One of the questions that we hear most often is “When is the best time to come to Japan?” Well, we have got some good news: Japan is a destination that is great to visit all-year around! Yet this makes it difficult to decide when to travel to this special country, with a culture that has the seasons strongly embedded in its culture. It really all depends on your personal preferences, what kind of traveler you are and what you want to do.
The country’s archipelago stretches from north to south over about 3.000 km. The northern island of Hokkaido is facing the Russian coastline whereas the most southern island is closest to the Philippines. In addition, about 73% of Japan is mountainous, with a mountain range running through each of the main islands. This results in great differences in nature and climate. But also in culture and traditions, all areas will have their own important events and traditions.
In addition, Japan has four seasons and all have its pro’s and its cons. Below an overview of the seasons and the great things they offer but also the downsides. And after reading this, you can decide on your own preferred time to travel to Japan. But really Japan is great all the time!
Crispy blue skies in winter
Touristic hotspot and cities will generally be less crowded in the winter season. Most tourist that travel to Japan this season, come for the great snow conditions – sunny and dry. During winter, cold air masses from Siberia come to the direction of Japan resulting in heavy snowfall in the northern part of the country. The snow resorts in Japan are globally famous for their great dry and extremely light powder, making it a popular destination for winter sports. The cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka generally don’t get (much) snow, but all have options to see the white powder in their vicinity.
In the snow-rich regions, many winter activities are organised such as the famous Sapporo Snow Festival, attracting each year more than 2 million visitors to the winter wonder land of Hokkaido.
The Best Places to Visit in Hokkaido
Or picture yourself in an onsen in a landscape covered in snow. Wouldn’t that be an amazing feeling; relaxing in a warm bath being surrounded by snow?
Planning Your Visit to The Snow Monkeys in Nagano
Cherry blossom viewing in spring
Like in many countries, spring marks the arrival of the warmer weather. Spring is the period during which many flowers will blossom. Especially the cherry blossoming or sakura is immensely popular in Japan. In January 2020, the sakura forecast for this year was published, read in blog for the complete cherry blossom forecast.
To the Japanese sakura symbolises human life, transience and nobleness. Many hanami (literally flower watching) parties are organised and millions of people will go and watch the sakura blossom. So if you are not one for (over) crowded spots, like the picture below, you might want to avoid spring time in Japan. In Japan, spring also marks the beginning of the school year and business year, spring is a season full of new meetings, activities, and liveliness.
The weather conditions during spring make this period a great time to visit. The period before the rainy season has pleasant temperatures that are great for sightseeing. During the day you can walk around in your shirt or light jacket, but don’t get taken by surprise when the sun goes down and the temperature will drop.
Hot summers with an occasional typhoon
The summer in Japan kicks off with the rainy season or tsuyu in June. Followed by the two hottest months of the year. Summer in Japan equals high temperatures and humidity, especially in the cities. In addition, typhoons (in different sizes) occur, every year about 40 typhoons take place between June en September. Taken this in consideration, summer makes for an unpopular time to visit, which has its advantages: less people at the hot spots and lower prices.
An integral part of the Japanese summers are fireworks or hanabi. Fireworks have a long history in Japan and were originally used to scare off evil spirits. During the summer months in July and August, hundreds of firework festivals are organised throughout Japan. The beautiful fireworks sometimes draw millions of visitors! But don’t let that scare you off, the vibe is very relaxed and many people make a day activity out of it and have a picnic at the best viewing spots. Food stands along the way and watching people wearing Yukata (traditional summer clothes) at the festival are just like popping out from the movies or anime!
Also you can enjoy the beaches around Japan and try out some shaved ice which is really popular during the hot summer.
Beautiful autumn foliage during fall
Autumn is arguably one of the best seasons to visit Japan, with pleasant temperatures and stunning nature sights. Koyo or momiji-gari is Japan’s the autumn variant of sakura. Momoji-gari, literally means red leaves hunting, although the viewing it definitely not limited to red leaves only. The autumn colouring that kicks off at the north, making its way down south, shows off its beautiful red, orange and yellow leaves.
The temperature in fall is still pleasant but it is much less humid, you can often walk around in your light outfit. This in combination with the stunning autumn foliage, makes autumn also a popular time to travel in Japan. But it won’t be as busy as the sakura season.
10 Best Places to See Autumn Leaves in Kyoto
To conclude, the million dollar question – what is the best timing to come to Japan? – is not easy to answer. Deciding on the best time to travel to Japan really comes down to your own preferences, though, our recommendation is to plan your visit in autumn. When the crowds are still manageable, the temperature is pleasant and the autumn colors ensure amazing views. But really, Japan is great for travelling all year round.
When are you planning on coming to Japan? We’d love to help you with some recommendations. Or get some inspiration from our other blogs!