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When is the Best Time to Visit Japan in 2023? Here's When to Go/When to Avoid

When is the Best Time to Visit Japan in 2023? Here's When to Go/When to Avoid

Date published: 10 January 2020
Last updated: 6 March 2023

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 careful attention needs to be paid to the when, not just the where, when planning your Japan adventure!

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 confidently and get the Japan you’ve dreamed of!

Table of Contents
  1. Here's the best time to visit Japan
  2. Pros and cons of traveling in each month in Japan
  3. Best season to travel in Japan
  4. The least crowded time to visit Japan
  5. The cheapest time to visit Japan
  6. List of Annual Events and Japan National Holidays 2023
  7. Final Word

Here's the best time to visit Japan

Calendar of when to expect crowds in Japan
Calendar of when to expect crowds in 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 from 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

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!

Visiting Japan in January
  • Pro: Fine powder snow - "Japow" - is everywhere in ski resorts. This makes it a fantastic time for skiing, especially in Hokkaido.
  • Pro: While chilly, the weather in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto is often clear and calm. It likely won't drop below freezing.
  • Pro: Stunning lights festivals, known as illuminations, are held all around.
  • Con: New Year, which spans the first week of January, is a Japanese national holiday. Shops, tourist destinations, transport, and temples are bustling during this time.
  • Con: Some places may close for New Year.
  • Con: The winter weather can turn sour at any moment. Northern Japan is prone to train cancellations and dangerous conditions.
Visiting Japan in February
Visiting Japan in March
  • Pro: Warmer and calmer weather will begin to show.
  • Pro: Cherry blossoms will bloom from Kyushu to Tokyo during late March.
  • Con: Famous cherry blossom spots are packed with people, particularly on weekends.
  • Con: Cold, wintery days will continue, especially north of Tokyo.
Visiting Japan in April
  • Pro: Gorgeous blue skies and pleasant temperatures are abundant.
  • Pro: Beautiful Japanese flowers, including roses, tulips, wisteria, and rapeseed, will bloom.
  • Pro: Cherry blossoms can still be enjoyed north of Tokyo - even as far back as late April in Hokkaido.
  • Con: April is still cold in Tohoku and Hokkaido, sometimes dropping below freezing.
  • Con: While not as intense as Tokyo, cherry blossoms can attract large crowds in the north.
  • Con: The Golden Week public holiday period can start in late April, resulting in busy accommodation and transport.
Visiting Japan in May
  • Pro: Fantastic weather will continue.
  • Pro: Wisteria flowers are in full bloom in early May. Dazzling wisteria tunnels are found across Japan.
  • Pro: Rice fields are flooded with water to prepare for planting. This spectacle makes for some great photos!
  • Pro: Several large festivals, including the popular Sanja Matsuri, are held.
  • Con: Golden Week, which occurs from late April to early May, is an extremely popular time for travel. Many accommodations will be booked out, and trains packed.
Visiting Japan in June
  • Pro: Often there are no public holidays in June, making tourist attractions quiet.
  • Pro: The humid and wet weather will keep most people indoors, resulting in easier travel.
  • Pro: Temperatures are comfortable, with an average high of around 25°C (78°F) in Tokyo.
  • Pro: Hokkaido's weather is mild, without much of a rainy season.
  • Con: The rainy season begins for most of Japan. The weather will quickly become humid with heavy downpours.
  • Con: Famous scenery, including Mt. Fuji, is often obscured by clouds.
Visiting Japan in July
  • Pro: The rainy season will begin to wind down towards the end of July.
  • Pro: Many summer festivals are in full swing, such as the Gion Festival in Kyoto and the Ise Shrine Fireworks Festival in Mie Prefecture.
  • Pro: Early July brings colorful decorations and tanzaku, paper on which to write a wish, covering parks and towns for Tanabata, the Star Festival.
  • Con: The rainy season will continue until around mid-July, causing the same problems as June.
Visiting Japan in August
  • Pro: Summer festivals are everywhere, including traditional parades, jaw-dropping fireworks, and lively music concerts like Fuji Rock. Something is happening across Japan every week!
  • Pro: Clear skies make a return - a great season to enjoy the beach!
  • Pro: Many Japanese return to their hometowns during the Obon public holiday week. Larger cities will become a little quieter.
  • Con: August is very hot, with temperatures exceeding 30°C (86°F).
  • Con: Typhoons can occur, resulting in hazardous conditions and canceled transport.
  • Con: Bugs, such as the infamously loud cicada, are everywhere.
  • Con: The homecoming trips during Obon can cause congested trains and highways.
Visiting Japan in September
  • Pro: The intense heat of August will begin to subside.
  • Pro: The unique 'Spider Lily' flower and cosmos will bloom in late September.
  • Pro: With the local summer holidays over, tourist attractions will quieten down.
  • Pro: The peak season for international tourism finishes.
  • Con: Sweltering heat can continue for much of September.
  • Con: Peak typhoon season.
Visiting Japan in October
  • Pro: The forests of mainland Japan will slowly turn bright red as stunning autumn colors make an appearance.
  • Pro: Cooler weather will emerge, making October one of the most pleasant months to visit Japan.
  • Pro: Massive Halloween parties can be easily found, especially in places like Shibuya.
  • Con: Locals and tourists alike will flock to parks and mountains to see the autumn leaves, making these areas extremely busy.
  • Con: Streets and trains are flooded with party-goers during Halloween.
  • Con: Depending on the date of China's National Day (October 1) and the Mid-Autumn Festival, which tends to be in late September or early October, popular areas may see even more tourists from abroad than usual.
Visiting Japan in November
  • Pro: Mostly comfortable weather on the cooler side.
  • Pro: Low rainfall across most of Japan.
  • Pro: Red, yellow, and brown autumn foliage is everywhere.
  • Con: Chilly weather, especially during evenings and at night, will emerge. Winter will begin in Hokkaido.
  • Con: Parks will be busy with autumn sightseers.
Visiting Japan in December
  • Pro: The ski season begins, with excellent conditions in Hokkaido.
  • Pro: Beautiful Illumination festivals are set up across the country. Christmas markets are also a treat!
  • Pro: While cold, outdoor sightseeing is still a possibility in most places.
  • Pro: Clear, sunny days are common in Tokyo and Osaka.
  • Con: Cold weather returns to most of Japan.
  • Con: Many ski resorts lack enough snow to open yet.

Best season to travel in Japan

Best season to travel in Japan

Japan has four seasons. Each 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 cooler 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, 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

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 the spring. While rain is often, 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).

Cherry blossoms
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 mid-March is the best time to visit Japan for cherry blossoms. 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. Trains and accommodation will also be busy on any weekend falling into the period.

Tips for visiting Japan in spring
  • In terms of clothes, bring both light clothes, along with a few jackets, sweaters and pants.
  • Be prepared for crowds, even before peak cherry blossom bloom, and try to get most of your sightseeing finished before rush hour, starting at around 6:00 pm.
  • If you’re allergic to pollen, spring may be a bad time to come to Japan.

Bottom Line
In terms of weather, spring is one of the best times to visit Japan. However, choosing another season is recommended for those wanting to avoid crowds.

Visiting Japan in summer

Visiting Japan in summer

Why visit Japan in summer?
Early summer is considered the off-season for domestic traveling, making 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, it is intense and heavy when it does rain. 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 visiting Japan in summer
  • 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 necessary.
  • 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.

Bottom Line
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

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 visiting Japan in autumn
  • To beat the crowds, avoid foliage hotspots on weekends and public holidays. Aim to visit mid-week instead.
  • If a typhoon is predicted to hit your area, ensure you have accommodation and supplies for that period, and refrain from venturing outside. Keep an eye on the news for landslides or flood warnings, and ask your accommodation staff for information on evacuation points if the weather worsens significantly.

Bottom line
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

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 visiting Japan in winter
  • If you're planning on enjoying cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, or Hiroshima, simple winter clothing, such as sweaters, jackets, and scarves 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, 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!

Bottom line
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

The least crowded time to visit Japan

International tourists:
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.

Domestic tourists:
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

The cheapest time to visit Japan

Airfares to Japan may 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 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 2023

List of Annual Events and Japan National Holidays
List of Annual Events and Japan National Holidays

Following are Japan's national holidays. Particularly around the row of holidays in May (known as Golden Week), you can expect sightseeing areas, attractions, and major cities to be more crowded.

If you plan on traveling around these dates, be sure to make hotel, train, and activity reservations in advance to avoid inconvenience. You may also wish to consider booking tables at popular restaurants as well.

  • January 1 - New Year
  • January 2 - New Year (Obs.)
  • February 11 - National Foundation Day
  • February 23 - Emperor's Birthday
  • March 21 - Spring Equinox
  • April 29 - Showa Day
  • May 3 - Constitution Memorial Day
  • May 4 - Greenery Day
  • May 5 - Children's Day
  • June 17 - Sea Day
  • August 11 - Mountain Day
  • September 18 - Respect for the Aged Day
  • September 23 - Autumn Equinox
  • October 9 - Sports Day
  • November 3 - Culture Day
  • November 23 - Labor Thanksgiving Day

Other days of interest in Japan

February 14 - Valentine's Day
Although not a national holiday, Valentine's Day is indeed celebrated in Japan. On this day, women give chocolates to men - including male coworkers.

March 3 - 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.

March 14 - White Day
An interesting tradition in Japan that's kind of the opposite of Valentine's Day, in which men give chocolates or sweets to women.

July/August 7 - 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.

Mid-August - Obon
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.

November 15 - 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.

December 25 - Christmas
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.

December 31 - New Year's Eve (Omisoka)
Although December 31 is not a national holiday, many shops will close early ahead of the New Year festivities.

Final Word

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!

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*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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