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Best Time to Visit Japan

Written by Diana Bocco
Dec 27, 2019

Despite its small size, Japan experiences almost every kind of weather you could imagine-from rainy typhoon seasons to snowy winters to hot humid summers. Whether you want to ski, hike, or explore the city, Japan has much to offer-and a perfect season for each of these activities.

For most people, the best time to visit Japan is during the months of March and April, as the weather is milder, the sakura (cherry blossoms) are in bloom, and the big summer crowds haven't arrived yet.

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Best Season to Visit Japan

Traditionally dressed woman along the river in Kyoto with fall colors

The best time to visit Japan is basically all the time. A land of contrasts and surprises, Japan has stunning springs, snowcapped mountains in winter, and plenty to do outdoors in the warmer months.

Spring: Sakura (cherry blossoms) completely transform Japan during the months of March and April, making spring one of the most beautiful seasons in the country. Spring temperatures can vary widely depending on where you're heading, with the northern destinations seeing around 4 degrees Celsius in April, and the southern cities experiencing temperatures in the mid to high teens-in many places like Tokyo, temperatures are usually in the single digits in the early mornings and at night, but a comfortable 13 to 15 degrees during the day.

Summer: Japan's summers are hot, humid, and often wet. Temperatures in the cities often reach into the high 20s and sometimes 30s, but with high humidity present, it feels much hotter. Summer is a great time to head to the mountains and the countryside to escape the urban heat. Between July and October, the coast of Japan is under the threat of typhoons and heavy rains, although the wettest months are usually August and September.

Fall: Fall is a great time to travel around Japan, as you'll get cooler weather, great Autumn colors, and discounted prices. Although spring has similar temperatures, fall is drier, so you won't have to constantly carry an umbrella with you everywhere you go.

Winter: Depending on your destination, Japanese winters can be very cold (as low as -10 degrees Celsius in Sapporo) or mild (Naha regularly sees January temperatures around 15 degrees Celsius). In most places, however, winters are dry-no humidity and very little rain, with snow mostly falling on the countryside but sometimes also blanketing the bigger cities. The alpine regions, including the ski resorts around Hokkaido, are among the best places to visit in Japan in winter. Slopes are great in January and February, with plenty of powdery snow for outdoor sports.

Best Months to Visit Japan

Imperial Palace in Tokyo

March & April: Sakura season is one of the most beautiful times in Japan, when local residents even hold special gatherings to stroll through the parks in search of the best blooming cherry trees. The Takayama Matsuri festival in April is one of Japan's most beautiful celebrations-it includes lanterns and floats parading through town to celebrate fall and honor a centuries-long tradition to pray for a good harvest.

October & November: While September is still hot in much of Japan, October brings cool evenings and stunning fall foliage. Tokyo and Kyoto offer their best autumn colors in November, and in the northern mountains, November brings the first snows-a perfect time to photograph Mount Fuji in the background. While November might require thicker jackets for night strolls, October is warm and dry, perfect for exploring both cities and countryside on foot.

Low Season in Japan

Sensoji Temple, Tokyo

Low season is usually the cheapest time to plan a trip, but in this case, it might just be one of the best times to go to Japan, too. Winter is considered the off season, with flights and accommodations heavily discounted and much thinner crowds. Winters are usually mild and sunny in big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, but colder in the Hokkaido area, where temperatures usually get into the single digits.

Snow is more common in the countryside, and Japan has beautiful ski resorts and outdoor onsen, a type of wellness spa built around hot springs-so you can take a bath in the steamy waters surrounded by the whitest snow and with a direct view over Mount Fuji.

The city of Sapporo is home to a famous ice and snow festival every winter, where over 250 sculptures representing fantastic animals, buildings, and much more are built right on the streets using only ice.

Cheapest Time to Visit Japan

Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima

While summers are a popular time for Japanese people to travel around the country, there aren't many international tourists in Japan during the hottest months. As a result, your chances of finding a cheap flight and affordable accommodations during the summer months is probably very good. July and August are the cheapest summer months, but they're also the hottest-expect sticky humid weather and showers.

For drier weather, late September and early October are better choices. Prices might be slightly higher, but this time is still considered low season. Since there aren't any major national holidays or festivals during this time (and local children are back in school, so families aren't traveling much), hotels are less likely to get fully booked, and you can get really good deals if you book in advance.

If you don't mind the cold, you should also be able to find great deals in winter, especially in early December and then from mid-January to the end of February. Accommodations at skiing destinations like Hokkaido will still be expensive, but Tokyo, Okinawa, and other major cities are likely to offer deals for visitors.

Best Time to Visit Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji framed by fall leaves

The tallest mountain in Japan and an active volcano, Mount Fuji is an intrinsic part of the heritage and history of the country-numerous poets, artists, and philosophers have written about one of Japan's three sacred peaks.

From a distance, Mt. Fuji is stunning all year long, and on a clear day, you can even see the mountain from Tokyo-though the best views are from Oishi Park. Visitors can reach the mountain's fifth station (at an altitude of 2,305 meters) at all times unless the roads are closed because of a snowstorm.

If you want to actually climb, rather than just admire from a distance, the best time to visit Mount Fuji is during the month of August. The mountain has four trails that lead to the summit-but anything above the fifth station is only open between July 1st and early September (dates vary, but trails usually close during the first week of September). However, August offers the best weather: dry, less windy, and less likely to change drastically within minutes.

Even in summer, though, temperatures can plummet close to zero overnight, so hikers are encouraged to split the climb into two days and spend a night in one of the mountain huts. Be warned that you can't decide this at the last minute and need to make reservations well in advance to get a bed. Of the four trails-Gotemba Trail, Yoshida Trail, Subashiri Trail, and Fujinomiya Trail-the Yoshida Trail is the most convenient, as it can be accessed directly from Tokyo via bus.

This means, of course, that the trail is crowded, especially on weekends-starting the climb early in the morning helps, but if you truly want some solitude, opt for one of the other paths. The Gotemba Trail is the longest, and it will take you 7.5 hours to climb it without an overnight stay-though most people choose to stay overnight at the 8th station and then finish the climb to the top the next morning to catch the sunrise.

Best Time to Visit Japan for Cherry Blossoms

Sakura blossoms and Himeji Castle

Sakura (cherry blossoms) are a cultural experience in Japan. In fact, hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties) are a popular pastime, when friends and families gather in parks to sit, picnic, and chit chat under the trees for hours during these days.

The best time to visit Japan for cherry blossoms could be anywhere between March 15-20 and April 15, with full bloom usually happening in early April. Sakura bloom schedules are hard to predict and vary depending on the weather, how harsh the previous winter was, and even the location you're visiting. Once they bloom, the flowers usually only remain in full beauty for a few days, before they start to fall. This means, of course, that catching the exact date for viewing can be tricky, especially if you're planning your trip well in advance.

Most popular destinations, including Tokyo and Osaka, experience cherry blossom season in early April, but it only lasts a few days. In Tokyo, for example, the trees flower around March 28th and last until April 5th. In areas where the climate is colder, such as Hirosaki and Sapporo, sakura can happen in late April or even early May.

If you're planning a trip to Japan, keep in mind that this is considered prime tourist season, which translates to bigger crowds, higher accommodation prices, and more expensive flights.

Best Time to Visit Tokyo

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo

Most international visitors coming to Japan arrive in Tokyo first-and if this is your visit time in the country, you'll want to spend at least a few days exploring the capital. Tokyo is spectacular all year long, as places like the Senso-ji temple and the grounds of the Imperial Palace remain beautiful at all times.

Still, spring and fall are usually the best time to visit Tokyo, as these months offer the best weather, smaller crowds, and better money-saving deals. March and April are especially beautiful (and a great choice for a romantic trip), as the cherry trees blossom during this time, and much of the city turns pink. Even if you arrive after the flowers start to fall, you'll still find sidewalks covered in a carpet of pinks and whites.

Autumn offers crisp air, lots of sunshine, and, if you arrive in November, some of the best fall foliage you'll find in Japan.

Summer is a popular time to visit Tokyo, but that doesn't mean it's the best choice for most people. Not only are summers very hot in Tokyo, but they're also humid, rainy, and very crowded. Finding affordable accommodation gets harder in summer, and prices go up, so you'll end up spending more for a less comfortable visit.

If you're trying to fit the Tokyo Disney Resort and Tokyo Disney Sea parks (and you probably should) into your schedule, the warmer months are also a no-no. Kids are off school, and adults have holidays. In May, there's also Golden Week, the equivalent of spring break. Golden Week means time off for both kids and adults, so the park will be particularly busy. Fall is a great time for Disney, as kids are back in school, and the park is often quiet during these months.

Best Time to Visit Osaka

Osaka Castle

The large port city of Osaka has a moderate climate and is great to visit at any time of year, though summers are humid and not always comfortable if you're spending a lot of time outdoors. June and July also get the most rain. Winter temperatures stay in the single digits, and while snow is rare-when it does snow, it won't stick-rain does make a frequent appearance in the form of showers during the colder months.

For drier weather, arrive in Osaka in spring or autumn, when it's sunny and warm. March, September, and October also offer better prices and thinner crowds, so they're perfect months to explore quietly. April is cherry blossom season in Osaka, so prices are higher, and you'll run into lots of tourists, but the weather is also beautiful. If you arrive during the sakura season, the Osaka Castle Park and the Utsubo-koen Park are favorite spots to see the trees in bloom.

During Golden Week in May, you'll see more people out and exploring-which could mean longer lines to get into popular attractions and busier restaurants and hotels. The peak of Autumn colors in Osaka is mid-November, when the weather is still warm and sunny and the parks turn golden-this is also a great time to visit and is actually considered low season, so you'll find plenty of deals to save money.

Best Time to Visit Hokkaido

Winter in Hokkaido

Hokkaido is Japan's most famous winter destination, but the island has also much to offer at other times of the year. Full of ski resorts, onsen (natural hot springs), and a number of volcanoes, Hokkaido also has a number of parks and preserved forests within its borders that are best enjoyed in summer. Shiretoko National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is particularly famous for its large brown bear population, waterfalls and hot springs, and multi-day trekking trails that cross through the park.

If you have your heart set on winter sports, the best time to visit Hokkaido is between late November and early March. December and January see a lot of snow, and the mountains are blanketed in soft white and are perfect for skiing. Expect icicles hanging from everywhere, temperatures in the minus degrees Celsius, and sidewalks piled with snow.

There are also a number of breathtaking winter festivals in the area, including the Otaru Snow Light Path, where glittering lanterns and illuminated snow sculptures take over parks and the riverbank, and the Chitose's Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival, where everything from ice sculptures to slides are created using blocks of ice and then decorated with multicolored lights. The trees in Odori Park in Sapporo are completely covered with thousands of lights during November and December, transforming the entire place into a winter wonderland.

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