HOME When is the best time to visit Japan? (The answer might surprise you!)
When is the best time to visit Japan? (The answer might surprise you!)

When is the best time to visit Japan? (The answer might surprise you!)

Update: 12 September 2018

You have decided you want to visit Japan soon — great! But now comes the hard part: planning. First things first, when should you go? Everyone says to visit during cherry blossom season, but is that really the best time to go? The pictures you’ve seen of cherry blossom festivals look really crowded. If you want to avoid the crowds, we’re here to help. We’ve broken everything down so you know when to expect crowds — and when seasons are quieter — so you can make an informed decision on what to do and when!

The Worst Times to Visit Japan

The Worst Times to Visit Japan

New Years Holidays
・Starting sometime around December 27 and lasting until January 4 or 5
Japan isn’t big on taking off for Christmas, but New Years is a whole other story. Most people take off and many companies and shops shut down so employees can spend the time with their family, making it a very quiet time of year indeed. During these first few days of the new year, many Japanese visit temples to pray for good luck in the coming year, so temple sightseeing can be quite unpleasant due to the crowds. The big sale time also coincides with New Years and the shops get congested, as well.

Chinese New Years
・Dates: Early to mid-February
While Japan doesn’t celebrate Chinese New Year, the neighbors do. Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China get anywhere from a few days to a week of vacation. This is plenty of time to travel and, as a result, Japan sees a large influx of Chinese tourists at this time. The hot spots like Tokyo and Kyoto will get more crowded, but you will also see more people in off-the-beaten-track locations as many Chinese are returning visitors and looking for something new.

Cherry Blossom Season
・Dates: Varies depending on location
Taking place as early as mid-March in some places, cherry blossom season is easily one of the most crowded times in Japan. Millions of overseas visitors rush to see pink and white flowers that are only in bloom for a few weeks. Temples, parks, shops, trains — expect everything to be crowded. And since demand is high, prices of flights and accommodations also tend to be higher at this time. Kyoto and Tokyo can see particularly large crowds in this season.

Golden Week
・Dates: Starting around April 29 and lasting until May 5
Golden Week is a one-week period with 5 national holidays, starting with Showa Day on April 29 and ending with Children’s Day on May 5. Many companies shut down during this period, and the Japanese take the time to travel and relax. While you won’t experience the rush-hour craze, the trains will be more crowded throughout the day in general. This is one of the worst times in the year to try to go to an amusement park.

Japan's Rainy Season (Tsuyu or Baiyu)
・Dates: Early June to mid-July for most of Japan; Okinawa is roughly a month earlier and Hokkaido does not experience much of a rainy season
After the cherry blossoms have bloomed, there are a few weeks of amazing spring weather - blue skies and comfortable temperatures. Then from early June comes around six weeks of wet weather. Although it does not necessarily rain every day, the consistently humid days can put a damper on travel. Check the graphs below to see monthly temperature and precipitation stats.

Silver Week
・Dates: Mid-September
This holiday period requires somewhat in-depth explanation, since it does not happen every year. Japan has two holidays in September: Respect for the Aged Day (held on the third Monday of September) and Autumnal Equinox Day (around September 23). In certain years, these dates can align and create a 5-day long holiday stretch. When these occur, the phenomenon has been dubbed "Silver Week" and due to the extended break, it will likely be a popular time for Japanese to take off and travel.
But when is the next Silver Week? The next Silver Weeks will occur in 2026, 2032, 2037 and 2043. So if you're planning well ahead, keep this in mind! Otherwise, under ordinary circumstances you probably won't experience many issues traveling during this time.

Fall Leaf-Viewing Season
・Dates: Varies depending on location
Attracting both locals and overseas visitors, fall leaf-viewing is extremely popular in Japan. Simply put, the leaves are to fall what the cherry blossoms are to spring. During this time (which can be as early as September in Hokkaido, or as late as December in Kumamoto), scenic destinations can become very congested. In particular, temples with a view will be packed. Kyoto, Nara, and Nikko can see particularly large crowds in this season.

Japanese holidays for 2018

The Best Times to Visit Japan

The Best Times to Visit Japan

Ski Season
・Dates: Varies depending on location
Ski season is an amazing time to visit Japan. Japan is known for its world class powder, and during the winter months, you can see what all the hype is. While some resorts can be crowded, many are extremely peaceful and offer plenty of pristine Japanese snow.

Cherry Blossom Season
・Dates: Varies depending on location
Yes, we know, we said it: it’s crowded. But we understand why it’s crowded, too. Japan is beautiful in cherry blossom season. Japan is so beautiful at this time that people are willing to wake up at sunrise and go out in 10-degree weather (Celsius) to reserve a good spot under the cherry trees.

Japan's Rainy Season (Tsuyu or Baiyu)
・Dates: Early June to mid-July for most of Japan; Okinawa is roughly a month earlier and Hokkaido does not experience much of a rainy season
Notwithstanding what we mentioned above about humid and wet days, the fact is that it downpours do not happen every day during rainy season. Since this is considered to be somewhat off-season for many travel agencies and tour operators, if you chance things, you might find that the main sights are not as crowded as they might otherwise be. Check the graphs below to see monthly temperature and precipitation stats.

Summer Festival Season
・Dates: Throughout summer
Picking up in June and going until the end of August, festival season is a great time to visit Japan. While the festivals themselves can get packed, this is only part of the charm. Other than that, most activities are not terribly packed at this time.

Obon Festival
・Dates: Varies depending on location
Taking place sometime around mid-August, Obon Festival is a surprisingly great time to visit Japan, in particular the big cities. This is because Obon, a Japanese Buddhist custom, is when most Japanese return to countryside to visit their families and pay their respects to their ancestors. Most companies will offer a flexible day or two off around this timing and many Japanese will use this opportunity to make a long weekend out of the deal. As a result, trains (especially shinkansen) and planes can be much more crowded during this period, making it tricky to reserve seats. Generally, though, while some things may be closed at this time, the peacefulness is well worth it.

Fall Leaf-Viewing Season
・Dates: Varies depending on location
Like cherry blossom season, Japan is gorgeous in autumn. And if you can brave the crowds, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of golden and red hues across the country.

Japan is an amazing place to visit any time of the year. But you should think twice about when to go if you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy a more authentic experience. Use this guide to help you plan your next trip to Japan!

List of Annual Events and National Holidays in Japan

Following are Japan's national holidays and select fun days that are celebrated nationwide

■January
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.

■February
February 3
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.

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
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.

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
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
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.

■July
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.

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
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.

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.

■September
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.

■October
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
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.

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.

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.

■December
December 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.

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.

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.

What's the weather like in Japan?

What's the weather like in Japan?
*This information is from the time of this article's publication.

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