Table of Contents
Are you planning a trip to Japan anytime soon? Curious when you can see the cherry blossoms? Do you want to celebrate the national holiday in Japan? Find out the best time to visit Japan with our handy guide. Use the table of contents to help you navigate the article.
Japan is a country located on the east coast of Asia. It is made up of a slew of islands following a northeast-southwest arc stretching for as much as 2,400 miles via the western North Pacific Ocean. Its location has made it an ideal place to explore for a vacation with the family.
There are many places in Japan where tourists can have a memorable experience. When you hear people talk about Japan, there are plenty of things that would come to your mind, such as the cherry blossoms in Tokyo, a beach vacation in Okinawa, or a fine snowy day in Hokkaido.
If going to Japan is one of your bucket lists, you must know that the best time to visit Japan will depend on what activities you would want to do when you get there.
Japan is full of festivals and activities every year. That’s why some people say that there is no such thing as a bad time to visit Japan. If you want to see some shrines in Kyoto or witness the cherry blossoms' pink hues, it is best to plan ahead and not end up having a trip after the cherry blossoms have already dropped or visited during the rainy season.
Whether you are from South America, Central America, North America, or the Middle East, there is so much you can enjoy in Japan. If you plan to get the best of Japan, read on for some of the best travel tips for visiting the Land of the Rising Sun. Remember, Japan is more than just Tokyo.
Weathers and Climates of Japan
Whenever you go to visit a country, the weather is among the particular things you should note. And this is especially true when you decide to go to Japan. Its diverse geography makes it prone to have wide variations in the weather. Yes, Japan can have subtropical weather in its far south while having sub-arctic weather in the north at the same time. It is essential to note that winter weather can vary greatly, particularly between the Pacific coasts and the western Sea of Japan.
In the Pacific, Japan winter weather can be dry with clear days, while the western areas often have heavy snow and cold winds, making it ideal for skiers. Here is a general guideline when visiting Japan:
- Snow is common, and winters can be cold.
- Summer can be hot and humid everywhere.
- January is the best time to visit if you want to experience the coldest season in Japan, while July and August are the hottest months.
- Summer, aside from being hot and humid, also means typhoon season, generally affecting southern Japan more than other regions.
Which Is the Best Month to Go to Japan?
The time of year to go to Japan depends on the activities you want to enjoy in the Land of the Rising Sun. Since weather can vary from one island to another, it is crucial to adjust based on your activities. If you plan to go skiing, you can head to Hokkaido between December and March. Do note that temperatures can drop below zero in Hokkaido. Those from the Middle East will often travel to Japan in winter to enjoy the holiday with some dropped temperatures.
For the rest of the country, winter weather in Japan can drop to an average of 5°C. In some areas, the weather can still be dry, and it is common to see clear skies and enjoy a bit of sunshine. While winters in Japan will not be ideal for exploring the outdoors for a day of cycling or hiking, it can be best for skiing.
Winter in Japan is a bit underrated for most tourists. That’s why people hardly schedule their visit to Japan during this time because of the temperatures. As such, most of the hotel and transport rates are way cheaper, making it the best time to travel to Japan for those on a tight budget.
If you don’t feel like spending winter in Japan and don’t want to experience the country’s scorching heat, the best months to explore Japan would be from March to May and September to November. Make sure to avoid the time of the year where typhoons are most common.
Here is a complete guide on the best time to visit Japan by its different seasons:
Visiting Japan from December to February
If you happen to book your flight anytime between December and February, you can plan your trip to Japan accordingly. Since it is the winter season, you can expect to get the best views of the captivating Mount Fuji. To fully enjoy Japan in winter, you can use this time to try out the many ryokans in the area where you can get a taste of the well-known Japanese hospitality. Temperatures can get really cold, and a nice hot spring bath would just be perfect.
Winter sports in Japan are slowly becoming a popular activity in the country. That’s why winter is a popular time for many tourists to schedule their trip to Japan.
Aside from getting a spectacular view of Mount Fuji, you can also head to explore Jigokudani Monkey Park and combine the trip with a relaxing stay at an onsen, which you can find all over Japan. Take your time to explore the many beautiful mountain villages of Biei and Ine and those located along the Nakasendo Trail. Since outdoor activities may be limited, you may also consider exploring other destinations and activities, such as exploring anime shops, discovering ramen and sake spots, enjoying tea ceremonies, visiting museums, and trying out karaoke sessions.
Visiting Japan from March to May
Japan in spring is a lovely time to visit, particularly Tokyo. It starts in March and during this time, people can still do some winter activities because it is still one of the country’s coldest months. Temperatures will begin to get warmer towards the end of the month, where tourists can appreciate exploring Japan’s captivating nature and holidays.
Most tourists would want to choose the best times to witness the cherry blossom season in Japan during late April and May. There are also other natural phenomena that you would want to experience, such as the nemophila flowers, as it converts the Hitachi Park in Ibaraki into a field of blue blossoms.
Japan in spring is also a great time to travel with its cozy temperatures. Head out to see the Arashiyama bamboo forest, where you can find imperial villas and hot springs.
Visiting Japan from June to August
The temperatures of Japan in summer slowly rise from -20s °C to high 30s °C, and the humidity level makes it feel hotter than the actual temperature. Going to the beach would be a great plan since the country has several islands that offer good resorts for tourists. It is also a good way to fight off the hot and humid season.
When temperatures are too high, Okinawa, for one, has the best tropical beaches in the country. For those who want to see Japan beaches in a new light, try having a day trip to the Yaeyama Islands, and thank us later. Izu peninsula is another destination you may want to explore if you are fond of beach hopping. For some action on the water, you may try river rafting and other watersports in Okutama, only an hour away from Tokyo. Japan in summer is not at all bad if you are used to tropical weathers. Most crowds from Central America and South America will head to Japan between July and August to enjoy the summer season.
You can also head up to the mountains to enjoy hiking in the Japanese Alps. The Daisetsuzan National Park is also one worthy trip to make to see the volcanic wilderness. Mount Fuji is also a must-visit. You don’t have to reach the summit to see Japan’s beauty as the area is surrounded by tons of activities, such as cable car excursions, museums, and boat rides. If you get caught during the summer monsoon in Japan, head to Hokkaido. It is almost unaffected by monsoon and boasts of picturesque views. Plus, you don’t have to battle it out with tourists since it is among the least visited during this time. Never stay in these areas when there are typhoons as it can be dangerous. Explore other areas in Japan, where the weather is much more bearable.
Visiting Japan from September to November
The fall season in Japan begins in September and ends in November, and for many tourists, this is the best time of year to visit Japan. There is something about the changing of fall foliage that inspires many artists and tourists to draw inspiration from the foliages, changes from beautiful reds to yellow and copper. Since the weather is mostly cool and dry, it is the perfect time to take train trips from Tokyo to Nikko, Kyoto to Arashima, and the Kurobe Gorge Railway where you can see the fall foliage as they change color.
More than the fall foliage, you can take advantage of the many bargain finds during this time, and many would unload their summer collection and launch the autumn/fall sales. For food enthusiasts, visit Japan anytime between September and October to participate in many food-related events in the country so they can sample the best sushi and ramen that Japan has to offer.
In September, you can join in the Plum Wine Festival and many craft beer events throughout the country. If you are big on ramen, try to book your trip in late October and November when the Tokyo Ramen Show brings together the best noodle makers, allowing you to sample many more of the country’s regional specialties.
Best Time to Visit Japan for Cherry Blossoms
Japan is best known for its cherry blossom season, and if you are interested to see these dainty blooms, it is essential to note that the Sakura season runs from late April to early May, making it an ideal time to visit Japan. However, it is still necessary to check the weather conditions as it can vary by region. For example, cherry blossoms can start in late March in Fukuoka and Hiroshima. When it comes to Sapporo, you can see the cherry blossoms in early May. But the popular time to visit for the cherry blossom would be in late April.
Since most tourists will often stay in Kyoto, Tokyo, and Osaka for the cherry blossoms, these areas can be hotspots and too crowded. Here are some alternatives if you want to beat the crowds, enjoy the cherry blossom season, and ravel in all its beauty:
- Take a Meguro River boat trip.
- Head to Showa Memorial Park.
- Explore the Shukkeien Garden in Hiroshima.
- Go to Tsurumi Park in Osaka.
- Visit Nikko National Park.
Festivals, National Holidays, and Events in Japan by Month
More than the Japanese cherry blossom, there is so much more that will make you visit Japan. Japan’s core values are deeply rooted in their strong culture and tradition. That’s why it is no longer surprising that the country celebrates a number of festivals, national holidays, and events throughout the year: Here are some of them:
After the New Year’s festivities, Japan comes to life again in the early days of January. As the ski season starts in central Japan, here are some events that you can enjoy in Japan:
Shōgatsu (New Year)
Japan’s New Year celebrations run from January 1 to 3. While the national holiday is only the first of January still, some establishments and entertainment centers can be closed for one week. Transport can be busy because many families will typically come together to celebrate the new year.
Seijin-no-hi (Coming of Age Day)
Celebrated on the second Monday of January, Seijin-no-hi or Coming of Age Day is a collective celebration for all those who have turned 20 in Japan in the past year. It is common to see young women wearing kimonos at Shinto shrines. It is a national holiday celebrated throughout the country.
February is known as the peak of Japan’s skiing. If you happen to visit Japan in February, you can also enjoy events and national holidays. This includes:
Based on the lunar calendar, the first day of spring begins on February 3. For most Buddhists, this shift can attract evil. That’s why most of them visit temples and throw roasted beans and shout ‘Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!’ (‘Devil out! Fortune in!’) to drive the evil spirits away. If you want to avoid the crowd, schedule your trip to the temples accordingly.
Kasuga Taisha in Nara also celebrates Setsubun by lighting up its 3,000 bronze and stone bronze lanterns. It is a spectacular display that you shouldn’t miss.
Yuki Matsuri (Sapporo Snow Festival)
The Yuki Matsuri is a week-long event that features impressive ice sculptures celebrated in Sapporo. It starts in early February, where guests can also enjoy ice slides and mazes and merrymaking. Note that as many as two million guests visit the festival, so book your accommodations early.
Otaru Snow Light Path
Another holiday held in Hokkaido is the Otaru Snow Light Path, which features a glittering light of lanterns beside the river to add a bit of warmth and color to the winter season. It is extremely popular for tourists from North America visiting Japan.
By the end of February, plum blossoms start to appear and signal that the winter season is about to end. For many visitors, the Kairaku-en in Mito can be a great spot to view the blossoms. You can beat the crowds by viewing it in other parks and gardens in Tokyo, Japan, where there are plum trees.
The month of March marks the start of spring with a saying: sankan-shion, which means three days cold, four days warm. The mild temperatures during the spring season allow tourists to experience many outdoor activities available in Japan, including festivals and events.
Also known as “Girl’s Day,” Japan celebrates on and around March 3rd, where people decorate their homes and other public spaces with o-hina-sama dolls in a traditional princess dress.
Considered as the world’s largest Japanese animation fair in Tokyo during late March, Anime Japan is a fair that has many exhibitions and displays from the anime industry. Tokyo, during the festival, can be quite busy as many anime enthusiasts from all over the world flock here.
One of the famous events in Tokyo is the lighting of thousands of lanterns, illuminating the city’s major landmarks that create an exceptional scene. They are best viewed at nighttime when mild temperatures sweep the country.
Inabe Plum Festival
Held at the Inabe Plum Grove, the plum blossom festival (Inabe Plum Festival) attracts tourists every year that features almost 4,500 plum trees in the 380,000 square meter space on the foot of the Suzuka mountain range. This time of year gives visitors an excellent view of the plum blooms during a stroll in the grove with a view of the mountain as a backdrop.
The month of April can be crowded because of Japan’s warm weather and charming cherry trees. There are tons of other events that you can explore, including the national holiday of Golden Week, lasting from April 29 to May 5. The Golden Week is a week-long celebration that includes about four national holidays, including Shōwa Day (April 29), Constitution Day (May 3), Greenery Day (May 4), and Children's Day (May 5).
Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry blossoms peak during the first week of April, and many locals will hold hanami (blossom viewing) parties. Enjoy the cherry blossom season and catch them with your family and friends for some Instagram-worthy pictures. The popular destinations would be Tokyo and Kyoto but there are several alternatives that you can explore.
Wisteria Flower Festival
If you want to see more blooms in Japan while the temperatures permit, the Wisteria Flower Festival in Ashikaga Park is where you should head to see the vibrant purple flowers arranged in tunnel formation. Luckily, this festival coincides with the Golden Week.
Takayama Spring Matsuri
Held on the 14th and 15th of April, the town of Takayama proudly hosts their festival. The Takayama Spring Matsuri, which is the more decorated of the two festivals (one in October.) It involves parades of mesmerizing floats that have lit lanterns, and witness the lion dance as well.
The Showa day is a national holiday celebrated in late April, which is the late Emperor Showa’s birthday. Sho means shining, and wa means peace, signifying enlightened peace that citizens receive during the festivities.
Visiting Japan in May means access to great weather, perfect for exploring the beautiful country. You can also get to enjoy the first week celebrating the Golden Week.
Children’s (Boys) Festival
It is traditional for Japanese families to celebrate Kodomo-no-hi, shobu-no-sekku, or tango-no-sekku as a day to pray for healthy boys. During this festival, held during the first week of May, families will fly carp banners for each child they have to make sure they grow up as individuals with strength, ambition, and perseverance. It is the last event that completes the Golden Week celebrations.
The Sanja Matsuri is often regarded as the grandest festival or national holiday in Tokyo. This three-day event is often celebrated on the third weekend of May and attracts over 1.5 million visitors. Held in Asakusa, this festival features the lively parade of portable shrines (mikoshi) as they are carried by locals wearing traditional outfits. During this time, the weather is ideal to go out and explore Japan.
Roppongi Art Night
Also held in late May, this weekend-long, 24-hour event features some of the best artists in the scene with their large scale installations, breathtaking performances, and more celebrated in galleries, museums, and Roppongi streets.
If you plan to visit Japan in June, do so during the early days of the month, before the typhoon season or rainy season starts. It is also the time when Japan in summer is most bearable. Plus, it is also the time when the snow caps start melting, meaning it is an opportune time to explore hiking. It is also the month to enjoy a little festival:
Kanazawa celebrates the Hyakumangoku Matsuri, a three-day, an annual festival that features costume parades and cultural performances to commemorate the city’s glory days of the 16th century.
If you want to climb Mount Fuji, July offers the best temperatures for a trek. Before reaching the summit, there are already plenty of more reasons to appreciate the wonders that surround the majestic mountain. There are boat trips, museums, and cable car excursions that you may try.
It would also be great to go to the north and experience the least-visited islands of Japan. Hokkaido can be a perfect place to visit if you like exceptional cuisine, few tourists, and awe-inspiring nature.
Kyoto’s Gion Festival is the most prominent cultural event of the city. It features gorgeous floats and incredible paper lantern displays. The city celebrates this holiday for the whole month of July.
The Chiyoda area in Tokyo celebrates its Mitama Festival. You can witness Japan’s traditional dancing, lavish lantern parade and appreciate the admirable yukatas (summer kimonos) that most locals wear for the celebration.
Some tourists would prefer to visit Japan in September. It is the time of year where the changing of leaves gives inspiration to writers and poets for ages. It would also be a great photo opportunity for people who love nature, bearing in mind that Japan has almost 70% forestry. Tourists can also see a beautiful sight in the north during September as foliage color changes from red, yellow, and copper waves going to the south.
Autumn Feast in Sapporo
Autumn Feast in Sapporo offers traditional and gourmet dishes and lots of supply of sake. The Autumn Feast is one of Japan’s prominent food festivals.
October weather in Japan is relatively warm and dry, which is a good time to experience outdoor activities, mainly in central Japan.
Sawara Grand Festival
One of the longest-running holidays in Japan is the Sawara Grand Festival which has been around for more than 300 years. Live chanting music and wonderful floats that carry mythological figures on Katori’s streets is a great treat for tourists. It completely transforms central Japan into a festive region.
From October to November, days in Japan are filled with crisp and cool days, as the snow starts to trickle down in the mountains. It is also one of the seasons when autumn foliage would be at its most abundant in most parks of Tokyo and Kyoto. If you want to beat the crowds, head to the parks early or late at night. Aside from the autumn leaves, tourists can also witness Japan’s 7-5-3 festival.
Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3 Festival)
This festival occurs in late November, and it is when parents would dress up their little girls aged seven (sichi), three (san), and five (go) in kimonos. They will then bring the children to Shinto shrines to receive blessings from their guardian gods.
Unsurprisingly, December is the busiest time of the year in Japan. You can expect to find city bars and entertainment centers to be brimming with people joining the merrymaking. You can also find the commercial strips to be filled with seasonal illuminations. Since family gatherings are sacred in Japan, many establishments will close their shops starting the latter part of December until the first week of January.
When you head to Kobe, you will see many of their arches covered with elaborate lighting to commemorate the victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995.
In Japan, there is a celebration called toshikoshi soba held the day before the New Year, which is believed to bring luck and long life as symbolized by the noodle length.
Joya-no-kane is celebrated on December 31 at midnight. All the temple bells in Japan will be rung 108 times to start the purifying ritual during this time.
Aside from considering the weather in Japan, you should also choose the best time to visit Japan depending on what you want to explore and enjoy. Make sure that you are prepared for the festivals. More than the cherry blossom season, the national holiday of Golden Week is also the best time to visit Japan, so make sure that you are aware. Note that Japan will also host some events like the Rugby World Cup when it can get really busy.
The Worst Times to Visit Japan
Weather in Japan can be of extremes. One region may be experiencing typhoon season, while the other one may have clear skies. In general, the worst time to visit Japan is when it is the typhoon season, which starts in June and lasts until the middle of July due to travel safety. However, the typhoon season in Okinawa starts in early May. Hokkaido, on the other hand, has the summer season with blue skies and mild temperatures.
Many tourists believe that Japan is all about the cherry blossom season, so it would not be surprising to see people flocking to Japan during this time. You may also take note of the Golden Week. Since it is a national holiday, many locals will be heading out as well. This means that the season is a popular time for both tourists and locals alike.
As such, hotels and trains may be booked. Additionally, rates are way higher compared with other times. Some tourists will plan their trip according to seasons, weather, and relative temperatures. In contrast, others will not really care much about it and instead opt to go to Japan based on the national holiday. So to say the worst time and best time to visit Japan depends on your goal.
What is the Cheapest Month to Travel to Japan?
Japan is an expensive place for travel and not favoured by travellers on a tight budget. Most struggle looking for cheap flights, affordable accommodations, and activities to avail against the rush of crowds.
Tourists who are eager to explore Japan may consider mid-January until March because they have fewer visitors, which gives an opportunity to find more great deals for hotels, activities, and airfare. Since it is also one of the coldest seasons in Japan, the temperatures may not be ideal for exploring the many outdoor activities. But it is also a great time to experience some winter sports as the weather brings thick snow in Hokkaido and other areas of Japan.
When planning a trip to visit Japan, it is best to consider what time of year typhoons are common. Know the months included in the rainy season so you will know if the temperatures or weather permit travel in and around the country. It will also be nice to check out times and seasons when there are deals, particularly during festivals so you can save money on your trip.