Best time to visit Japan

Updated: 09th July 2018

Palace-Park-In-Spring-Kyoto-Japan-Tours-On-The-Go-Tours
TIME YOUR VISIT TO SEE THE GORGEOUS CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN JAPAN

When is the best time to visit Japan?

The best time to visit Japan is generally in spring or autumn when the country is at its most beautiful thanks to the budding of cherry blossom and stunning autumnal colours. The weather is also great at this time with mild temperatures.

Seasons and Weather in Japan

Spring (March – May) sees a lot of the country ablaze with beautiful white and pink cherry blossom, celebrated with an increasingly popular festival. Temperatures during these months begin to rise and it is before the hot rainy season. Autumn (September – November) sees similar temperatures, which are now a welcome respite from the muggy heat of the summer. The country also now changes into a haven of red and scarlet leaves which contrast strikingly against the deep blue clear skies.

Summer (June – August) sees the start of the rainy season. The rains aren’t seen every day like in some monsoonal countries but when they come they are heavy. The temperature after the rain is generally quite high and can be uncomfortable if you are moving around. Summer also sees lots of great festivals (or Matsuri) in Japan and there are lots of spectacular firework shows going on across the country.

Winter (December – March) is a beautiful time to visit Japan, especially if you are venturing to the ski slopes of Hokkaido or Nagano. These areas are carpeted in a brilliant white coating of fresh powdery snow making the traditional Japanese onsen (hot springs) even more fun to sit in. Nagano is also a great place to visit in the winter because of the resident snow monkeys who appear in bigger numbers at this time of year. Most towns and cities in the northern regions of Honshu island experience some degree of snow but major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka receive minimal snowfall during the winter months.

Best Time to Visit Japan
Map highlighting the best time to visit Japan by region

Best Time to Visit by Region

Japan may not be the largest country in the world, yet the climate varies considerably between the islands. From the temperate continental climate of the north - characterised by long, cold winters, to the humid subtropical climate of the small Ryukyu Islands in the southwest, you'll always find somewhere to go no matter the time of year.

Best time to visit Tokyo

The futuristic capital of Tokyo sits on Honshu island, Japan's largest. It's considered a year-round destination though there are definite benefits to visiting in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn. Firstly, these periods experience less extreme weather conditions with generally mild temperatures. Secondly, there's the beautiful colours of cherry blossom and autumnal leaves to enjoy.

Summers in Tokyo can be hot and stick, with high humidity and a short rainy season between May and June, while winters are cold. That's why spring and autumn are considered the best time to visit.

Best time to visit Hakone and Mount Fuji

The notoriously camera shy Mt. Fuji and its surrounding national park is one of Japan's most popular attractions. Unfortunately the volcanic peak is often shrouded in cloud, especially during the warm and humid months between May and September. For the best chance of a clear view, visit in the cooler months of November to February.

Fuji is only a short distance away from Tokyo so the seasons here are similar to those of the capital. Expect beautiful pink-covered landscapes in spring and red leaves in autumn. If you're thinking of climbing Mt. Fuji, visit between July and mid-September.

Best time to visit Kyoto

The city of Kyoto, and its many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, lies further west on Honshu island. Similarly to Tokyo, the best time to visit is either spring or autumn. In March and April Kyoto is awash with the delicate pink of cherry blossom season while between October and November the fiery reds of autumn take over. At these times of year, temperatures are more pleasant and better suited to sightseeing.

Best time to visit Hiroshima and Miyajima Island

Located on Honshu island and close to Kyoto, the city of Hiroshima is also best visited in the spring months of March to April and autumn months of October and November. As elsewhere in Japan, the climate is mild and the landscapes stunning with seasonal colours. The same goes for the nearby island of Miyajima though it's important to consider the tide if you want to see the famed floating torii gate. High tide is best if you want to see it 'floating' on the water.

Best time to visit Hokkaido

Hokkaido is Japan's second largest island and the northernmost prefecture. Here the winters (December to February) are long and cold while the summers are cooler than elsewhere in Japan. Thanks to its climatic conditions, the island is considered the country's prime winter destination with excellent skiing opportunities and the chance to experience traditional onsen out in the cold.

There are many great reasons to visit Japan in the winter but Hokkaido in particular is the place to go as it's home to the Sapporo snow festival. Each year the island's capital transforms into a winter wonderland with snow sculptures and fairground rides.

Climate | Tokyo


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C23611151923242115105
Temp Max °C101114192326303128221713
Rainfall (mm)626112613915016818218621523510844

Climate | Kyoto


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C124914192324201383
Temp Max °C8913192427313328221711
Rainfall (mm)50801201301602402301302201008050

Climate | Sapporo


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C-7-7-3381317181372-4
Temp Max °C-1-131117222526221682
Rainfall (mm)110100907060606014011011090100
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Festivals

Japan celebrates its highly unique cultural heritage with a number of festivals and special events held throughout the year. Here's our guide to the best of them.

Sapporo Snow Festival

Held in the city of Sapporo on Hokkaido island, the Sapporo Snow Festival is Japan's largest winter event with hundreds of splendid snow and ice sculptures lining Odori Park. Large snow slides are set up Tsudome community dome and visitors flock here in February each year to enjoy the winter wonderland.

Cherry Blossom Festival

Known as hanami in Japan, the traditional custom of 'flower viewing' has become one of the most popular times to visit Japan with cities decorated in beautiful cherry blossom. From the end of March to early May when the flowers bloom outdoor parties are held throughout the country with people heading to parks for picnics.The Cherry Blossom Festival is a particularly good time to visit in terms of weather also.

Golden Week

In Japan Golden Week is a collection of four national holidays that take place within a week including Showa Day celebrating Emperor Showa's birthday; Constitution Day; Greenery Day, a national holiday dedicated to nature; and finally, Children's Day with families praying for the health and success of their sons. During these holidays the Japanese like to travel so trains, hotels and popular sightseeing spots are overcrowded and need to be booked months in advance to ensure availability.

Tenjin Festival in Osaka

Held on the 24th and 25th July every year, the highlights of the Tenjin Festival include processions of drummers, ceremonial floats and fireworks in the evening to honor the deity Sugawara and the Tenmangu Shrine.

Gion Matsuri in Kyoto

Gion Matsuri, the festival of Yasaka Shrine, is one of Japan's most famous festivals with a spectacular grand procession of floats or hoko as they are known in Japanese, which can reach enormous proportions at 25 metres tall. At night the area around the Kamo River swells with food stalls and markets.

Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo

Taking place in mid-May in odd numbered years, the Kanda Matsuri festival honours the Kanda Myojin Shrine with a day-long procession and parades of shrines through central Tokyo. Other events are held over the week.

Obon

This annual Buddhist event in mid-August is a time for families to commemorate their ancestors with lanterns, special dances, food offerings made at house altars and shrines in order to guide the spirits on their return to this world.

Takayama Festival

The annual Autumn Festival held in the town of Takayama is in honour of Hachiman Shrine with a dozen festival floats known as yatai paraded through the streets when the weather is fine. Some of the floats have sophisticated mechanical dolls that perform movements during the parade. The Takayama Festival takes place on the 9th-10th October each year.

Events

A number of important sumo tournaments are held throughout the year and in various cities across Japan. The full year's schedule can be found at www.sumo.or.jp

Baseball is the most widely played and watched sport in Japan with two leagues of six teams competing professionally. Season games are held from late March to October with a game taking place on almost every day of the week.

The F1 Japanese Grand Prix will be held in Suzuka on the weekend of the 5th-7th October 2018. The circuit is located 50km southwest of Nagoya and with enthusiastic home supporters it's going to a highlight of the F1 calendar.

2018 Calendar

To help plan your visit to Japan here's an overview of the 2018 festivals and events taking place:

February 1st-12th - Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo)
March - May - Cherry Blossom Festival (countrywide)
May 13th-14th - Kanda Matsuri (Tokyo)
April 29th - May 5th - Golden Week (countrywide)
July 17th-24th - Gion Matsuri (Kyoto)
July 24th-25th - Tenjin Festival (Osaka)
August 13th-15th - Obon (countrywide)
October 7th - F1 Japanese Grand Prix (Suzuka)
October 9th-10th - Takayama Autumn Festival (Takayama)

There's also a number of national holidays in Japan and on these dates many businesses and some tourist sites will close for the day so plan your visit accordingly.

Site Closures

Owakudani - a volcanic valley in the Hakone area - is currently closed due to the volcanic activity and a number of walking trails in this area are off limits. The rest of Hakone is unaffected so there are still plenty of areas to safely explore.

See Also

Check out the following useful resources to help plan your visit to Japan:

Best Places to Visit - destinations in Japan not to be missed
Tourist Visas - what you need to know prior to travel
Top Travel Tips - information about money, food and luggage forwarding
Traveller Reviews - what our passengers say about our Japan tours
Transport in Japan - handy info on getting around by train in Japan
Top 10 Japan Experiences - get the most out of your time in Japan
Cherry Blossom Festival - all your frequently asked questions answered
Travel Alerts - current travel advice for Japan

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