Discover the ultimate time to experience Japan.
To experience the best of Japan's warm and dry weather, plan your visit between March and May or September and November. Keep in mind that the springtime season and the cherry blossoms in Japan are no secret, resulting in crowded areas. Therefore, depending on your preferences, tolerance for rain, and how many people you want to share your trip with, we have created a month-by-month guide to help you find the ideal time and place to visit Japan.
Southern Japan is a less-visited region compared to the north and central areas of the country. Even when traveling during the popular tourist season, you can avoid crowds by going in April or October, which offers warm weather without the excessive rainfall of summer. Hiking through the deep south of Yakushima during this time could be colder, and trekkers should consider layering up from November to April to keep warm.
Tokyo is an attractive destination all year round, except for the rainy periods in June and September. April offers mild temperatures, less rain than summer, and fewer crowds than May. The summer months of June, July, and August may be busy, but they also offer plenty of festivals and celebrations to take part in.
Kyoto has a long summer, with temperatures warm from May to September. Late spring and summer are the busiest times of the year for tourists. Visiting Kyoto between October and March will help you avoid crowds, although winter can feel dull. Nevertheless, October still provides good weather without much rain and less crowd.
Cherry blossom season, starting in spring, is a spectacular time to visit Japan but is also crowded. The bloom time of these blush-colored flowers starts from the south before moving towards the central and northern regions. Planning your visit from mid-March to mid-April could maximize your chances of experiencing the cherry blossom season.
January is the month for shredding powder in Hokkaido. Known as "Japanuary," it is a popular time for skiing and snowboarding in Japan's northern island. In February, enjoy a relaxing soak in an onsen, which is a traditional winter activity in Japan. Onsen destinations like Hakone provide a calming respite while snow falls around you.
Ideal for: embarking on shinkansen day trips
March is the perfect time to board the lightning-fast shinkansen or bullet train and take some exhilarating day trips from Tokyo, especially if you're too early for cherry blossom season. In Japan, bullet trains are renowned for their ultra-fast speeds, efficiency, and reliability. From Tokyo, you can comfortably reach Kyoto or Osaka in just under three hours or Hiroshima in four. The weather in April is mild, hovering at around 14°C (58°F), creating a pleasant sightseeing experience.
Ideal for: cherry blossom parties
April is the best month to visit Japan if you want to witness sakura or cherry blossoms explode into fluffy pink blooms. The Japanese custom of hanami, or flower viewing, is a magical time for both locals and visitors to come together and celebrate the beautiful blooms' short lifespan. You can partake in various hanami parties in parks across Japan; they usually comprise informal picnic gatherings of family and friends. Still, please note that parks in bigger cities like Yoyogi Park, Ueno Park and Inokashira Park in Tokyo are very popular and may require some planning and strategy to locate a spot.
Larger sakura events such as the Meguro River Sakura Festival and the Ueno Sakura Festival occur in the early to mid-April period in Tokyo, while the cooler northern regions host celebrations like the Hirosaki Castle Park Festival happening from late April to early May. Hanami is unquestionably a must-see in Japan, but expect delays on public transit, and higher-than-average hotel prices during this festive season.
Ideal for: Golden Week festivities
The first week of May in Japan is known as Golden Week, comprising four national holidays (Shōwa Day, Constitution Day, Greenery Day and Children's Day) during which locals take advantage of the spring weather with some time off work and school. During Golden Week, you can expect free entry to many museums, parks, and attractions, as well as some authentic traditional celebrations, like the flying of koinobori, or carp kites, on Children's Day. Though travelling during this period is sure to be thrilling, it can also be crowded, costly, and chaotic (albeit memorable), so you might want to consider a trip towards the end of the month. Additionally, suppose you thought cherry blossoms were the only renowned florals in Japan. In that case, you should rethink your perception, as Japan's gardens burst in the springtime. Plan a visit to the Ashikaga Flower Park (just over an hour outside Tokyo) to witness hundred-year-old wisteria trees in full bloom that get illuminated at night.
Ideal for: indoor activities, tea ceremonies and sake tasting
June marks Japan's first (and wettest) month of the rainy season, known as minazuki, "the month of water." While you shouldn't expect a torrential daily downpour of rain in southern cities like Tokyo or Kyoto, you should be prepared to plan some indoor activities, such as going museum hopping, experiencing a traditional tea ceremony, or just seeking refuge in a bar with a glass of whiskey or sake to warm your body.
Ideal for: phone-background-worthy beach vacations
With humid weather in the cities, July is an excellent time to take a short flight (or ferry ride) to one of Japan's surrounding islands. By July, the rains have slowed down, and while you may not associate Japan with a beach vacation, summertime visitors will be greeted with an array of sunbathing, snorkelling, and swimming options. Japan is, after all, an island nation! The Okinawa Prefecture is home to over 100 white sand beaches, and with turquoise waters and a tropical climate for more than half the year, you'll feel like you're living inside of a screensaver. If you'd prefer to stay on the mainland, the Kamakura beaches are just over an hour from Tokyo and offer fantastic views of Mt. Fuji.
Ideal for: Providing a cultural education for the kids
August is the ultimate time to visit Japan with the whole family, as there are numerous Natsu Matsuri celebrations and cultural events taking place throughout the month. Give your young explorers a chance to witness the sights, sounds, and flavors of Japan firsthand by attending one of the fantastic dance festivals. The Awa Odori Festival in Tokushima and the Hanagasa Festival in Yamagata both feature vibrant traditional dance performances where large groups of choreographed dancers parade through the streets in flamboyant dress. If you're in Japan during mid-August, you can also witness the Obon celebration, a Buddhist event that honors the spirits of ancestors who return annually. Locals commemorate the event with food offerings, dance performances, and glittering floating lanterns. Cities like Tokyo, Nagaoka City, and Aomori are also famous for their breathtaking fireworks displays throughout the month.
Ideal for: Mind, body, and appetite stimulation in gorgeous weather
As summer fades into autumn, weather in Japan becomes more enjoyable and the tourist crowds thin out. This is the perfect time for an active and enriching adventure. Experience the diversity of the Japanese landscape by hiking, biking, and kayaking your way through the country. Visit the buzzing, vibrant Tokyo to stimulate your mind, cycle on the well-known Shimanami Kaido cycle route to strengthen your body, and savor Onomichi's scrumptious ramen to stimulate your appetite. Temperatures typically hover around 24°C (75°F), and typhoons are also less frequent during this period, so your travel plans are unlikely to be affected.
Ideal for: Devouring the delicious food of the harvest season
The beginning of autumn brings the harvest season in Japan, which is the best time to indulge in foodie adventures. Take a food tour from Tokyo to Osaka and witness farmers harvesting rice, persimmons, chestnuts, and Japanese pears. Some farms even allow visitors to join in on the harvest by picking their own produce. Takayama is a region famous for its sake breweries and Hida-gyu (Hida wagyu beef), and is home to Japan's third largest festival, the Takayama Autumn Festival. Thousands gather every year to celebrate a good harvest with traditional dances, marionettes, and a parade with decorated floats. Don't forget to try Takayama's regional delights like mitarashi dango (rice dumplings roasted in soy sauce), houba miso (miso vegetables cooked in magnolia leaf), and chuka soba (a local ramen dish).
Ideal for: Capturing beautiful nature photographs for your scrapbook
In November, Japan transforms into a stunning riot of color as plant foliage across the country turns from green to vibrant shades of red, orange, and gold. The Japanese refer to this phenomenon as "koyo," and the deep red maple leaves of fall are referred to as "momiji," providing a spectacular backdrop for photography enthusiasts. You can hunt for autumn leaves, also known as "momijigari," at iconic landmarks such as Osaka Castle in Osaka, Bishamon-do Temple in Kyoto, and Momijidani Garden in Wakayama. Make sure to pack extra memory cards, as the clear, cold air increases the chances of spotting the snow-covered top of sacred Mt. Fuji.
Ideal for: An unforgettable non-traditional holiday season
December marks Japan's sparkling silver season, with cities aglow with festive illuminations throughout the month. In some northern parts of the country, you might even experience snow, creating a winter wonderland effect. Although not originally a Japanese holiday, Christmas has become increasingly popular in the country, with locals celebrating with a surprisingly traditional meal at KFC. If you're looking for a unique and memorable holiday experience, have yourself a Kentucky fried dinner and soak in the dazzling light displays. It's sure to be a holiday season like no other.
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Prepare for your trip to Japan by checking out our guide on what to wear: What to wear in Japan.
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