Discover Japan's Vibrant Culture and Enchanting Seasons: Your Guide to the Best Time to Travel
Are you ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure in the Land of the Rising Sun? Look no further for the ultimate guide to planning your dream trip to Japan! Discover the best time to travel to Japan and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture and breathtaking landscapes that await you. From the captivating Cherry Blossom Festival in spring to the exhilarating winter ski resorts, we have curated a list of annual events and national holidays that will make your journey an unforgettable one. Whether you're an avid skier, an anime enthusiast, or a lover of all things Disney, we have you covered. Get ready to explore Japan like never before!
List of Annual Events and Japan National Holidays 2023
List of Annual Events and Japan National Holidays
Below is a compilation of Japan's national holidays. During the Golden Week in May, which encompasses several consecutive holidays, popular tourist spots, attractions, and major cities tend to be much busier.
If you plan to visit Japan during this time, it is recommended to make advance reservations for accommodations, trains, and activities to avoid any inconvenience. Additionally, booking tables at popular restaurants is also something to consider.
- January 1 - New Year
- January 2 - New Year (Obs.)
- February 11 - National Foundation Day
- February 23 - Emperor's Birthday
- March 21 - Spring Equinox
- April 29 - Showa Day
- May 3 - Constitution Memorial Day
- May 4 - Greenery Day
- May 5 - Children's Day
- June 17 - Sea Day
- August 11 - Mountain Day
- September 18 - Respect for the Aged Day
- September 23 - Autumn Equinox
- October 9 - Sports Day
- November 3 - Culture Day
- November 23 - Labor Thanksgiving Day
Other days of interest in Japan
February 14 - Valentine's Day Although not a national holiday, Valentine's Day is indeed celebrated in Japan. On this day, women give chocolates to men - including male coworkers.
March 3 - Doll's Festival (Hina Matsuri)
Families with girls celebrate this day to wish them a happy and successful life. Special hina dolls are displayed in homes to mark the occasion; certain temples and communities put on events to celebrate with community members.
March 14 - White Day
An interesting tradition in Japan that's kind of the opposite of Valentine's Day, in which men give chocolates or sweets to women.
July/August 7 - Star Festival (Tanabata)
Rather than a national holiday, Tanabata is a festival period celebrating the deities of Orihime and Hikoboshi meeting in the sky above. Around July 7, a Tanabata festival is held in Hiratsuka (about 90 minutes south of Tokyo), while a large-scale festival is held in Sendai around August 7.
Mid-August - Obon
A Buddhist event to honor the spirits of one's ancestors, Obon is generally held from around August 13-15 and is a time of family reunions.
November 15 - Seven-Five-Three Day (Shichi-Go-San)
Based on customs developed over 800 years ago, this day is a traditional rite of passage: at age 3, girls and boys are allowed to grow their hair longer; at 5, boys are considered old enough to wear hakama, pants worn with a kimono; and at age 7, girls would try on their first kimono obi. Families go to shrines and temples to pray for their children's good health and growth.
December 25 - Christmas
Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, however, the holiday spirit can still be felt throughout the country. Shops are decorated in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and many people spend time with loved ones, either having a special dinner at home with family or going on a date with someone special. It is also the time of year when incredible Christmas illuminations can be seen in Japan.
December 31 - New Year's Eve (Omisoka)
Although December 31 is not a national holiday, many shops close early in preparation for New Year festivities.
Visiting Japan in spring (March to May)
With its mild weather and blooming trees, spring is a wonderful time of year to explore Japan. It is the most popular season for visitors who come from near and far to witness the Japanese cherry blossoms. Celebrated nationwide, from Tokyo to Hiroshima, it offers a chance to marvel at the fleeting beauty of nature and participate in hanami (cherry blossom viewing) at various locations.
Sean Pavone//Getty Images
To experience cherry blossoms, you can visit Kyoto's Botanical Garden, Philosopher's Path, and Maruyama Park. In Tokyo, Yoyogi Park, the Nakameguro neighborhood, Shinjuku Gyoen, the Meguro River, and Chidorigafuchi Moat are all excellent spots for cherry blossom viewing.
In addition, Mount Yoshino in the Nara Prefecture is renowned for its sakura (cherry blossom) spectacle, with around 30,000 cherry trees covering the mountain. Another must-visit location in spring is the Kawachi Fuji Gardens in Fukuoka, where you can witness the enchanting wisteria tunnel.
Visiting Japan in summer (June to August)
Summer in Japan brings hot and humid weather, making it an ideal time to escape to the mountains. If you enjoy outdoor activities, the climbing season for Mount Fuji is from July to mid-September. While many people hike the volcano during the summer, those seeking a less crowded experience can explore the northern region of Hokkaido.
Summer in Hokkaido
kanuman//Getty ImagesRenowned for its natural hot springs and national parks, Hokkaido offers a pleasant summer climate. During this season, you can enjoy the vibrant display of flowers carpeting the hills and mountains. Some of these flowers can only be found in Hokkaido due to its unique climate, and you'll also be treated to rows upon rows of tulips, lavender, and sunflowers.
Visiting Japan in autumn (September to November)
Autumn in Japan offers a spectacular opportunity to witness the beauty of fall foliage. Lush red and orange leaves cover the trees, creating a picturesque scene. Kyoto is a popular destination for autumn holidays, with Nanzen-ji Temple, the mountain village of Takao, and Imperial Palace Park being notable spots to admire the changing colors of the leaves.
Tokyo's Rikugien Garden and Jingu Gaien Ginkgo Avenue are also renowned for their autumn foliage, with the ginkgo trees turning bright yellow. Hiroshima and Kagawa also offer magnificent displays of maple trees and a three-day autumn illumination event showcasing the beautiful colors of the season.
Visiting Japan in winter (December to March)
Winter is the perfect time to hit the ski slopes in Japan. The ski season typically runs from the end of November to the end of March, offering top-quality snow in resorts such as Appi Kogen, Niseko, Furano, and Hakuba. Wildlife enthusiasts will also enjoy the winter months as it is the best time to spot snow monkeys at the Jigokudani Monkey Park (December to March), whooper swans in Hokkaido (October to March), and Steller's sea eagles in Hokkaido (first two weeks of February).
By Alan Tsai//Getty Images
For those seeking warmer climates, Okinawa is the place to go. Located between mainland Japan and Taiwan, Okinawa offers a tropical climate, white sandy beaches, and crystal-clear waters, with December temperatures reaching highs of 21 degrees.
Best time for skiing in Japan
Niseko on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, with Mount Yotei in the background. SERGIO AMITI/GETTY IMAGESJapan's ski scene is internationally acclaimed for its powdery snow, state-of-the-art facilities, and breathtaking mountain landscapes. Snowfall typically begins in mid-November in Hokkaido, the northern island, and ski resorts like Niseko, Rusutsu, and Kiroro usually open in the third week of that month.
From December to February, Japan experiences abundant powdered snow, making these months ideal for skiing. For the best powder conditions, January and February are recommended. Honshu, Japan's main island, also offers excellent skiing opportunities at resorts like Hakuba, located in Nagano, the host city of the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Best times to visit Tokyo Disney Resort
Mickey and Minnie Mouse dressed up to represent "Altair the Cowherd" and "Vega the Weaver" to celebrate Tanabata, or the Star Festival, during a special parade at Tokyo Disneyland. YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/GETTY IMAGESVisiting Tokyo Disney Resort, home to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, is a magical experience for people of all ages. It offers thrilling rides, enchanting parades, and the chance to meet beloved Disney characters.
While the parks are open year-round, if you wish to avoid large crowds, it is advisable to visit between mid-January and mid-March, or between mid-September and mid-November. During these periods, the weather is generally pleasant, and there are fewer local and international tourists.
To fully avoid crowds, it is recommended to avoid visiting during Japan's major holiday periods, such as Golden Week (late April to early May) and Obon (mid-August), as these times witness a peak in domestic travel, resulting in crowded conditions.
In conclusion, Japan offers a multitude of vibrant events and breathtaking holidays throughout the year, making it a captivating destination no matter the season. From cherry blossoms in spring to fiery autumn foliage, and from exciting ski adventures in winter to magical moments at Tokyo Disney Resort, there truly is something for everyone in this enchanting country. So whether you're planning to immerse yourself in the cultural festivities or indulge in outdoor activities, Japan eagerly awaits your visit. Choose the time that suits your preferences, pack your bags, and get ready for an unforgettable journey through the land of the rising sun.
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