earthly experiences, which encompass the physical, practical and material world.

Aboard the Sagano Romantic Train, Capricorns will still ascend to new heights ― just not the heights of power and prestige hungered by the hardest-working sign in the zodiac.

Located next to JR Saga-Arashiyama station, this retro red torokko ressha (trolley train) departs from Saga Torokko station in Kyoto’s scenic Arashiyama district. After marveling at the massive collection of model trains inside the station, Capricorns won’t have to completely abandon their stoic mindset while riding an old-fashioned trolley reminiscent of the little engine that could.

A stickler for punctuality and time ― a nod to Saturn’s Greek name, Kronos, where the etymology for “chronology” is derived ― Capricorns will feel relieved that the sightseeing route spans 25 minutes to Kameoka Torokko station, the final stop after the open-air trolley courses along the Hozukyo Gorge.

Not a second is wasted with the sea-goat, who has likely already reserved tickets in advance online knowing spring is peak travel season.

11. Aquarius (Jan. 22-Feb. 20): Sumida Park

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Completed in 2011 at a height of 634 meters, Tokyo Skytree is the biggest tower in the world and a dominant feature of the Tokyo skyline. Image: GaijinPot Travel

Never one to follow the crowd, Aquarians may cringe at the thought of shuffling alongside throngs of visitors to ascend the Tokyo Skytree: the world’s tallest broadcasting tower in Sumida Ward.

That’s because the water bearer is traditionally ruled by Saturn, the furthest of the seven visible planets, whose modus operandi is setting boundaries and limitations. So what is a saturnine air sign to do?

Why, head to Sumida Park, of course! Only a few minutes on foot from Asakusa station, this riverside park offers the best view of the slick, neo-futuristic architectural feat from afar. Come springtime, the Sumida River Terrace ― a paved promenade spanning about 28 kilometers ― is bursting with the country’s iconic blossoms from Somei-Yoshino cherry trees lining the path to the public park.

While iconic is fine, Aquarians want innovation. For all the talk of Saturn’s constricting and restricting force, Aquarius has a bone to pick with rules that restrict personal freedom ― acting as an agent provocateur under modern rulership of revolutionary Uranus, the Greek sky god. And as an air sign, Aquarians are brimming with innovative ideas ― no different from their overflowing water jug ― that seem to appear out of the ether.

All this is to say that Sumida Park is the perfect backdrop to objectively admire some 510 cherry trees blooming during sakura season with the Tokyo Skytree: a forward-looking emblem that embraces the Aquarian archetype for advancement.

12. Pisces (Feb. 21-Mar. 19): Chidorigafuchi Moat

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Chidorigafuchi Park during the spring season in Tokyo, Japan. Image: f11photo/iStock

Pisceans are starry-eyed romantics whose imagination conjures tales of undying love that stand as a metaphor for a deep sea of secrets, to paraphrase Rose in Titanic.

This Piscean penchant for romanticism ― mirroring TikTok’s “main character” trend ― comes from Venus, who governs the forces of attraction and repulsion, being exalted in this mutable sign that exhibits Yin-Yang polarities. Moreover, Pisces gets its spiritual street cred under joint rulership of Jupiter and Neptune ― visionary planets comparable to a cosmic ocean ― that make up the opposing philosophies of “love and loss.”

While Pisceans are undoubtedly dreamers, they simultaneously sense sentimentality and sorrow in impermanence, be it the cycle of life to love. So why not ponder this Japanese principle of mono no aware around a moat surrounded by petals imbued with ephemeral beauty?

Chidorigafuchi, a moat northwest of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, becomes awash in a fantastical ambiance come spring, when the 700-meter-long greenway transforms into a canopy of cherry blossoms. But this spellbinding season is heartbreakingly brief, spanning a two-week period from late March to early April when LED fixtures exponentially magnify the allure factor after dark.

While admiring the mankai (full bloom) blossoms, Pisceans can muse on the fleeting nature of life in a world obsessed with permanence, as the symbolic petals bestow the unsung teachings of beauty and decay.

Jessica Sayuri Boissy is a practicing traditional Western astrologer in Tokyo. She has a Practitioners Level Horary Certificate from The School of Traditional Astrology (STA) and earned her Fundamentals Certificate for natal and predictive techniques at Kepler College.

© Japan Today

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1 Comment
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Too bad my sign isn't one of the best ones. It's not bad at all, but other signs have really good ones. It's a neat concept though and I would like to visit these places, regardless of whether it's mine or not.

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