When is the best time to visit Japan
A season by season guide to Japan to help you find the best time to visit.
The best time to visit Japan is during Spring (March to May) and Autumn (late September to early December). These seasons really bring Japan to life, with the superb cherry blossom season in Spring and the koyo (colourful leaves) during Autumn. However, this is also the time when Japan gets fairly crowded.
Japan is a year round destination, with each season having its appeals but also its downsides. In this article, I'm going to explain exactly what to expect from each season, so you can pick the best time to visit Japan based on your interests.
I visited Japan during each season, so I can really explain the pros and cons of visiting Japan during spring, summer, fall or winter months.
Japan has four distinctive seasons, although average temperatures are not consistent across the country. You have the cherry blossom season in the Spring, matsuri and celebrations in the summer, colourful leaves in the autumn and fairytale snow in the winter.
So, which is the best month to go to Japan?
The best month to visit Japan is either April for the cherry blossom season or November for the most vibrant autumn leaves. Both April and November offer comfortable temperatures, making it easy to walk, wander and explore. My personal preference is mid-November because Japan receives fewer crowds, but the country truly looks most colourful and stunning.
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Best time to visit Japan
As I mentioned earlier, I visited Japan on all seasons and lived in Japan for a while. This helped me understand the pros and cons of every season in Japan. Picking the best time to visit is not as easy as you might think because everyone has its own preferences and style of travel.
Early April is fantastic if you want to see the cherry blossoms, especially in places like Kyoto or Osaka. The beginning of May sees the Golden Week, which is very busy with tourists and locals alike.
The summer months are hot and humid, but are great for visiting the alps or northern Japan in Hokkaido. It's the perfect season for hiking, too.
Winter in Japan is cold with abundant snow, especially in rural Japan. But it's also a cheaper time to visit, and a great time to avoid crowds. There are many wonderful festivals in the winter too, especially the famed Sapporo Snow Festival in early February.
November is my favourite time of year to travel to Japan, when the whole country turns vibrant and colourful with its autumn leaves. The weather is still warm and comfortable, the landscape becomes dreamy and cosy. Not only that but this is the time of the year when Japan starts the gardens illuminations preparing for festivities. Temples and gardens are aglow with fairy lights, and major cities dress up the boulevard in bright festive lights.
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. Most first time visitors come to Honshu for their initial Japan itinerary.
Let's talk a little about why the weather should be considered when you pick your time to visit. 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.
Typhoon season in Japan
Typhoon season starts from June through October in Japan. Typhoon season in Japan is very common, with around seven of these tropical storms affecting Okinawa and around three of them reaching Honshu. Typhoons in Japan bring strong winds and heavy rainfall, and they are usually experience in August and September.
It's important to remember that any part of Japan can be hit for a typhoon, including all the major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. During a typhoon, the whole place can easily come to a standstill. It's not uncommon to have cancellations for trains or tours, and some typhoons unfortunately cause a lot of damage.
Rainy season in Japan
Nobody wants a lot of rain on their holiday. In Japan, the rainy season is called tsuyu, and it lasts from June until mid-July. This doesn't mean that you will experience rain every single day, but generally speaking, the weather is hot and humid with a lot of rainfall. It's worth noting that Okinawa gets affected by this about a month earlier, and Hokkaido doesn't get as much rain.
Tokyo has an abundance of rainfall, almost 63 inches of rainfall per year. Don't let this be a deterrent, as numerous festivals are taking place during summer. Grab an umbrella, have some thin waterproof layers, and you will be fine.
|Months||March - May||June - Mid Sept||Mid Sept - Early Dec||Dec - Feb|
|Temperatures in ºC||4ºC - 18ºC||21°C - 32°C||10°C - 21°C||2°C - 12°C|
|Temperatures in ºF||40ºF - 64ºF||70°F - 90°F||50°F - 70°F||35°F - 53°F|
Spring in Japan
Spring in Japan is one of the most popular times to visit Japan thanks to the cherry blossom viewing which attracts countless tourists every year.
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. Now, it's essential to know that visiting in Spring gets very busy.
I went to Yoshino, which is one of the best places to see the cherry blossoms in the whole country, and the streets were packed with tourists from all around the world.
You can also choose to visit Japan during the "Golden Week" which is a series of Japan's national holidays. There are four national holidays which take places from April 29th until May 5th every year. During Golden Week locals have time off and tend to travel around the country.
My experience during Golden Week: My husband and I visited Japan during Golden Week, and we were surprised to see how much busier the streets of Tokyo had become. We were there for the duration of all four holidays (April 29, Showa Day; May 3, Constitution Day, May 4, Green Day, May 5, Children's Day) and there were times when we couldn't book a table at a preferred restaurant. Prices for day trips were much higher and ryokans in the Japanese alps were fully booked.
- When is Spring? Spring in Japan is from March until May with April being the most popular month.
- When to expect cherry blossoms in Japan? On Honshu, cherry blossoms usually happen at the very beginning of April, whereas in Hokkaido in May. Okinawa is a subtropical rainforest climate that 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 (40ºF - 64ºF).
- Best places to see cherry blossoms in Japan: Yoshino, Philosophers Walk in Kyoto, Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo, Himeji Castle, Osaka Castle.
Spring month-by month guide
Visiting Japan in March
March is the time when the weather starts getting milder. Towards the end of the month, Japan starts to experience the wonderful cherry blossoms, when locals and tourists alike come out of their winter shell to celebrate hanami. The end of March starts to experience serious crowds. Cherry blossoms start to spread from the south up, so if you decide to have a 2-week itinerary in Japan, start from the south and move towards Tokyo.
Visiting Japan in April
April is peak season for cherry blossoms and by far the most popular month to travel to Japan. The whole country becomes beautiful with its delicate sakura blooms. Being so popular, April is also the most expensive time to visit the country. It's natural to expect crowds and higher prices than usual.
Visiting Japan in May
The weather in May becomes really pleasant with warm days. It's the time when you can easily explore in a tshirt with just a thin layer for the evenings. Sakura season reaches Hokkaido. It's a great time to hike in the Japanese alps and take day trips to places like Nikko, Nara, and Miyajima Island.
What to pack for Spring in Japan
You should pack layers if you visit in Spring. I recommend a pair of waterproofs and a set of thermals. A couple of jumpers is a must, have an umbrella handy and a pair of very comfortable shoes. In March, you should have your winter coat but in May, a light trench is more than enough. Don't miss our comprehensive guide on what to pack for Japan.
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. Late April is a good time to visit, as well as mid to late May.
If you do decide to visit in Spring, make sure you book everything well in advance, and are prepared for some peak season prices. The first week of April tends to be ideal for visiting Tokyo in Spring.
Summer in Japan
Summer in Japan is hot and humid, with the rain season from June until mid-July and typhoon season peaking in August. August is also the hottest month in Japan, with temperatures around 31ºC (88ºF).
Summers in Japan are busy because of all the festivals (matsuri) and also because of the school break. Obon holiday is one of the most popular in the country, which brings even more crowds.
Summers months experience hot weather but also higher rainfall. Days feel hot and sticky with a higher than usual humidity in the air.
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 until mid-September. The beginning of June starts becoming hotter and rainy.
- Best time to climb Mt Fuji: The climbing season for Mount Fuji is from early July to early September
- Temperatures in Spring: Summers are hot and humid, with temperatures ranging between 21°C (70°F) to 32°C (90°F).
- Best festivals during summer months: Gion Matsuri, Mitama Matsuri festival, Tenjin Matsuri, Obon.
Summer month-by month guide
- Visiting Japan in June
June is hot in Japan, but also a great time to take strolls through the green parks and vibrant landscaped gardens. It's a fantastic time to visit the mountains and take long walks in nature.
- Visiting Japan in July
July is a great time to travel to Japan because there are many festivals throughout the country. July marks the beginning of climbing Mt. Fuji season. I highly recommend attending Kyoto matsuri, which dates back to the 9th century. Note that July is peak season for domestic travel as well. Okinawa starts to experience the beginning of the typhoon season.
- Visiting Japan in August
August continue to be a month full of festivals in Japan. Domestic travel is still on the high with many locals travelling around the country. You will get blue skies and hot days. Hokkaido is a great place for August in Japan with cooler temperatures overall. August is peak for typhoon season, so don't be surprised if there are some cancellations and delays.
What to pack for Summer in Japan
Pack shorts, dresses, and sandals. Don't forget an umbrella and a thin raincoat. 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. Anytime you feel thirsty, head over to a vending machine and quench your thirst. Furthermore, remember to use the bins provided right next to all vending machines. You can read more about what nobody tells you about Japan and How to Behave in Japan.
What to expect in Summer?
Summers are hot and sticky, but also vibrant and fun. 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, try to arrive early to mid June. 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.
Climbing Mount Fuji
If you wish to climb Mount Fuji, then you need to travel to Japan during summer. The climbing season for Mount Fuji is from early July to early September. Any other time outside these months is prohibited to climb Mt. Fuji.
Trails tend to be most crowded during Obon national holiday, which is in mid August. Yoshida Trail opens from 1st of July until September 10. The other four trails, Subashiri, Gotemba, Fujinomiya and Ohachimeguri, open from July 10 until September 10.
Autumn in Japan
In my opinion, Autumn is the best time to visit Japan because of the beautiful temperatures and vibrant leaf colours. The fall foliage is 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, although not quite as crowded as Spring.
Autumn is a great time to visit because you still get warm temperatures, crowds are thinner than in the Spring and the whole country looks incredible. It's the ideal time to take day trips and see national parks full of perfect colours. November is a great time to visit because it's just after the typhoon season. The weather starts cooling down, but not enough to become uncomfortable.
Many cities and gardens start their festive lights towards the end of November, preparing for the Christmas season. Gardens look stunning with their illuminations and light shows.
- 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
- 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°C (50°F) to 21°C (70°F).
- Best month to visit Japan in autumn: November is the best month to travel to Japan. Not only you get the peak of fall foliage season, but you enjoy incredible avenues in Tokyo lined with yellow ginkgo trees.
Autumn month-by month guide
- Visiting Japan in September
You will enjoy clear skies and warm temperatures still. You will still get some of the hot and sticky summer weather, but in places like the north of Japan, the leaves will have started to already turn.
Some years in September experience what it's called a Silver week which refers to the unusual occurrence of a weekend followed by the three major public holidays in September which are:
Respect for the Aged Day, (Keirō no Hi) third Monday of September
Autumn Equinox Day, usually September 23 (holidays since the Meiji period)
Kokumin no kyūjitsu, the day in between the two other holidays
- Visiting Japan in October
October marks the beginning of the fall foliage, and it's a fantastic time to see Japan. The landscape starts to change in red and golden hues. While the weather now is much cooler, it's still a pleasant time to travel to Japan.
October sees some foreign crowds as people come to see the foliage spectacle across the country.
- Visiting Japan in November
As previously mentioned, I strongly believe that November is the best time to see Japan because it's peak season for the fall foliage. Travelling around Japan is also much quieter, and temples see a lot less crowds. November is especially pleasant for top destinations like Kyoto, which are otherwise very busy.
As a notable holiday, there is the Labor Thanksgiving Day on November 23. Originally, this was the ancient ritual called Niinamesai (Harvest Festival).
What to pack for autumn in Japan
Autumn calls for boots, a jacket and if you intend to visit the mountains, a hat and a scarf. Bring sweaters for the evening, too.
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 costly and crowded due to its popularity.
When I visited for the first time in November, I was surprised by just how beautiful the country was. In my opinion, I think fall foliage is even more interesting than the sakura season.
Winter in Japan
Winter is a fantastic time to visit Japan if you're keen on the ski season. Winters in Japan are cold and usually snowy, but also as dreamy as they get.
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 winter, creating a wonderful Japanese winter wonderland.
Generally speaking, Japan in winter is a great time to visit because prices tend to be much lower. There are no queues and crowds. I highly recommend that you head to the Japan Alps for the ski slopes and stay in a ryokan with a natural hot spring.
When I visited in December, I thought Japan was incredible. There were still some colourful leaves on displayed mixed with all the winter illuminations. Tokyo especially felt very festive, with places like Ginza and Omotesando Hills fully prepared for the winter festivities. Kyoto was cooler but beautiful with plenty of colourful leaves all over the mountains. I also noticed that Tokyo experiences mild temperatures, making it so great for a winter trip.
- When is Winter? Winter in Japan lasts from December to the end of February or even mid-March in certain areas.
- Is winter cold in Japan? Winter is cold in Japan with lots of snowfall throughout the country. Japanese people love heading to the mountains for the ski season.
- Temperatures in Autumn: Temperatures range from 2°C (35°F) to 12°C (53°F).
- Best reasons to visit in winter: Visit in winter to see Mount Fuji, which is the best time to actually catch a glimpse of the peak. Winter is full of illuminations and festivities, especially in major cities like Tokyo. Winter is a cheaper time to visit, making ideal for those on a budget.
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 in long jeans and t-shirts. I don't think I ever spent my birthday without wearing a down jacket.
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 travel to Japan
The cheapest time to travel to Japan is between November until March. Winter is low season in Japan and is especially cheap to travel around the country. January is the cheapest month to travel to Japan.
To save money, avoid travelling during popular time like the cherry blossom season or main matsuri. Avoid Golden Week if you can, as prices tend to skyrocket then.
If you're looking to understand more about costs of travels to Japan, I put together an article breaking down the travel cost for two people.
List of important holidays in Japan
List of important holidays in Japan when travel can become expensive:
|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|
In conclusion, I strongly recommend that you book your holiday for November, as it's the best time to visit Japan. Prices are more affordable, there are fewer tourists, but you still get to enjoy peak fall foliage. For your first trip, I recommend booking 2 weeks in Japan. And to make the most of your visit, I highly recommend getting a Japan Rail Pass to get unlimited train travel around the country.
Here are a few more articles to help you prepare for your upcoming visit to Japan.
- 7 days in Japan itinerary
- 2 weeks in Japan itinerary
- 3 weeks in Japan itinerary
- Preparing for your trip to Japan
- Is Japan expensive?
- What to pack for Japan
- What to wear in Japan
- Japanese Food
- Things to do in Japan
What do you think?
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Leave a comment below.
This is the best time of year because of the Cherry Blossoms and all the beautiful spring colours.
I totally agree! the best time to visit Japan is during Spring!
Really great post! We are planning a south east asia trip for 2019 including Japan so great info to have :)
I hope you now feel more informed on the best time to visit Japan during your travels!
Your pictures are so gorgeous..I am so wanting to travel to Japan!
Thank you so much!
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 ;-)
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.
I agree. That's why the best time to visit Japan is Spring. So worth it!
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!
I think the best time to visit Japan is during Spring if you want to enjoy the sakura season for sure!