When is the best time to visit Japan? When is the best time to visit Tokyo? You have decided you want to visit Japan - great! But now comes the hard part: planning.
Everyone says to visit during cherry blossom season, but is that really the best time to travel? The pictures you’ve seen of cherry blossom festivals look really crowded.
From flower viewing in spring, festivals in summer, and skiing in winter, each season is a brand-new Japan! That's why, when planning your Japan adventure, careful attention needs to be paid to the when, not just the where!
To help you with your planning, we've created the ultimate guide to Japan's seasons, weather, and trends. Use this information to pick a time with confidence and get the Japan you've been dreaming about!
- Table of Contents
- Here's The Best Time to Visit Japan
- Pros and Cons of Traveling in Each Month in Japan
- Best Season to Travel in Japan
- Visiting Japan in Spring
- Visiting Japan in Summer
- Visiting Japan in Autumn
- Visiting Japan in Winter
- The Least Crowded Time to Visit Japan
- The Cheapest Time to Visit Japan
- List of Annual Events and Japan National Holidays 2020
- Final Word
- Best Time to Visit Japan: Related Links
Here's The Best Time to Visit Japan
The periods between March to May and October to November have the best weather. These times, which line up with spring and most of autumn, are filled with calm days and comfortable temperatures.
Nature lovers will appreciate the blooming flowers of spring, including the famed cherry blossoms, along with the equally stunning foliage of late autumn.
With sunny skies and low rainfall, winter is also a great season to spend in cities like Tokyo and Osaka, and, being the off-season, tourist numbers will drop significantly.
It all depends on you!
Japan is a beautiful country 365 days a year, and you won't regret your trip no matter when you go. However, depending on the season, you may see a very different Japan to the one you imagined. That's why it's essential to create a list of goals for your trip, then compare them against each month to find the Japan you want to see the most.
Pros and Cons of Traveling in Each Month in Japan
To help you choose the best time to visit Japan, we've broken down each month into a handy pros and cons list. After you've decided what you'd like to see and do, use this list to select the best time to go!
・Fine powder snow - "Japow" - is everywhere in ski resorts. This makes it a fantastic time for skiing, especially in Hokkaido.
・While chilly, the weather in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto is often clear and calm. It likely won't drop below freezing.
・Stunning lights festivals, known as illuminations, are held everywhere.
・New Year in Japan, which spans the first week of January, is a holiday for most. Shops, tourist destinations, transport, and temples are particularly busy during this time.
・Some places may close for New Years.
・The weather can turn sour at any moment. Northern Japan is prone to train cancellations and dangerous conditions.
・Depending on the date of Chinese New Year, which always falls between late January to mid-February, popular areas may see even more tourists from abroad than usual.
・Ski conditions are now at their peak! The best time to visit Japan for skiers.
・Snow Festivals, such as the Sapporo Snow Festival and the Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival, are in full swing.
・Most illumination festivals continue until mid-February or longer.
・The coldest month in Japan. Temperatures will often drop below freezing in some areas.
・Snow and ice can delay transport and make driving very dangerous.
・Depending on the date of Chinese New Year, which always falls between late January to mid-February, popular areas may see even more tourists from abroad than usual.
・Warmer and calmer weather will begin to show.
・Snow is still visible and many ski resorts are operating.
・Cherry blossoms will bloom from Kyushu to Tokyo during late March.
・Famous cherry blossom spots are packed with people, particularly on weekends.
・Cold, wintery days will continue, especially north of Tokyo.
・Gorgeous blue skies and pleasant temperatures are abundant.
・Beautiful Japanese flowers, including roses, tulips, wisteria, and rapeseed, will bloom.
・Cherry blossoms can still be enjoyed north of Tokyo - even as far back as late April in Hokkaido.
・April is still cold in Tohoku and Hokkaido, sometimes dropping below freezing.
・While not as intense as Tokyo, cherry blossoms can attract large crowds in the north.
・The Golden Week public holiday period can start in late April, resulting in busy accommodation and transport.
・Fantastic weather will continue.
・Wisteria flowers are in full bloom in early May. Dazzling wisteria tunnels are found across Japan.
・Rice fields are flooded with water to prepare for plantation. This spectacle makes for some great photos!
・Golden Week, which occurs late April to early May, is an extremely popular time for travel. Most accommodation will be booked out and trains packed.
・Often there are no public holidays in June, making tourist attractions quiet.
・The humid and wet weather will keep most people indoors, resulting in easier travel.
・Temperatures are comfortable, with an average high of around 25°C (78°F) in Tokyo.
・Hokkaido's weather is mild, without much of a rainy season.
・The rainy season begins for most of Japan. The weather will quickly become humid with heavy downpours.
・Mt. Fuji and other famous scenery is often obscured by clouds.
・The rainy season will begin to wind down towards the end of July.
・Many summer festivals are in full swing, such as the Gion Festival in Kyoto and the Ise Shrine Fireworks Festival in Mie Prefecture.
・Early July brings colorful decorations and tanzaku, paper on which to write a wish, covering parks and towns for Tanabata, the Star Festival.
・The rainy season will continue until around mid-July, causing the same problems as June.
・Summer festivals are everywhere, including traditional parades, jaw-dropping fireworks, and lively music shows. There's something happening across Japan every week!
・Clear skies make a return - a great season to enjoy the beach!
・Many Japanese return to their hometowns during the Obon public holiday week. Larger cities will become a little quieter.
・August is very hot, with temperatures exceeding 30°C (86°F).
・Typhoons can occur, resulting in extremely dangerous conditions and canceled transport.
・Bugs, such as the infamously loud semi, are everywhere.
・The homecoming trips during Obon can cause congested trains and highways.
・The intense heat of August will begin to subside.
・The unique 'Spider Lily' flower will bloom in late September.
・With local summer holidays over, tourist attractions will quieten down.
・The peak season for international tourism finishes.
・Sweltering heat can continue for much of September.
・Peak typhoon season.
・The forests of mainland Japan will slowly turn bright red as stunning autumn colors make an appearance.
・Cooler weather will emerge, making October one of the most pleasant months to visit Japan.
・Massive Halloween parties can be easily found, especially in Tokyo.
・Locals and tourists alike will flock to parks and mountains to see the autumn leaves, making these areas extremely busy.
・Streets and trains are flooded with party-goers during Halloween.
・Depending on the date of China's National Day (October 1) and Mid-Autumn Festival, which tends to be in late September or early October, popular areas may see even more tourists from abroad than usual.
・Mostly comfortable weather on the cooler side.
・Low rainfall across most of Japan.
・Red, yellow, and brown autumn foliage is everywhere.
・Chilly weather, especially during evenings and at night, will emerge. Winter will begin in Hokkaido.
・Parks will be busy with autumn sightseers.
・The ski season begins, with excellent conditions in Hokkaido.
・Beautiful Christmas lights are everywhere. Christmas markets are also a treat!
・Illumination festivals are set up across the country.
・While cold, outdoor sightseeing is still a possibility in most places.
・Clear, sunny days are common in Tokyo and Osaka.
・Cold weather returns to most of Japan.
・Many ski resorts lack enough snow to open yet.
Best Season to Travel in Japan
Like much of the world, Japan has 4 seasons. Each season begets a new set of activities, so you should first consider your objectives, then choose when to go. For example, if you want an outdoor adventure, such as hiking, then the cool weather of spring and autumn is ideal.
If beaches are your thing, then late June and August are perfect! If a ski holiday is on your mind, then you should pack your bags for January, February, and March. Plan your activities first, then use this guide to find the season that will suit your needs best!
Visiting Japan in Spring
Why visit Japan in spring?
Arguably the most loved season in Japan, spring is synonymous with glorious weather and the blooming of flowers. After a cold winter, the country jumps back into life with activities and fun around every corner. The start of the new school and business year, along with the world-famous cherry blossom festivals, spring endows Japan with a freshness that highlights the country's beauty to its pinnacle.
Spring weather in Japan
Calm, warm days and chilly nights characterize most of spring. While there is often rain, most bouts don't last the day and will clear up quickly. The low humidity makes it a great time to enjoy outdoor activities.
During April, Tokyo boasts pleasant high temperatures of 19°C (66°F) and lows of 10°C (51°F), while Sapporo is still cold with average highs of just 11°C (53°F) and lows of 3°C (37°F).
Spring's crowning jewel is the short period of mankai - the full-blooming of the cherry blossom trees. Taking part in flowing-viewing picnics under the trees is a dream for lovers of Japan, and it truly lives up to its reputation. However, there are also reasons to avoid this time. Mankai is one of the busiest times in Japan, and popular spots will be packed. Partaking in the spectacle will be a constant battle with crowds, especially in major cities. On any weekend falling into the period, trains and accommodation will also be busy.
Tips for spring in Japan
In terms of clothes, bring both light, summery clothes, along with a few jackets, sweaters and pants. Be prepared for crowds, even outside of mankai, and try to get most of your sightseeing finished before rush hour, which starts at around 6:00pm. If you’re allergic to pollen, spring may be a bad time to come to Japan.
In terms of weather, spring is one of the best times to visit Japan. However, for those wanting to avoid crowds, choosing another season is recommended.
Visiting Japan in Summer
Why visit Japan in summer?
Early summer is considered the off-season for domestic traveling, which makes it perfect for those wanting a quieter Japan. While often very muggy, especially in June and July, warm temperatures mean you can wear comfortable summer clothes all day and night. During late summer, particularly in August, Japan is filled with hundreds of spectacular festivals - most being free to enjoy! Beautiful beaches lined with resorts and bars make for a superb place to spend your time during this fun-filled season.
Summer weather in Japan
Summer is often the most disliked season in Japan due to its humidity. This is most pronounced in June and July, which are dominated by tsuyu, Japan's rainy season. Despite this name, there aren't many more rainy days than in spring, however, when it does rain, it is intense and heavy. After tsuyu, August develops into a traditional summer, with sunny skies and blazing heat. Tokyo will see average highs of 31° C (88°F) and lows of 24° C (75°F) during this time. Hokkaido has a much more comfortable summer, with August’s average high a sublime 26° C (80°F).
Tips for summer in Japan
You'll need plenty of light, breezy clothes to endure the heat. If you’re planning on mountain climbing or visiting Hokkaido then pack some jackets and pants. The humidity will make you sweat a lot, so bringing or buying deodorant is also recommended. The summer sun is very glary, especially on concrete streets, so decent sunglasses are another necessity. Buy a cheap plastic umbrella at a convenience store if you’re out on a rainy day. Lastly, be careful of crowds at events, especially fireworks shows. Some of the larger ones will overburden trains for hours, and you may get stuck somewhere.
Despite its reputation, summer is a great season to spend in Japan. Through the huge array of local festivals, it is arguably when the roots of traditional Japan are felt most strongly. For those sensitive to humidity, perhaps wait for another time.
Visiting Japan in Autumn
Why visit Japan in autumn?
Autumn is spring’s main contender for the best time to visit Japan. A well-received break from the throbbing heat of summer, autumn gradually changes into winter with cooler days every week. This period is most famous for momiji, beautiful red fall leaves that can be seen across most of Japan. Unlike the brief life of cherry blossoms, momiji can be spotted for months, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the spectacle on your own schedule. Autumn is also the beginning of the off-season for international travel, so tourist hotspots are generally less crowded.
Autumn weather in Japan
Autumn can have wildly varying weather depending on the month, so keep those summer clothes handy but don't forget the jacket! By October, Sapporo will already be experiencing average lows of 7° C (45°F) and Sendai 11° C (52°F), so expect to feel cold. Warmer weather will linger in Tokyo with average highs of 22°C (72°F), making life in the city very pleasant. Keep your eye on the forecast for typhoons, with the strongest ones usually hitting in September. These nasty storms can bring the entire country to a halt and even ground flights.
Tips for autumn in Japan
To beat the crowds, avoid momiji hotspots on weekends and public holidays.
If a typhoon is predicted to hit your area, ensure that you have accommodation and supplies for that period, and refrain from venturing outside. Keep an eye on the news for landslide or flood warnings, and be ready to evacuate.
If you can successfully navigate around typhoons, you'll be rewarded with amazing scenery, fantastic weather, and quiet tourist attractions. Autumn is a strong contender for the best time to visit Japan.
Visiting Japan in Winter
Why visit Japan in winter?
For skiers, there is no better time than winter - even by December the ski slopes of Hokkaido are open for business! While temperatures are cold, metropolises like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto are partial to clear, dry, and sunny days, making travel a breeze. Other fun winter wonders to enjoy include stunning lights shows, magnificent snow festivals, and delightful Christmas markets. Best of all is the breathtaking utopia that most of Japan becomes, with magnificent winter scenery transforming the landscape to an almost unrecognizable degree. Both international and domestic tourism slow down during winter, so you can travel the country in relative peace.
Winter weather in Japan
During January, average lows in the south are a chilly 5°C (41°F) and Tokyo a brisk 1°C (33°F), which is cold, but not unbearable. However, central ski paradises Niigata and Nagano will regularly fall below freezing and bone-chilling cold will hit Sapporo with an average low of -8°C (17°F). While heavy snowfall is rare in Tokyo and Osaka, an occasional light powdering is not uncommon. Surrounding prefectures, especially those on the Sea of Japan and in Tohoku receive deep and constant snowfall, resulting in stunning views that come at the expense of transport disruptions. Surprisingly, Hokkaido doesn't have the most snowfall in Japan – that honor goes to Yamagata, with some places in the prefecture being covered in a staggering 11 meters of snow!
Tips for winter in Japan
If you're planning on enjoying cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, or Hiroshima, simple winter clothing, such as sweaters, jackets, and scarfs will suffice. However, if you're heading to ski resorts, mountains, or snowy regions, specialized snow boots, puffer jackets, raincoats, and other winter protections are a necessity to survive the harsh conditions. Train delays are common during heavy snowfall, along with heavy traffic on the road. Be prepared for your trip to be affected. Be wary of New Years, known as <@oshogatsu|ai@>, which is a public holiday week. While it is common for most Japanese to stay home, shops, restaurants, ski resorts, and other attractions are usually busy, and some may decide to close. Be sure to double-check the places on your itinerary before you go!
While winter is not for everyone, most major cities enjoy mild and consistent weather. However, some prefectures are prone to harsh conditions, and care should be taken before traveling. Crowds will be thin and most attractions quiet outside New Years and public holidays. For skiers, there's no better time!
The Least Crowded Time to Visit Japan
As seen in the above chart, August to December is low on international tourists, with the quietest month being September. For those looking to beat the crowds, this is the best time! January and February are also scarce on European and North American travelers, however, mostly due to the Chinese New Year and summer holidays, thousands of additional tourists will flock from Asia and Oceania, making it not as ideal.
To avoid crowds of local travelers, stay clear of these three periods!
・March – Very busy due to the good weather and cherry blossoms.
・Late April/early May – The week-long holiday of Golden Week occurs.
・Mid-August – The most popular time for Japanese to travel due to the Obon holiday period.
The Cheapest Time to Visit Japan
According to Champion Traveler, airfares drop significantly from September, with tourist numbers falling and flight costs adjusting accordingly. Depending on the date, you may be able to find flights well under US$1,000!
In terms of accommodation, winter is by far the cheapest time, excluding ski-resorts. Many hotels will offer off-peak specials, including cheaper deals on weekdays! Most hotels hike up their prices on public holidays, so keep an eye on the calendar to avoid a shock.
List of Annual Events and Japan National Holidays 2020
Following are Japan's national holidays and select fun days that are celebrated nationwide
January 1 (National holiday)
New Year (Oshogatsu)
This comes at one of Japan's most important holiday periods. Although only January 1 is designated as a national holiday, many businesses (and banks) remain closed through January 3.
Second Monday of January (National holiday)
Coming of Age Day (Seijin no Hi)
Held in order to commemorate and encourage those who have reached adulthood (age 20) during the past year. Celebrated at temples around Japan.
Beginning of spring (Setsubun)
Known as the "bean-throwing festival," while setsubun is not a national holiday, it's celebrated at shrines and temples nationwide.
February 11 (National holiday)
National Foundation Day (Kenkoku Kinenbi)
Day to mark the crowning of the first Japanese emperor, Jimmu, on this day in the year 660 BC.
Although not a national holiday, Valentine's Day is indeed celebrated in Japan. On this day, women give chocolates to men - including male coworkers.
February 23 (National holiday)
Emperor's Birthday (Tenno no Tanjobi)
In Japan, the birthday of the current emperor is always a national holiday. When the emperor changes, the holiday shifts accordingly to the birthday date of the new emperor.
Doll's Festival (Hina Matsuri)
Families with girls celebrate this day to wish them a happy and successful life. Special hina dolls are displayed in homes to mark the occasion; certain temples and communities put on events to celebrate with community members.
An interesting tradition in Japan that's kind of the opposite of Valentine's Day, in which men give chocolates or sweets to women.
Around March 20 (National holiday)
Vernal (Spring) Equinox Day (Shunbun no Hi)
Originally a Shinto holiday to remember post emperors of Japan, people nowadays tend to celebrate by going outside and enjoying nature.
April 29 (National holiday)
Showa Day (Showa no Hi)
This national holiday commemorates the birthday of former Emperor Showa and typically marks the beginning of Golden Week.
May 3 (national holiday)
Constitution Memorial Day (Kenpo Kinenbi)
Part of the collection of holidays known as Golden Week, this national holiday commemorates the date when the post-war constitution was enacted.
May 4 (National holiday)
Greenery Day (Midori no Hi)
Linked to the former Emperor Showa's love for plants and nature, this day is set aside for nature appreciation and is part of Golden Week.
May 5 (National holiday)
Children's Day (Kodomo no Hi)
The final national holiday in Golden Week, this day was set aside to celebrate children.
Star Festival (Tanabata)
Rather than a national holiday, Tanabata is a festival period celebrating the deities of Orihime and Hikoboshi meeting in the sky above. Around July 7, a Tanabata festival is held in Hiratsuka (about 90 minutes south of Tokyo), while a large-scale festival is held in Sendai around August 7.
Third Monday of July (National holiday)
Marine Day (Umi no Hi; also known as Ocean Day)
A recently introduced national holiday to celebrate the ocean and the bounty it provides.
August 11 (National holiday)
Mountain Day (Yama no Hi)
Introduced in 2016, this new national holiday was created in order to provide an opportunity for people to get familiar with and appreciate mountains.
A Buddhist event to honor the spirits of one's ancestors, Obon is generally held from around August 13-15 and is a time of family reunions.
Third Monday of September (National holiday)
Respect for the Aged Day (Keiro no Hi)
This national holiday was established to respect and recognize elders in the community.
Around September 23 (National holiday)
Autumnal Equinox Day (Shubun no Hi)
This holiday marks a change in season and people often pay their respects to their ancestors.
Second Monday of October (National holiday)
Health and Sports Day (Taiiku no Hi)
Commemorating the opening of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, this holiday was established to promote sports and outdoor activities.
November 3 (National holiday)
Culture Day (Bunka no Hi)
A day for promotion of traditional Japanese culture and the love of freedom and peace, marked by art exhibitions and different cultural festivals. Schools and the government award selected persons for their special cultural achievements on this day.
Seven-Five-Three Day (Shichi-Go-San)
Based on customs developed over 800 years ago, this day a traditional rite of passage: at age 3, girls and boys are allowed to grow their hair longer; at 5, boys are considered old enough to wear hakama, pants worn with a kimono; and at age 7, girls would try on their first kimono obi. Families go to shrines and temples to pray for their children's good health and growth.
November 23 (National holiday)
Labor Thanksgiving Day (Kinro Kansha no Hi)
This national holiday celebrates the worker - commemorating labor and production and thanking each other for helping out.
Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, however one can still feel the holiday spirit in Japan. Shops are decorated in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and many people spend the time with people close, often having a chicken dinner home with family or out on a date with someone special. It's also the time of year to see incredible Christmas illuminations in Japan.
New Year's Eve (Omisoka)
Although December 31 is not a national holiday, many shops will close early ahead of the New Year festivities.
No matter when you visit Japan, you'll have a good time! Japan is a country that celebrates each season accordingly, making for year-round fun! However, if you have a specific activity or interest, choosing the best time to visit Japan for you is extremely important.
Balancing this with crowds and costs will also help you get the most out of your Japan trip. By reading this guide you'll have all the information you need to enjoy Japan's wonders to their fullest extent!
Best Time to Visit Japan: Related Links
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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