Japan boasts four spectacular seasons, each with its own appeal. See the flush pink cherry blossoms in spring or the vibrantly colourful maple foliage in autumn. Dive in dazzling waters in summer or ski on powdery white snow in winter.
Japan is a country of contrasts, from futuristic skyscrapers and neon arcades to serene temples and bamboo forests. The food is utterly delectable, the people are welcoming and ultra polite, and it has the best transportation systems in the world. It’s a country that offers an endless amount of activities and festivals all year round.
Japan is not a very large country. It stretches across 1,800 miles (2,900 kilometres), from the island of Hokkaido in the northeast to the island of Okinawa in the southwest. You will find subtropical islands like Okinawa feel worlds away from wintery Hokkaido – during the same time of year.
The best time to visit Japan is entirely up to what exactly you want to do there and where you want to go. If you’re indecisive, create a travel bucket list of your favourite places.
Here is a guide to the best times of year to visit Japan.
Winter in Japan is from December to February, with the typical weather being dry, cold and sunny. This season is strikingly beautiful and incredibly romantic. It offers some of the best quality snow in the world – ideal for ski mountaineering.
During the winter season, major cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka have mild temperatures. In the mountainous areas like Hokkaido and Tohoku, you will find soft powdery snow ideal for ski lovers and those looking for a snowy vacation.
Hokkaido is undeniably the most popular for its slopes – and for a good reason.
It’s a perfect time to see the snow monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park or view Mount Fuji. In February there is the famous Sapporo Snow Festival. Soak in an onsen (a natural hot spring) or visit the traditional villages dusted in snowfall such as Shirakawa-go.
One of the most incredible times to visit Japan is in late spring, from March to May. This is when the country celebrates and enjoys the cherry blossom trees.
The sakura (cherry blossoms) usually first start to bloom in the southern region, in Kyushu, at the end of March. Flowers bloom northward until May in Hokkaido.
Travel Tip: April is prime time to see these spectacular blossoms.
During the season it can get very crowded, and there is a good reason for it. Around this time of year, parts of Japan are covered in beautiful shades of pink as if they were out of a postcard.
It’s so beautiful that locals and visitors are willing to get up at sunrise to reserve a spot under the cherry trees. This may sound ridiculous. Still, we can assure you, it’s well worth it!
If you are planning your visit during Japan’s famous cherry blossom season, you need to consider two things – when and where you want to go.
Besides photographing sakura (the cherry blossoms), springtime is excellent for viewing Mount Fuji or going hiking.
Autumn in Japan is from September to early November. It’s considered foliage season, where the floor is blanketed with gold and red hues from the maple trees that explode into different colours – known as Koyo in Japanese.
This time of year has mild temperatures, low rainfall and beautiful bright blue skies – it’s as popular as the cherry blossom season in spring.
At the beginning of the autumn season in September, typhoon season is typically peaking, bringing rain and the most beautiful cover of deep-hued maple leaves. A magical place to view this foliage is in Minoo Park or on the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.
The Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage is a popular trail and best to do in autumn.
Summer in Japan is typically humid throughout the country, from June to August. For nature lovers, it’s the ideal time to travel to Japan for nature expeditions, festivals and celebrations.
Enjoy the festivities with a local traditional culture dating back hundreds of years, mixed with modern-age Japan.
The Obon Festival takes place around mid-August and is a great time to visit Japan, especially in the big cities.
Obon is a Japanese custom, where the Japanese go back to the countryside and visit their loved ones. Giving you a chance to enjoy the more crowded cities at their quietest.
The rainy season in Japan, also known as Tsuyu or Baiyu, happens around early June to mid-July, in summer.
Okinawa usually experiences rain about a month earlier than most places, and Hokkaido does not experience much of the rainy season. Don’t forget your rain jacket and an umbrella during summertime.
During this season you may find that most tourist hot spots are not as crowded as usual.
Japan, being an island nation, has impressive scuba diving sites. Summer offers the best conditions for diving. Besides enjoying the festivals like Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri and Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri, enjoy hiking through the Japanese Alps.
Keep in mind, one of the best times to travel to Japan is during the Japanese national holidays. During these periods, such as “Golden Week” in April to May, the nation is on the go making it challenging to secure last-minute bookings.
Try to make arrangements in advance during festivals and holidays. A tour around Vietnam and Cambodia is a great alternative to discover Asia.
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