25 Aug 2016 - Posted By Maeve Nolan / Best Time to Visit, Kyoto, Tokyo / No Comments


It’s a question we’re frequently asked: when is the best time to visit Japan? When planning a holiday in Japan, it’s important to know that Japan has four distinct seasons, all of which offer unique experiences and cultural events.

Here, we give you a definitive guide to weather and the best time to visit Japan.

When is the best time to visit Japan?

Japan has four distinct seasons due to its proximity to the Asian continent and its location surrounded by ocean currents. But because Japan is an archipelago that stretches north–south over roughly 3,000 kilometers, the weather differs greatly across regions.

The southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, for example, enjoys tropical temperatures while the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido experiences heavy snowfall about 4 months out of the year.

Still, each region gets four distinct seasons that bring its own regional flair, natural beauty and traditions.

Spring is one of the most magical times to visit Japan. The weather is pleasant, and if you plan carefully, you can experience hanami, or cherry-blossom viewing, in late March and early April. You can follow some of our insider advice on Japan’s cherry blossom season to avoid the crowds as you revel in your hanami experience.

Summer in Japan tends to be hot and humid, making it a great time to visit higher altitudes, such as the Japanese Alps, as well as beach destinations like Okinawa.

Autumn in Japan rivals springtime in color and climate. The weather is mild, cool and dry, and Japanese maples turn brilliant hues of red, orange, yellow and even deep purple. The peak of Autumn colors is November in most of Central Japan.

Winter in Japan is cold and snowy—the perfect setting for ski bums and winter lovers. This is also the time of year when Japan’s famous macaques descend from their arboreal habitats to sit in Japan’s many volcanic hot springs, or onsen.

Visiting Japan in Spring

best time to visit japan: hanami in Spring season - Backyard Travel

Spring weather information

Period: March–May

Temperatures: Highs of 4.5 to 15.5 °C (40s to mid-60s °F)

Rainfall: Roughly 30% of the time

What to pack for Spring

You’ll want to dress in layers. Daytime temperatures can be warm, but mornings and evenings are still chilly. Bring sweaters, a light jacket and something waterproof to prepare for cool temperatures and rainy days.

Where to go in Spring

Widely considered the best time to travel in Japan, springtime also draws out domestic tourists.

Expect crowds at prime cherry-blossom destinations such as Ueno Park in Tokyo or the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, but don’t worry, there are plenty of places you can enjoy the cherry blossoms in Japan.

Hirosaki Park in Aomori is stunning, as is Goryokaku Park in Hokkaido in early to mid May.

Unmissable experiences in Spring

In addition to the stunning spectacle of hanami, early spring is also a great time to hit the slopes in northern regions.

In March, it’s still prime snow sports season in Hokkaido.

Or, if you’re dreaming of a beach getaway, March and April are the best months to visit the pristine tropical islands of Okinawa.

The historic mountain town of Takayama also hosts its annual spring festival in mid-April, which is considered one of the most beautiful festivals in Japan.

Planning a Trip in Japan in Summer

best time to visit Japan: summer - Shirakawago village nearby Takayama

 

Summer weather information

Period: June—August

Temperatures: Highs of 20 to low 30s °C (70s to 90s °F)

Rainfall: Tsuyu, or Japan’s rainy season, occurs in June. Expect frequent rainfall and overcast days.

 

What to pack in Summer

Pack for hot and humid summer weather, with light clothing and rain gear.

Bring a collapsible umbrella if you’d like, or live through tsuyu like a local and grab a cheap umbrella at 7-Eleven when you arrive.

Where to go in Summer

Climates tend to be more temperate and comfortable in higher elevations, making summer a great time to trek the Kumano Kodo or to take a train journey through the Japanese Alps. Northern Hokkaido also stays drier than the main island of Honshu, and the months of July and August are prime times to visit the pristine beaches of Okinawa.

Unmissable experiences to live in Summer

The Obon festival in August is one of Japan’s most lively cultural experiences. You can dress in a yukata, eat all the best Japanese street foods and participate in community-wide obon dances!

Discovering Japan in Autumn

Best time of year to visit Japan: autumn - Daigo-ji temple in Kyoto

Autumn weather information

Period: September—November

Temperatures: Although September can still be quite hot with highs that hit 26 °C (80 °F), temperatures drop in October and November to highs of 15 to 22 °C (mid-60s to 70s °F). The mild weather makes this one of the best times of year to explore Japan.

Rainfall: Although September sees the tail end of the typhoon season, autumn is relatively dry in Japan.

 

What to pack in Autumn

Similar to springtime, bring layers and light outerwear to keep you warm during the cool mornings and evenings.

Where to go in Autumn

You can catch great views of fiery autumn colors at the remarkable gardens of Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as in the wild, such as in the forests of the Japanese Alps. If you’re going to Osaka, head to Mino Park for some breathtaking autumn colors.

Unmissable experiences to live in Autumn

The remote mountain town of Takayama hosts a wonderfully atmospheric festival in October, called the The Takayama Autumn Festival. Located in the mountainous Hida region, the celebrations are set under remarkable autumn foliage, making it one of Japan’s most beautiful festivals.

You can also catch the last sumo tournament of the year in mid-November, which takes place in Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu.

Sumo tournaments last two weeks and are incredible spectacles of Japanese culture, ancient Shinto ritual and tremendous sportsmanship.

Our insider’s tours to visit Japan in Autumn

 Trek Japan’s Ancient Kumano Kodo

 Tranquil Stay at Mount Koya

Traveling to Japan in Winter

best season to visit Japan: Winter - Snowboarding through Tree in Niseko

Winter weather information

Period: December—February

Temperatures: Daily highs that hover between 1 to 10 °C (the mid-30s to mid-50s °F). The coastline overlooking the Pacific Ocean (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka) is remarkably colder than the coastline on the Sea of Japan (Kanazawa, Takayama).

Rainfall: Don’t expect much rain, but do expect some snowfall. The northern regions, such as Hokkaido, gets a lot of snow.

 

What to pack for Winter in Japan

Dress warmly. Winter in Japan is beautiful but requires warm sweaters and wind-proof jackets. If you’re traveling in the north, bring good boots and don’t forget your ski gear!

Where to go during Winter in Japan

Winter provides different experiences throughout Japan.

While the best skiing happens up north in Hokkaido, Tokyo in winter makes for an interesting cultural study as businessmen hurry through the snow to their offices.

Taking a dip in an onsen hot spring in Japan’s mountainous regions is also an unforgettable experience.

Unmissable experiences to live during Winter in Japan

For a really unique winter treat, head to the Sapporo Snow Festival in February, where you’ll see hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures, including entire buildings!

Although most shops close down for several days during New Year, this is also an interesting time to immerse yourself in Japanese culture, as New Year is the most important holiday of the year.

You’re sure to see people flocking to temples and shrines to pray for a good year.

Weather in Japan – Detailed temperature and rainfall charts

Average temperatures in some cities (°C)

 Jan  Feb  Mar  Apr  May  Jun  July Aug  Sep  Oct  Nov  Dec 
Sapporo-4-317121721221812-1
Niigata33612172125272316116
Nagoya55914192326282418127
Tokyo56914182125262318128
Hiroshima56915192327282418138
Osaka66915202427292519149
Fukuoka771015192327282419149
Naha171719212427292928252219

Average rainfall (in mm)

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Sapporo114947857534781124135109104112
Niigata18612211392104128192141155160211217
Nagoya48661221251572012041262341288045
Tokyo52561181251381681541682101989351
Hiroshima4567124142178247259111170886841
Osaka4562104104146185157911611126944
Fukuoka6872113117143255278172178748560
Naha107120161166232247141241261153110103

Hours of Sunshine in Japan

best time of the year to visit japan - hours of sunshine through the year

Climate in different Japan cities

Spring: High of 15 °C (59 °F), some drizzling but mostly dry

Summer: High of 30 °C (86 °F), humid and rainy in June and July

Fall: High of 17 °C (63 °F), some drizzling but mostly dry

Winter: High of 12 °C (54 °F), some snowfall

Spring: Highs of mid-20s °C (70s °F), some drizzling but mostly dry

Summer: High of 33 °C (91 °F), humid and rainy in June and July

Fall: Highs of mid-20s °C (70s °F), some drizzling but mostly dry

Winter: High of 11 °C (52 °F), some snowfall

Spring: Highs of 8 °C (46 °F), some rain or snow but mostly dry

Summer: High of 18 °C (65 °F), rainiest time of year from June to September

Fall: High of 22 °C (72 °F), some rain, but mostly dry

Winter: High of 2 °C (35 °F), heavy snowfall

Spring: High of 18 °C (64 °F), some rain

Summer: Highs of high 20s °C (high 70s °F), lots of rain from June to September

Fall: High of 22 °C (72 °F), some rain

Winter: High of 10 °C (50 °F), very little rain or snow

Spring: High of 24 °C (75 °F), some drizzling but mostly dry

Summer: High of 32 °C (90 °F), rainiest time of year from June to September, with typhoon season in August and September

Fall: High of 28 °C (82 °F), some rain in September but mostly dry

Winter: High of 13 °C (55 °F), low chance of rain or snow

Special Tips for Typhoon Season in Japan

Typhoons, or annual hurricanes, occur between May and October in Japan, with peak typhoon season falling between August and September.

However, the brunt of most typhoons only strike the southern islands of Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa. Although the northern regions of Honshu and Hokkaido may see some heavy rainfall, there’s usually little danger of serious damage.

Japan has excellent weather-predicting capabilities and good infrastructure to protect coastlines from typhoon damage. Regional news and weather broadcasts will always warn the public several days before a typhoon is predicted to strike.

If you should be in Japan during a heavy typhoon, just be prepared to stay indoors for a day or two (usually 12 to 24 hours), and expect delayed or canceled flights. There are no specific security measures, but do be careful when venturing outdoors, as strong winds can sometimes break glass or pick up objects such as bicycles.

Unmissable Events through the year in Japan

A nationwide Japanese New Year’s tradition is to visit a shrine or temple during the first three days of the new year. This known as hatsumode.

You’re sure to see lots of activity at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, with throngs of people burning incense, praying, making water offerings and looking for blessings for the new year.

The biggest festival of the year on the island of Hokkaido. The city of Sapporo is turned into a winter wonderland with thousands of snow and ice sculptures illuminated by colored lights.

Cherry blossom viewing (hanami) is an ancient tradition symbolizing the idea of impermanence, which is deeply rooted in Japanese culture.

During the two or three weeks in which cherry trees throughout the nation are in full bloom, throngs of people picnic under the stunning spectacle of pale pink blooms, singing songs, drinking sake and making merry in the mild weather.

This festival is considered one of Japan’s most beautiful festivals and celebrates the ancient regional traditions of Takayama, a picturesque and historical town in the Japanese Alps.

You’ll see a fabulous parade of stunning festival floats and revelers dressed in 15th century garb.

The Golden Week is a week long period observing a cluster of national holidays, from Showa Day on April 29 to Children’s Day on May 5.

Workers get the entire week off, and many Japanese decide to travel during this time of lovely weather.

One of the most famous annual festivals in Japan, the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, takes place over the entire month of July. “Gion” is the name of the historical pleasure and entertainment district of Kyoto, and local residents and tourists alike celebrate Kyoto’s cultural heritage by dressing in traditional clothes and touring the town.

Two massive parades on July 17 and July 24 mark the peak celebration times, when the atmospheric streets of Gion are closed off for pedestrian traffic and crammed with food stalls, festival vendors and great displays of family heirlooms in some historical residences.

The Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka is more than 1,000 years old and is considered one of the three greatest festivals of Japan. The focal point of this summer celebration is the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine, where performances of traditional Japanese arts and music take place.

The festival features a parade of roughly 3,000 people dressed in traditional 8th to 12th century imperial garb, as well as a boat parade when the procession boards more than 100 boats and sets sail on the Okawa River.

This festival is celebrated on different dates throughout the country, is a Buddhist tradition honoring family unity and ancestral spirits. Along with traditions of gathering with family and cleaning the graves of ancestors, Obon features a carnival-like atmosphere.

Festival goers dress in yukata, eat copious amounts of festival food, play games, and take part in a community-wide dance, or bon-odori.

One of the last races of the year in the FIA Formula One World Championship. The race takes place at the Suzuka Circuit, which is located 50 kilometers outside of Nagoya and is considered one of the most challenging circuits in the world.

Like the Takayama Spring Festival, the Takayama Autumn Festival revives the regional traditions of the 15th century and is considered one of Japan’s most beautiful festivals.

Taking place in Takayama in the Hide region of the Japanese Alps, the festival features a breathtaking parade of large, unique floats and 1,000 marchers dressed in 15th century clothes.

When is the best period to visit Japan?

The best times to explore Japan are Spring and Autumn. In Spring (March to May), the temperatures are a bit cool but it is time for the amazing Cherry blossoms (expect crowds). In Autumn (September to November), the weather is dry and temperatures could still be within the 20s °C: head to Takayama for a nice Autumn experience.

When the time to pack will come, please have a look at the weather forecast.

What would be YOUR best time to discover Japan?


We can help you to visit Japan

Our locally based Travel Specialists will be happy to give you more information on a tour around Japan. If you’re ready to start planning your holiday in Japan, contact us and we’ll help you build the perfect itinerary.

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