The best season to visit Japan
The Japanese archipelago extends a long way from north to south, so its climate ranges from continental to subtropical. In Hokkaido, winters are long, snowy and very tough; while in Okinawa the temperature rarely drops below 15°C. The most touristic areas on Honshu island, such as Tokyo and Kyoto, have relatively mild winters with little snow, but hot, humid summers. The seasons in Japan are very distinctive.
Regardless the period, make sure to check the weather forecast on the evening or the morning before deciding on the day's activities, this will help you avoid any unpleasant surprise. Even if you do not speak Japanese or do not have access to Internet 📶, you can watch weather forecasts on TV or in the newspapers, where pictures are quite self-explanatory.
Of course, you can always check weather information on Kanpai-Japan. We provide ten-day forecast for many cities in Japan.
What is the ideal moment to go to Japan?
It is of course impossible to determine THE absolutely ideal season for travel, as Japan is enjoyable at any time of the year, be it for its various landscapes or according to the travelers’ personal interests.
We can however say that the best seasons to explore Japan are mainly:
- Spring (from late February to the end of May), and
- Autumn (from the end of September to early December).
Those seasons are characterized by a mild weather, offering beautiful and colorful landscapes, with astonishing flowers blooming and vibrant autumn leaves.
But this advice is only based on weather considerations. Summer is the season when foreign visitors flock to Japan: therefore, touristic places are more crowded and it can be sometimes difficult to enjoy them. Moreover, flights ✈️ and accommodation prices tend to be higher.
For those who wish to travel when tourists are fewer and for a lower budget, other periods are to be seriously considered:
- Winter (early December to the end of February) is naturally colder, but the weather is generally sunny, and it does not rain much,
- In June, if you do not mind humidity due to tsuyu ☔️, the rainy season,
- In September, a month surprisingly avoided but a pertinent choice if you are not bound by school holidays.
To help guide your choice, the following paragraphs will give you some indications, with specific details about each month in Japan.
Choose your ideal period
🌸Spring (March to May)
Springtime in Japan is the sakura 🌸 or cherry blossom season: Cherry trees bloom throughout Japan from late March to mid-April. Their sublime colors range from white to pink. The Japanese are keen on the subject and sakura flowering is monitored carefully and discussed a lot.
People get together in parks, with family and friends, to celebrate Ohanami: the contemplation of cherry blossoms. Be warned: the most popular sakura spots tend to be increasingly overrun by tourists and it might bother those who do not like crowds.
Moreover, it is hay fever season! Beware of Japanese Cedars (sugi)’s pollen that will bother even people who are not allergic!
Important: Spring is also the time of the Golden Week in early May, a series of public holidays during which a lot of Japanese people travel around the country. As a consequence, accommodations and transports are often booked long in advance and prices even tend to rise!
Once the Golden Week is finished, May is the ideal month to visit Japan: tourists are fewer, weather is sunny but not too hot and greeneries are fully fledged.
☀️Summer (June to August)
Summer is very hot and humid. If you already cannot bear dry heat, you should avoid travelling during Japanese summer, characterized by high temperatures and a high humidity. This is also the period of typhoons 🌀 and the rainy season starts from mid-June or early summer to last approximatively one month.
Japanese salarymen, or office workers, are even allowed to wear a lightweight outfit in summer, called "cool biz": a short-sleeved shirt without jacket or tie. Prepare to feel sweaty and to seek out the shade!
Even though summer and school holidays overlap, we do not recommend going to Japan in summer with small children (as well as during pregnancy or with persons in frail health).
Try to mix outdoor tours with air-conditioned indoor visits, such as museums, shopping malls or leisure centers. In the evening there are lots of matsuri (festivals) to enjoy and wonderful Japanese fireworks. Summer is also the only official period for climbing Mount Fuji 🗻 (but remember its summit is still very cold).
🍁Autumn (September to November)
Autumn and spring are, in some ways, mirror seasons. Whereas spring has sakura, in fall the contemplation of momiji 🍁, the red maple leaves, starts from mid-November. They combine harmoniously with the vibrant yellow of ginkgoes.
Autumn is a good period to relax and enjoy the Japanese countryside thanks to mild temperatures until late in the season (until late October to early November).
September in Japan has a second short rainy period and also typhoons occasionally. They are however usually smaller and must not prevent you from enjoying a nice Indian summer, with very few tourists and affordable prices. If you do not have children, September is an excellent choice worth to be considered.
At the end of fall, in the same way as in the cherry blossom season, the best spots for viewing koyo (or autumn leaves) are often overcrowded, especially in Kyoto’s most majestic temples.
❄️Winter (December to February)
Finally, winter is chilly, but coldness is still totally bearable with warm clothes. It is in fact the best time to enjoy onsen ♨️ ♨️, the natural hot springs! Do be careful when choosing your accommodation as many old Japanese houses have poor thermal insulation and are prone to icy air flows. Fortunately, hotels in Japan 🏨 are well-equipped against cold.
Snow occasionally falls in Tokyo, but certainly in northern Japan. Good to know: Japan has a highly developed ski area with over 500 resorts and modern amenities, small but modern. They are mainly located in Hokkaido and northern Honshu.
Visiting Japan in winter is also a chance to experience Christmas (with your significant other) and New Year (at the Shinto shrine) in a new way. There are lots of winter illuminations, especially in large cities, that add a romantic, and even slightly magical, touch.
However, be aware that the New Year period, particularly between December 29 and January 2, is a second, shorter, Golden Week during which many businesses close.
January and February are the yearly lowest months regarding touristic frequentation. They are the ideal times for a tranquil discovery of Japan, without constraints. The weather is often sunny, and landscapes and sceneries are still beautiful.
In late winter, the plum trees come into flower with their beautiful colors heralding the coming cherry tree blooming season.
According to a Japanese idea, the country actually sees 72 (!) micro-seasons. They are called kô (侯) and each last about 5 days, along the solar year from February 4th.