Post Summary: The Best Time to Travel to Japan (Broken Down By Months)
So, you’re wondering when is the best time to visit Japan. We don’t blame you. Japan is a wildly seasonal country, with four very different seasons. In fact, there may even be more than four seasons. There’s spring, summer, autumn, and winter, sure – but within these usual seasons there’s a rainy season, cherry blossom season, hiking season, beach season, fall foliage season and more.
It’s difficult to say exactly what climate this East Asian country has. It’s got sub-tropical islands in the form of Okinawa, and the very cold Hokkaido in the north. In winter, Siberian weather systems bring freezing weather and a ton of snow from the north. In summer, the southern Kuroshio Current cranks the temperature up. The same country where monkeys bathe in snowy hot springs is the same one you can enjoy some amazing beaches in the Okinawan islands. It’s a real big mix.
Since there’s so much going on throughout the year – and with so many festivals and different seasonal quirks – you’re going to want to know exactly when to visit Japan. We’re about to break it down month-by-month, so hold onto your hats, people!
When is the Best Time to Visit Japan?
Weather in Japan in January
January in Japan is one of the best times to beat the tourist crowds. It is, however, definitely cold. You can expect snows in the Japan Alps (Nagano, Matsumoto), and on the Japan Sea coast, in towns like Niigata in the Tohoku region and Matsue on the northwest coast. Even Tokyo gets freezing sometimes. Hokkaido bears the brunt of Japan’s winter though, with temperatures staying below zero for much of the month.
Then again, snow means good snowboarding and skiing. Furano Ski Resort, for example, boasts some amazingly powdery snow. In the north of Hokkaido, taking a boat out from frozen Abashiri might mean you get to catch of a glimpse of sea ice. It’s a romantic time of year to come to Japan, with the mountains covered in snow, but you will need to wrap up warm; the further north you go, the more we’d recommend gloves and hats, but in the south, a good coat should be just fine.
Winters in Japan are mercifully dry, however. Expect clear blue skies and dry weather for most of your trip if you’re planning to visit in January, with little rain. Your photos are going to look awesome!
Weather in Japan in February
Like January, February is still firmly Japanese winter. As with the first month of the year, February also means crisp, winter days with plenty of sunshine to take away from the cold air temperature. If you have dry skin, the dry air may not be your friend, however. Days are short, with sunset around 5:30 pm; there are barely any flowers, and rice paddies will be barren.
February also means a bunch of wintery festivals, which is fun. The most famous of these is Sapporo Snow Festival, but close by is the very pretty Otaru Snow Light Path Festival; further north (also on Hokkaido), is Asahikawa Winter Festival.
It’s the coldest month of the year. It’s also definitely the best time to go to Japan to go skiing; head to Hokkaido or the Japan Alps to hit the slopes. Being peak skiing season means there will be a load of crowds, so there’s that to bear in mind. Other sights won’t have the same crowds, however.
One good thing is outdoor onsen (Japanese hot springs) in winter; something about being in hot water as snow falls on your face is pretty cool! Another attraction that gets more beautiful in the snow are the traditional thatched farmhouses of Gokayama.
Warning: Chinese New Year can make traveling Hokkaido like visiting a theme park, and the trains get super busy.
Weather in Japan in March
Things start getting a little bit warmer. Okay, so Hokkaido and the Tohoku region may not hit double digits (Sapporo’s average March daytime high is 4°C, for example), making them good for winter sports. If you’re really after the pow, March is the last great month for snow, and one of the best times to visit Japan for snowboarding.
But down south, things are changing. The milder weather of early March brings the overlooked sort-of rival to sakura (cherry) blossom: ume (plum) blossom. It’s actually the plum blossom that was originally celebrated hundreds of years ago, with cherry being a relatively recent, Edo-period thing.
Late March, of course, is when the cherry blossoms come out. The further south you go, the sooner the flowers start to appear. Okinawa, pushing 20°C, is where you’ll see the first signs of springtime in Japan.
There’s a saying for March in Japanese: sankan-shion (three days cold, four days warm). The meaning? Things are getting warmer! Be warned though, while the days are warm-ish, the nights can still be rather wintery, so if you’re out all day, make sure you’re prepared for the temperature to drop when the sun goes down.
Weather in Japan in April
Early April is the “main” start for hanami – cherry blossom viewing season. From Hiroshima to Tokyo, people will start spreading their blue tarpaulins under the pink, blooming trees, arranging themselves with friends and plenty of snacks (and drinks) to celebrate the warmer weather.
It can be difficult to catch the cherry blossom, however. There’s even an actual forecast for cherry blossom on the TV weather in Japan. The general rule of thumb is that the further south you are, the earlier it starts.
One thing to note: places like Kyoto, Hiroshima, Osaka, and Tokyo get very busy and crowded with tourists. So essentially it’s not the best time to travel to Japan for crowds, but the best time to visit Japan for cherry blossoms. People come to see the famous sights layered with the quintessential light pink of cherry blossom.
April also signals an end to the drier weather of winter. The skies get more cloudy, it starts raining more, but then again, hiking this time of year is much more pleasurable than in the freezing cold. Wet weather gear is advisable. Or do as Japanese people do and have your umbrella handy!
On the other hand, down in Okinawa, it actually gets warm enough for the beaches to open. If you’re a fan of uncrowded beaches, this might be a good time – especially in late April.
Weather in Japan in May
Things start to get much warmer across the country. Even Hokkaido has thawed by now, with Sapporo seeing its very own hanami around the first week of this month. May can be punctuated by heatwaves of 30°C+, so it’s good to be prepared.
It’s also basically the best month of the year to visit Japan. Nowhere is particularly snowy (except the tops of mountains), there’s not loads of rain, and the temperature is – on average – around 20°C. Down in Okinawa, however, this is the start of tsuyu (rainy season), in which you can expect rain basically every day.
It’s in May that plants and flowers start to burst into life. It’s a fantastic time to hike the Kumano Kodo and get outside. Azalea bushes make Tokyo’s streets, for example, a rainbow of color. The better weather, the proper start of spring, the fact that Golden Week – a period of national holidays clustered together – occurs in May, means it can be a busy time to visit.
It’s the last of the nice, sometimes hot, spring weather. Enjoy it before…
Weather in Japan in June
For much of Japan, June heralds the start of rainy season (tsuyu). Not only are the days cloudy and sometimes very, very rainy, but they can get humid. You will no longer need a sweater or jacket of any kind – in fact, you won’t want to wear one. A travel umbrella will do to cover you when the almost daily downpour arrives.
It’s not as awful as it sounds though. It doesn’t affect daily life like the Southeast Asian wet season. It just rains a lot, and you won’t be hanging out in parks so much. 29% of June days in Tokyo are still sunny.
It starts earlier on the island of Kyushu, for instance, than it does in more northern places. The semi-summer weather does mean that snows have well and truly melted in a lot of areas. For example, hiking around the Japan Alps becomes a lot more viable in June. Many weather-dependent activities are referred to as seasons in Japan, and hiking is one of them.
If it’s been a particularly snowy year, however, some hiking paths could have lingering snows until the temperatures really start to soar.
Weather in Japan in July
Rainy season is still very much a thing in July. Usually, it stops in the first week or so, but has been known to continue for almost the entire month. This still means heavy downpours and misty mountains.
Mount Fuji opens for climbing in July. Usually, it’s July 1, but this isn’t reliable, and it’s best to check before planning a trip to Fuji. Heavy rains can mean landslides and route closures. A lot of the time, especially at the beginning of the month, you won’t be able to see Fuji because it will be covered by a curtain of clouds – even if it’s right in front of you!
As the month edges on, though, things really start to hot up. Tokyo begins to reach an average daily temperature of 30°C, Osaka and Kyoto around 31°C. Down in Okinawa, beach season is in full swing – complete with stifling humidity. Things are also getting very, very humid throughout Kyushu, Shikoku, and Honshu.
Hokkaido, however, remains almost spring-like, making it one of the best times to visit Hokkaido. Having pretty much been unaffected by rainy season, flowers start to bloom, and hiking becomes a real possibility in the national parks of Japan’s northernmost island.
School’s out for summer in late July, so things can get a little busier.
Weather in Japan in August
August in Japan is a sticky, sweaty, humid affair across most of the country. So not exactly the best time to visit Japan. Temperatures are easily 30°C+ (with consistent temperatures of 35°C not uncommon). Average nighttime lows in Tokyo, for example, are no lower than 24°C. Things get seriously hot, and aircon becomes almost a necessity.
The best way to escape the heat is to head for the hills in Hokkaido. Here you’ll find a much more pleasant average temperature of around 26°C. The thing is, many Japanese people have the same idea.
In fact, this is peak travel season for the country. Foreign visitors may crowd the country during cherry blossom season, but summer holidays are when families and friends travel trying to beat the heat. Mountain resorts can be booked out, but so can beaches.
August is also an ideal time to climb Mount Fuji. Gone are the rains. It’s hot, sure, but it’s not hot when you’re 3,776 meters above sea level. Mid-August can be very busy, and you will probably be making your way up the mountain with a stream of other mountaineers.
This is the month when typhoon season begins properly, with pressure building up in the Western Pacific. Okinawa, Kyushu, and Shikoku usually bear the brunt of it around this time of year.
Weather in Japan in September
September may be a leafy, fall-like time of year where you’re from, but in Japan, things are still pretty sticky – especially at the beginning of the month. Temperatures start to creep down a little bit, but humidity is still high; for much of the month, expect daytime temperatures in the upper 20s. Even Sapporo’s average September temperature is 22°C.
Beaches are still fantastic at this time of year – even if there is a myth that you can’t go in the sea after mid-August festival Obon. With that in mind, it’s in September when surfers reclaim the beaches from general holiday-goers.
The heat starts to break around the middle of September, but ‘traditionally’ hot places like Kyoto and Nara can still be deceptively energy-sapping when the sun’s at full strength. Generally, however, the humidity recedes.
September is peak typhoon season. Several can hit the country all at once, usually affecting the south coast and moving up the island chain. They can affect travel, many businesses close, train lines stop working, and power-outages do happen.
Weather in Japan in October
October in Japan means, for the most part, fall foliage and much more pleasant weather. It’s a great time to travel to Japan. This is the month that, while not cold, calls for a light jacket to stave off the (mostly evening) chill. Order is restored as summer is definitely over, the humidity disappears and the air becomes drier and cooler.
Sapporo sees an average high of 16°C, while Osaka has 23°C. Down in Naha, Okinawa, the average is still a firmly warm and summery 28°C.
It’s the time of year that sees the start of that famous change in color of the leaves of Japanese maple trees. This time of year has a name of its own (not fall) – kōyō meaning ‘red leaves.’ While spring has cherry blossom, fall has kōyō, and things work the other way around. Blossoms bloom from south to north, but the red leaves travel down from north to south instead.
Late in October, Hokkaido is best for seeing the fall foliage. Typhoons can have a big effect on how vivid those red leaves really get; the later the last typhoon to hit before the leaves turn, the less, well, good it will be.
Oh, and early October can still see the strong winds and heavy rains of a typhoon or two rips through the country.
Weather in Japan in November
It’s a beautiful time of year in Japan. Expect reasonable temperatures, dry weather, and fall foliage in peak beautiful-ness for most of the country.
This is the time of year you’ll probably have to start wearing warmer clothes for real. It’s still not freezing yet, but more of a refreshing break to what is quite a long period of humidity. Average temperatures across the country are not usually above 20°C.
Snows start to fall in mountainous areas, while surfers in Okinawa have started wearing wetsuits. Sapporo, too, might see its first snows of the year.
But yes, November is the prime time for spotting the kōyō. There are many beautiful spots around the country that are ablaze with fall colors. It can be pretty busy with domestic and international tourists seeking out the best spots.
Towards the end of the month, however, winter starts to settle in. Hokkaido starts to attract skiers, while the island of Shikoku is dry, cool, and suitable for hiking the 88 Temple Pilgrimage route.
Weather in Japan in December
It’s winter, it’s cold, and it’s here to stay. It’s not absolutely freezing, but it is definitely winter. December is the third-coldest month of the year, the days begin to get shorter, but the dry weather means blue, sunny skies.
The northern Tohoku region will be snow-covered by now – the way it will be for the entire winter. Other areas will be dry and chilly. Even in Okinawa, people won’t be swimming in the sea anymore. It’ll be sweater weather in Okinawa for locals, but with a daily high of 21°C, it becomes a bit of a hotspot for those seeking out the last of the year’s warmth.
Japan does Christmas well. It’s chilly, there are decorations up, Christmas songs play in the shops and streets. Snow might even fall in parts of the country that doesn’t usually see snow, like the northern city of Sendai, or even in Tokyo.
Fall leaves peak in mid-December on Shikoku. So if you’re planning on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, you might want to do it when you can see those fiery maple leaves at the centuries-old temples.
When is the Best Season to Visit Japan?
High season (April-May & August-September)
Cherry blossom season in early April means hanami revelers are out in full force in many of Japan’s major cities and tourist hotspots. Prices in hotels rise, and so do the numbers of international tourists.
May means Golden Week, a series of national holidays that practically everybody takes – even the busiest of salarymen. Shops close, and almost everyone heads to the countryside. Shibuya’s scramble crossing might look relatively quiet during May.
Sticky August is high season, because Japan, like most places in the world, has their school summer holidays during this time. Cue friends’ road trips and family vacations to the mountains and beaches of the country. Mid-august sees the major festival of Obon, a Buddhist ancestor worship extravaganza.
Shoulder Season (June & July, October-December)
As we’ve said, June and July mean tsuyu – rainy season. While it doesn’t rain every day, having a whole lot of rain can put a literal dampener on your trip. Umbrella advised.
July is also when Fuji first opens; you may beat the crowds of August if you choose to climb sometime in July.
September is typhoon season, but it’s cooler than the summer months. From October to November, it’s time for the ruby red leaves of Japanese maples, while December sees the first chills of winter touch the country.
Low Season (January-March)
January and February may be the coldest months of the year, but they’re also the driest. Expect crisp, blue-sky days, for the most part; perfect weather for photographing everything Japan has to offer.
Hotels are cheaper from January to March, with the exception of ski resort towns like Niseko. Be careful for the first three days of January however; Japanese New Year means a lot of feasting with family, and many businesses will be closed for the festivities.
March means warmer weather and the chance to catch cherry blossoms in the far south and further north the later in the month it becomes.
When is the Best Time to Visit Japan for Good Weather?
It depends. If good weather for you is seriously hot, we’d recommend August. However, if good weather means no rain and clear skies, then that would be January or February (though it is cold). The typical ‘best weather’ of Japan has to be spring, however, especially April and May. It’s not too hot, not too cold, and you don’t have to wear a coat anymore.
When is the Best Time to Visit Japan for Cherry Blossoms?
Getting cherry blossom right in Japan is something of an art form. We mentioned already that there is an actual forecast for the cherry blossom on TV in Japan, and it’s true – it can differ from year to year, from region to region.
For late blossoms in Hokkaido, go in early May. For the ‘typical’ blossoms, time your trip from the end of March to the first couple of weeks in April. For early blossoms, hop over to Kyushu for mid-March.
We’d really recommend checking out the blossom forecast for the year you’re planning to visit though! It’s a brief window.
When is the Best Time to Visit Japan for Festivals?
Summer is Japan’s festival time. There’s Tanabata in July – a celebration of star-crossed lovers separated by the Milky Way. Wind chimes start to decorate certain Shinto shrines from this time. Kiriko Festival in Suzu City is a raucous Tanabata-related affair, with ornate 16-meter-tall floats paraded through town.
In early August, there are the lit-up floats of Neputa in Aomori. Obon in mid-August is a veneration of the dead, when spirits come back from the afterlife (mid-August is the time of year when the barrier between the land of the living and the dead is thinnest, apparently). The famous Shikoku-born Awa Odori (think dancers, parades, and boozing) is associated with Obon.
For fireworks and music festivals like Fuji Rock… Summer is the time for festivities.
When is the Best Time to Visit Japan for Climbing Mount Fuji?
Climbing season begins on July 1 – traditionally, anyway, it’s not always the case. Other routes that aren’t the main Yoshida Trail open July 10.
Though August might be when everyone climbs it, that’s usually because that’s when people get time off to do so. Since the trails close on September 10, it might be a nice idea to embark on your Fuji climb in early September. Crowds will be gone, for the most part, and you won’t have the potential for unstable ground as you would have around mid-June.
When is the Best Time to Ski in Japan?
The best time to ski in Japan is between early December and late March. It’s during these months that Hokkaido and the Japanese Alps receive epic amounts of powder creating ideal conditions for skiing and snowboarding.
When is the Best Time to Visit Hokkaido?
As a snowboard lover, my favorite time to travel to Hokkaido is in the winter. As mentioned, the sweet JAPOW starts to fall in December and is pretty consistent until March. Winter in Hokkaido is what Japan is all about – peaceful, zen, and quiet.
That being said, summer is also a prime time to visit Hokkaido. It’s a wonderful time to walk through the rainbow meadows of Furano, explore Otaru, or see all the beautiful wildlife. Spring and Autumn are also stunning times for nature and outdoor lovers.
I guess what I’m trying to say is – there really is no bad time to visit Hokkaido. Read all about Hokkaido season’s here.
When is the Cheapest Time to Visit Japan?
The cheapest time to visit most of Japan is in the winter between November and March. The exceptions to this is around the holidays (yes, the Japanese love Christmas too), and in Hokkaido when you are near a ski resort. Here the prices will skyrocket in the winter.
Where are the Best Places to Visit in Japan?
Oh man where do I start!? There are so many fantastic places to visit in Japan it needs a whole new post. Some of my favorites are Furano, Kyoto, Matsumoto, and Hakuba!
Quick Travel Tips for Japan
- Capital: Tokyo is the capital of Japan while Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido.
- Currency: The Japanese Yen(¥) is the currency of Japan. Most places in Japan do not accept credit card and it’s always advisable to have cash on you.
- Visa: Most visitors can enter Japan visa-free for 90 days – check with your embassy.
- What to Pack: It all depends on when you visit Japan. See our full Japan packing list here.
What to Pack for Japan?
Wondering what to wear in Japan? You aren’t alone. Japan can be a very tricky country to pack for as there are so many styles you can go with, and of course, every season is different.
We’ve traveled to Japan during all their four seasons. Most of Japan is a four-season country and winter travel is vastly different than summer. Here are the essential Japan packing list items to bring with you depending on the season you visit!
Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend picking up a Lonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights.
Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Japan. Our favorite pocket-sized point and shoot camera for quick trips are the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and video and is the size of your palm. To up your photography game, a bit consider the Fuji X-T3. We just bought that camera and found the images to look amazing. Check out our other travel cameras here.
Japan mainly uses the Type A plug like North America, but there is generally no socket for the grounded portion. Make sure you find a good universal adapter like the one I have to keep you charged. Otherwise, you may struggle to find one once you land.
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