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When is the best time to visit Japan

Helping you decide what is the best time to visit Japan based on your travel style

Wondering what is the best time to visit Japan? Great news, Japan is a year-round destination and each is season offering you something unique, depending on your travel style and individual preferences. 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 example, the cherry blossom season is known to be one of the best time to visit Japan for sakura lovers, but while this season starts as early as January in Okinawa, the blooms can be visible as late as mid-May in Hokkaido.

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When is the best time to visit Japan - Contents

Best time to visit Japan

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. For the winter, you can enjoy a superb Hokkaido itinerary. Whichever season to pick, I would recommend spending at least two weeks in Japan.

Himeji Castle Japan

Weather in Japan

Weather in Japan varies dramatically based on the location you pick. Generally speaking, for the main (and biggest) island, Honshu, there are four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. Summers are hot and humid while winters are pretty cold with a lot of snow. Of course, as previously mentioned, it does matter if you plan on spending your summer in Hokkaido, versus spending your summers in the tropical rainforest climate of Okinawa.

Plan your trip to Japan

Japan is positioned on the so-called ring of fire, which makes natural disaster a possibility. There is always a risk when visiting Japan during certain times of the year, like typhoon season for example. Before visiting Japan, check the weather patterns and make sure there are no weather warnings.

Here's a breakdown on the best time to visit Japan based on season, where to visit and how to dress if anything specific is needed.

Is Spring a good time to visit Japan

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.

When is Spring?

Spring in Japan is from March until May, although cherry blossom variers depending on the island you wish to visit. On Honshu, cherry blossoms usually happen at the very beginning of April, whereas in Hokkaido in May. Okinawa is a subtropical rainforest climate and experiences the cherry blossom sometimes as early as mid-January.

Temperatures in Spring

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.

What to pack for Spring in Japan

A waterproof is essential. Pack waterproof shoes and an umbrella or a raincoat. For mid Spring you may want a light jacket for evenings. Pack light sweater. Remember the weather is still on the cold side. For more info on what to pack for Japan click here.

Tip if you visit Japan during Spring! If you underdress for Spring in Japan, just note there are lots of heat patches available for sale in any 7/11 or pharmacy in Japan. These are lifesavers.

What to expect in Spring

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 mid to late May. Just note that May is warm, giving way to the summer season which is hot and humid.

Yoshino Sakura Season

Is Summer a good time to visit Japan

Summer is a good time to visit Japan if you don't mind the hot, humid weather. Because of the holiday season and families enjoying the off-school period, Japan can get a little crowded, especially when there are various festivities (or matsuri). You can visit Hokkaido for its milder summers, or Okinawa to enjoy time by the Japanese exotic beaches. 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.

When is Summer?

Summers in Japan lasts from June till mid-September. The beginning of June starts becoming hotter and quite rainy, although the beginning of the summer is still quite nice, with milder weather. Beginning of June is a nice transition between spring to summer.

Temperatures in Summer

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 the summer in Japan.

What to pack for Summer in Japan

Summers in Japan are hot, so make sure you pack accordingly. You can wear shorts, dresses and sandals. Pack an umbrella because you will have some rainy days. If you have a thin raincoat, this is the time to bring it with you. Stay hydrated and use sunscreen.

Tip if you visit Japan during summer! There are vending machines at every single corner in Japan so you don't have to carry water bottles with you. You will find cold teas, water and other fun beverages. Feeling thirsty, head over to a vending machine and quench your thirst. Also, remember to use the bins provided right next to all vending machines. You can read more about what nobody tells you about Japan here.

What to expect in Summer

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.

Delicious Ice Cream in Japan Crazy Pancakes

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.

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.

Is Autumn a good time to visit Japan?

In my opinion, Autumn is the best time to visit Japan because of the beautiful temperatures and perfect colours. 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.

When is Autumn?

Autumn in Japan lasts from mid-September until early December. Autumn will arrive earlier in mountainous areas and can be enjoyed a lot later in the cities. For example, during our first-ever Tokyo itinerary, we visited in December when we could still enjoy Autumn foliage in the city, with glorious avenues lined with fully yellow ginkgo trees. Is autumn cold in Japan? Autumn in Japan is lovely during mid-September until around mid-November. Temperatures drop in November and you should probably expect colder temperatures, reasonable for a jacket and a hat.

Temperatures in Autumn

Temperatures range from 10 to 21 C. It's a very beautiful time to visit Japan as the mild temperatures plus the gorgeous colours transform the country into a superb landscape.

What to pack for Autumn in Japan

Autumn calls for boots, a jacket and if you plan on visiting the mountains, a hat and a scarf. Bring sweaters for the evening too.

Tip for visiting Japan in the autumn! Layers are your best friend. T-shirt, thermals, blouses, sweaters and a jacket. Layer up throughout the day as you will lose the jacket during the day, and need it once the sun goes down. If you visit the mountains, bring some waterproofs too.

What to expect in Autumn

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. You can also find a list of awesome Kyoto onsen here.

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.

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When is the best time to visit Japan

When is the best time to visit Japan

Is winter a good time to visit Japan

Winter is the best time to visit Japan if you love snow and you are on a budget. 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.

When is winter in Japan?

Winter in Japan lasts from December to the end of February or even mid-March in certain areas. Visit Japan in the winter if you wish to experience winter sports. Just note that some areas might not experience as much snow. For example, Okinawa won't have any snow whereas Hokkaido will be a wintery paradise. Also, big cities like Tokyo don't experience as much snow, especially nowadays with temperatures being on the rise across the world.

Temperatures in Winter

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.

What to pack for winter in Japan

Pack a comfortable, warm jacket and make sure you have a warm scarf, gloves and a hat. Wear as many layers as possible, and bring super warm sweaters.

Tip for visiting Japan during winter! Bring thermals and make sure you buy heat patches. Both will keep you super warm. There are vending machines at every corner so you can purchase hot beverages to keep yourself warm.

What to expect in winter

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.

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.

Cory Mount Hiei

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.

What 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.

List of important holidays in Japan when travel can become expensive:

Date Holiday
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

What is the cheapest time of the year to fly to Japan?

Winter tends to be the cheapest time of the year to fly to Japan, except for the winter holidays like Xmas and New Years. Try to hunt for plane tickets in advance for January and February.

When should I visit Japan in 2020?

2020 is an exception to the rule thanks to the Olympics. The summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo in 2020. Expect higher prices than average so make sure you book where to stay in Tokyo in advance.

What months is typhoon season in Japan?

Typhoons in Japan occur from July to October. Pay close attention to August and September.

What is the best month to visit Japan

The best month to visit Japan is April for the cherry blossom festival, whereas November and beginning of the December are the best times to visit Japan if you wish to avoid crowds and fancy cheaper prices.

When should I book my Japan holiday

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 in 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. And don't forget to read how to plan the perfect 7 days Japan itinerary.

Comment

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Best Travel Dat...
24 Jan 2018

This is the best time of year because of the Cherry Blossoms and all the beautiful spring colours.

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Cory
06 Jan 2020

I totally agree! the best time to visit Japan is during Spring!

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Alexandria Iveson
12 Aug 2017

Really great post! We are planning a south east asia trip for 2019 including Japan so great info to have :)

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Cory
06 Jan 2020

I hope you now feel more informed on the best time to visit Japan during your travels!

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val hansen
12 Aug 2017

Your pictures are so gorgeous..I am so wanting to travel to Japan!

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Cory
06 Jan 2020

Thank you so much!

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Lien
12 Aug 2017

I love 'best time to visit...' series as I think it is nog always so straightforward. I think I would go for spring with the blossoms ;-)

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Anisa
12 Aug 2017

I agree the cherry blossoms are really something special in Japan. Yes it may be more expensive and more crowded, but I think it is definitely worth it.

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Cory
06 Jan 2020

I agree. That's why the best time to visit Japan is Spring. So worth it!

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Yishyene C
12 Aug 2017

Heya! What an informative post about Japan. I'm going there this November.. the last time I was there was hmm over 15 years ago when I did a 5-week homestay - that was December/January.

I'll have to plan to visit during Spring sometime!

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Cory
06 Jan 2020

I think the best time to visit Japan is during Spring if you want to enjoy the sakura season for sure!