Figuring out the best time to visit Japan depends entirely on the area you wish to visit and the things you want to do. Although Japan has four distinct seasons, average temperatures are not consistent across the country. Each season is culturally important in Japan, and this is reflected in the matsuri and varied food you can enjoy during your visit.
For the nicest experience, the best time to visit Japan is during Spring (March - May) or Autumn (September - November). Spring in Japan is pretty special due to the famed cherry blossom festival held late March, early April. However, this is also the busiest time to visit Japan, and the most expensive. Colder months in Japan (December - February) are less popular but this, in turn, makes these times cheaper and less crowded. Whichever season to pick, I would recommend spending at least two weeks in Japan.
Best time to visit Japan: Spring
Spring is pretty magical, hence one of the best times to visit Japan. This is the busiest time with many crowds from all around the world. Many come to visit especially for the cherry blossom festival, which plays a crucial role in the Japanese culture. The cherry blossom (sakura) can be experienced at different times across the country. The dates also vary due to the weather conditions so make sure to check previous patterns before booking your trip. The cherry blossoms last for about a week, after which the petals start falling from the trees, making Japan look suave and romantic.
You can also choose to visit Japan during the “golden week”. There are a number of public vacations and many locals have the time off work at this time. It’s a time of celebration which also means larger crowds and an increase in prices.
Plan your trip to Japan
Spring in Japan can be a bit fickle with temperatures ranging from 4ºC to 18ºC. You will have some days you need nothing but a light sweater or even a short dress, and some days you will need your winter coat.
If you don’t mind crowds, higher prices and are eager to see the cherry blossom, then Spring is the best time to visit Japan. Everyone should experience sakura at least once in their lifetime. If you are thinking of visiting in the Spring due to the amazing weather, then perhaps skipping the sakura season and the Golden week might be a better idea. Late April is a good time to visit, as well as well as mid to late May. Just note that May is warm, giving way to the summer season which is hot and humid.
Best time to visit Japan: Summer
Summers in Japan lasts from June till mid-September. Summers are hot and humid with temperatures ranging between 21C to 32C. This may make it uncomfortable for sightseeing. However, on the plus side, there are lots of festivals held during summer in Japan. Because it is so hot, expect to see many tourists around which prefer the summer season in Japan. To overcome the humidity, just make sure you drink plenty of fluids and keep yourself cool by eating lots of Japanese ice cream.
If you still wish to visit Japan in the summer but without the weather challenges, avoiding cities and heading for the mountains might be a good idea. For outdoors lovers, summer is the best time to visit Japan, as the country becomes green and fresh. There are plenty of hiking opportunities all around the country. I recommend checking out the Snow Monkey Park in Nagano or finding out everything you can do in Nikko.
You can visit Hokkaido for its milder summers, or Okinawa to enjoy time by the Japanese exotic beaches.
It’s worth remembering that Japan experienced the rainy season between early June to mid-July. You shouldn’t expect rain every day, but sometimes the rain can be quite persistent.
Okinawa and southwestern Japan are particularly vulnerable to typhoons, though they can affect other parts of Japan as well. In late summer it’s not uncommon for typhoons to affect travel plans (e.g., flight cancellations) to and from Okinawa.
If you don’t mind the hot and humid weather, or you are an outdoors person interested in soft adventures in the Japanese mountains, summer is a great time to visit Japan.
Best time to visit Japan: Autumn
Autumn in Japan lasts from mid-September until early December. In my opinion, Autumn is the best time to visit Japan because of the beautiful temperatures ranging from 10 to 21 C. It’s not just about the temperatures, but fall it’s the most beautiful season in Japan due to its foliage. Japan becomes a photographer’s dream, with ever changing colours. The autumn foliage is called Koyo and it is one of the most celebrated times during the year. Autumn is one of the most popular times to travel to Japan, with November being the peak.
Should you wish to travel to Japan during autumn, you should make reservations several months in advance to avoid high prices. Soaking in an onsen during Autumn is an incredible experience and something which I highly recommend.
If you love photography, want pleasant weather and are interested in colourful landscapes, then Autumn is by far the best time to visit Japan.
However, do bear in mind it can be quite expensive and crowded due to its popularity. If you are a budget traveller and you wish to enjoy a bit more quiet around you, then move your travel date to the beginning of December.
Best time to visit Japan: Winter
Winter in Japan lasts from December to end of February or even mid-March in certain areas. Winters in Japan are cold and usually snowy. There are large amounts of snow falling every year in Japan, which make the perfect conditions for skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports. There are several winter festivals, including the Sapporo Snow Festival held in Hokkaido. Various snow and illumination events are held across the country during the winter season creating a wonderful Japanese winter wonderland.
In Tokyo, December temperatures are around 12ºC during the day and 5ºC at night. By January temperatures drop to around 10ºC during the day and 2ºC at night and don’t go back up until the beginning of March. However, winters can be quite unpredictable in the cities. For example, when we visited Tokyo during December, we enjoyed an afternoon in Ueno Park in long jeans and t-shirts. I don't think I ever spent my birthday without wearing a down jacket.
Winter in Japan is pretty special with many beautiful things to see and do. The natural scenery, is pretty fantastic, with towns and landscapes all covered in fluffy snow. To see these winter wonderlands you need to leave the cities behind and head towards the countryside or the mountains. big cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka, don’t tend to experience snow.
Hokkaido is the first area to experience snow in Japan, towards the end of October. In the areas of Aomori, Akita, and Iwate, snow begins to fall from early November to mid-November, while in the areas of Yamagata, Miyagi and Fukushima, it will start falling from mid-November into late November.
In places such as Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui and Nagano, it begins snowing from late November to early December, so you can enjoy the scenery then.
If you are on a budget and don’t mind the cold, winter is the best time to visit Japan. You are guaranteed cheaper prices, fewer crowds and some beautiful landscapes covered in snow.
When is the cheapest time to visit Japan?
The short answer is: by avoiding travelling during national holidays, cherry blossom and Koyo festivals. Here is a list of all national holidays in Japan 2018 so you can better plan your trip. Of course, you can still travel during these dates, just make sure you book well in advance to avoid high prices. The cheapest time to visit Japan is during winter.
- December 31 to January 3: New Year
- January 1: New Year (Shogatsu)
- January 8: Coming of Age Day (Seijin no hi)
- February 11: National Foundation Day (Kenkoku kinenbi)
- March 21: Spring Equinox Day (Shunbun no hi)
- April 29 to May 7: Golden Week
- April 29: Showa Day (Showa no hi)
- May 3: Constitution Memorial Day (Kenpo kinenbi)
- May 4: Greenery Day (Midori no hi)
- May 5: Children’s Day (Kodomo no hi)
- July 17: Ocean Day (Umi no hi)
- August 13-17: Obon (Tokyo celebrates in July)
- August 11: Mountain Day (Yama no hi)
- Sep 18: Respect for the Aged Day (Keiro no hi)
- September 23: Autumn Equinox Day (Shubun no hi)
- October 9: Health and Sports Day (Taiiku no hi)
- November 3: Culture Day (Bunka no hi)
- November 23: Labor Thanksgiving Day (Kinro kansha no hi)
- December 23: Emperor’s Birthday (Tenno no tanjobi)
- December 31 to January 3: New Year
Want to save during your travels? Get tickets in advance!
When is the best time to visit Japan?
In my opinion, Autumn is the most beautiful season in Japan but the beginning of December is the best time to visit Japan. This is because crowds begin to dissipate, prices are much cheaper, you can still enjoy some of the Koyo and the temperatures are still manageable. It’s great to be able to visit a temple or photograph a sight by avoiding huge groups of tourists. Of course, this is highly subjective and you should decide what is the best time to Japan according to your needs. I hope our guide offered you a clearer picture of how seasons in Japan are like and which one you should pick for your travel dates. Ultimately, it’s worth remembering that Japan really is spectacular year round.
So what is it going to be? When are you going to travel to Japan? Leave a comment and let me know about your travel plans.