Learn and Enjoy the Varying Climates of Japan
Update: 31 August 2016

Learn and Enjoy the Varying Climates of Japan

Having distinct seasons, first-time visitors to Japan may wonder a lot about Japan's climate. Stretching from the north to south, Japan has various climate divisions. Here, we will introduce the natural phenomena and the climate indigenous to Japan.

The Earth's tilt causes the seasons!?

It is obvious that the change of the seasons is related to the movement of the Earth and the Sun. The Earth rotates once a day and revolves around the Sun once a year. The Earth (the axis of the Earth) however, revolves around the Sun in a slightly tilted way so the heat from the Sun differs depending on the Earth's position. Due to the yearly round of the Earth, seasons are repeated year after year and creates the four seasons. Although there are some differences depending on the area, you can enjoy the change of seasons throughout the year since the Japanese archipelago stretches out from the north to south.

Why does Japan have distinct seasons?

Since Japan is surrounded by ocean, the subtropical westerlies affected by the ocean current in the wintertime and the southeast winds and the monsoons blowing in summertime play a role in creating Japan's distinct four seasons. Distinct seasons can be seen in the mid-latitude regions where air masses largely shift.

What is Japan's unique forecast, the "Japan's Cherry Blossom Fronts" about?

Japanese people are deeply attached to cherry blossoms. In Japan, there is the custom to forecast the day cherry blossoms start blooming. The areas and spots of the same bloom date is connected with a line on a map and is called the "cherry blossom front" from its resemblance of the fronts on a weather map.

Not many have hay fever in Okinawa!?

Pollen from cedar troubles many Japanese people with hay fever during the springtime. However, it is said that people in Okinawa do not suffer from pollen as much. This is because cedar does not grow in Okinawa's year-round mild climate.

What is "Tsuyu"?

Some people are surprised at the humidity, related to "Tsuyu" or the rainy season, when they visit Japan from May to July. This humidity is related to the rainy season, a seasonal phenomenon that brings more rain and less sun as the seasons transit from spring to summer. The "beginning of the rainy seasons" starts at a transition period of an average of 5 days. The "beginning of the rainy season" is declared from the weather up until that time and the one-week forecast to see how many rainy and cloudy days there are. The "end of the rainy season" is announced when the rainy season front moves away from Japan and changes to summer weather. Hot and humid weather specific to the rainy season mainly occurs in June and July.

No rainy season in Hokkaido?

Hokkaido does not observe the rainy season. The rainy front has the characteristic to move to the north or to the south, depending on the strength of the two high pressure systems. It does move to the north from Okinawa but by the time it reaches Hokkaido, the Pacific high gathers strength and causes the rainy front to disappear.

Why is Summer Time in Japan so Humid?

Summer is humid in Japan, which may make many travelers uncomfortably sweaty. This humidity is due to the "Pacific high". The high pressure forms over the Pacific Ocean so it contains a lot of water vapor. When summer arrives, it moves to the north and covers the Japanese islands. The southerly winds then carries the hot and humid air from the Pacific Ocean to Japan, making it humid.

Why does it snow?

It is very cold during the winter in Hokkaido and the Tohoku Region but you can enjoy a beautiful, snowy world. Snow falls from clouds but clouds are formed from many small water particles. Water particles in clouds are ice at first but moisture in the air bonds with the ice particles, forming larger ice crystals. When the temperature becomes 0 degrees Celsius or lower on the earth's surface, ice crystals falling from the sky without melting create snow.

Mt. Fuji can Forecast the Weather?

From the old times, it has been said that people living around Mt. Fuji could predict the weather from watching the clouds over the mountain. For example, if umbrella-shaped clouds form at the top of the mountain, people would predict rain the next day. If clouds form at the foot of the mountain, they predicted it would be sunny the next day. People in old times watched Mt. Fuji to predict the weather when no technology was available to predict weather.

Are the names of typhoons different from country to country?

In the past, the U.S. gave typhoons female names. This is because typhoons were observed by naval and air forces and named them for fun. They gave typhoons the names of their wives and girlfriends in an affectionate way, which is said to be the start of naming typhoons. From 2000, it was decided that typhoons generated in the North West Pacific Ocean or South China Sea would be given names of the same regions. From this, after January 1st of every year in Japan, the first typhoon that occurs is named the 1st typhoon and the following typhoons are allotted the number in its developed order.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.

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