The good news for travelers is there is no single best time of year to visit Japan. Without a doubt, the most popular times to visit are during spring for the cherry blossom season from late March to April, or mid-October to November for the bright red Japanese Maples and stunning autumn leaves. However, as these are the peak seasons you can expect flights and accommodation to be more expensive and major tourist spots to be crowded. That’s not to put you off though as there are always ways to beat the crowds – early morning starts at Arashiyama in Kyoto being just one.
Since each of Japan’s 4 distinct seasons have their own special highlights, the best time to visit Japan will depend on what you’re looking to include in your itinerary. For example, would you like to climb Mt. Fuji which can only be done during summer months? Or are you after the incredible powder snow that Japan is famous for? Perhaps, it is the sakura (cherry blossoms) you are pining for, in which case early spring it is.
In this article, you’ll get a summary of each season, along with pros and cons. We give you average temperatures for Tokyo which is often the same as Kyoto and Osaka, which are all located on mainland Honshu island. We give temperatures in Takayama to give an idea of weather in elevated mainland areas, as well as those in Sapporo located on the northern-most island of Hokkaido. Meanwhile, if you are considering a visit to the southern island of Kyushu, it’ll typically be one or two degrees warmer than Tokyo.
Spring for Cherry Blossoms
Spring has to be the most famous season in Japan. As the days get longer and the temperature rises across the country, the cherry blossoms spread from Kyushu in the south to the north of Honshu and Hokkaido. The new school and company year also starts in April, and it’s a time to begin new lives and create new memories. Cherry blossom viewing parties and picnics in the parks are common and the news is full of Hanami (Cherry Blossom Viewing) Forecasts. Each year is slightly different, but in general the blossoms bloom in a two-week period between the end of March and first half of April. One thing to remember if you are travelling to the southern islands of Okinawa is that the cherry blossom season is between January and mid-February.
Here is our guide of what to expect and what’s happening in each month in Spring:
Pros of travelling in Spring
- Beautiful cherry blossoms across mainland Japan including Tokyo and Kyoto
- Comfortable time to travel
- Spring Festivals and Cherry blossom related sweets & food
Cons of travelling in Spring
- Most expensive time to travel as its peak season
- The best accommodation and guides get booked up two months in advance
- Expect crowds at the most popular tourist sights
- Average temperature in Tokyo is 14°C, Takayama is 9°C and Sapporo is 4°C.
- Weather does fluctuates, so some days are warm but on others it can be windy and cold.
- Events & Festivals: Hina Matsuri (Doll festival for Girl’s Day/Across Japan), Mt Takao’s Fire Walking Festival (Tokyo), Omizutori (Sacred Water-drawing) festival at Todaiji Temple (Nara).
- Average temperature in Tokyo is 19°C, Takayama is 17°C and Sapporo is 12°C.
- Generally pleasant weather as the days get warmer. The nights can be still chilly.
- Events & Festivals: Spring Takayama Festival (Gifu), Miyako Odori (Kyoto), Cherry Blossom related events and festivals in many places.
- Average temperature in Tokyo is 23°C, Takayama is 22°C and Sapporo is 18°C.
- Weather is typically warm and sunny. Sightseeing outside is comfortable as it’s not too hot.
- Events & Festivals: Aoi Matsuri (Kyoto), Grand Sumo Tournament (Tokyo), Sanja Matsuri (Tokyo).
Summer for Mount Fuji & Festivals
Although the weather plays a big factor in many people not choosing to travel to Japan during hot summer, there are some unique attractions you can only experience in summer. If climbing Mount Fuji is on your bucket list, you have to go while it’s open during the summer season. Also, the festivals are incredible and will probably be one of the most memorable experiences you’ll remember from Japan. We should point out that during the rainy season it does not rain every day, and to avoid the rain altogether, you can always include time in Hokkaido in the north of Japan where there is no rainy season.
Here is our guide of what to expect and what’s happening in each month in Summer:
Pros of travelling in Summer
- Festivals like the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto & spectacular Firework displays across Japan
- Climbing Mt. Fuji and explore other hiking trails in the Japan Alps
- Summer food like Somen & Hiyashi Chuka plus summer sweets like Kakigori & Anmitsu
Cons of travelling in Summer
- Heat and humidity can be extreme especially when sightseeing
- Obon holiday in August is busy and transport will be packed on the peak travel days
- Rainy season from early June to mid-July for most areas
- Average temperature in Tokyo is 26°C, Takayama is 26°C and Sapporo is 22°C.
- It’s reliably warm and sunny before the rainy season starts.
- Events & Festivals: Yosakoi Soran Festival (Sapporo), Sanno Festival (Tokyo), Atsuta Festival (Nagoya).
- Average temperature in Tokyo is 30°C, Takayama is 29°C and Sapporo is 25°C.
- It gets very hot and humid after the rainy season which usually ends in the middle of July.
- Events & Festivals: Gion Matsuri (Kyoto), Sumida River Fireworks (Tokyo), Tanabata Star Festival (Across Japan, although celebrated in some cities such as Sendai in August)
- Average temperature in Tokyo is 31°C, Takayama is 30°C and Sapporo is 26°C.
- The hottest month to visit with high humidity and temperatures often rising past 35°C.
- Events & Festivals: Awa Odori Dance (Tokushima), Gozan Okuribi/Daimonji (Kyoto), Nebuta Lantern Festival (Aomori).
Autumn for Koyo (Autumn foliage)
The spectacular autumn foliage that you can see across Japan makes this season one of the most popular. Some will say this season is the best time to visit Japan. The autumn leaves last for a longer period than the cherry blossoms, with the bright hues seen in the northern regions from October and the peak of Koyo coming during November when the weather is dry and mild. At the start of September it will still be hot in many places although not as humid as August. Bear in mind on some days, typhoons will bring rain and windy weather along the eastern coast.
Here is our guide of what to expect and what’s happening in each month in Autumn:
Pros of travelling in Autumn
- Beautiful striking red and gold autumn foliage across Japan apart from sub-tropical islands
- Comfortable for sightseeing as the weather begins to cool down and is pleasantly mild
- Delicious seasonal food like Matsutake mushrooms, sweet potatoes, Sanma fish & chestnuts
Cons of travelling in Autumn
- The crowds during the vibrant autumn leaves period can rival those you see during spring
- Travelling during Koyo means less availability for accommodation and higher prices
- The typhoons in September and early October can affect public transport and sightseeing
- Average temperature in Tokyo is 27°C, Takayama is 25°C and Sapporo is 22°C.
- Less humid than August, and the weather starts to cool after mid-September. Typhoons can be frequent and may affect your sightseeing.
- Events & Festivals: Danjiri Festival (Osaka), Seto Ceramic Festival (Aichi), Grand Sumo Tournament (Tokyo), Yabusame Horseback archery (Kamakura).
- Average temperature in Tokyo is 22°C, Takayama is 19°C and Sapporo is 16°C.
- Once the typhoon season finishes, it is comfortable with typically warm sunny days.
- Events & Festivals: Jidai Matsuri (Kyoto), Onomichi Lantern Festival (near Hiroshima), Takayama Autumn Festival (Gifu).
- Average temperature in Tokyo is 17°C, Takayama is 13°C and Sapporo is 8°C.
- Weather is dry and mild with clear skies. Chilly in the morning and evening.
- Events & Festivals: Gion Odori Festival (Kyoto), Grand Sumo Tournament (Fukuoka), Kiyomizu-Temple Autumn Illuminations (Kyoto).
Winter for Snow and Onsen (Hot Spring)
Weather gets cold, but generally it is dry and there are many sunny days. The winter wonderland scenery in areas with snow is spectacular, and photographers get the highest chance of seeing Mount Fuji as clear skies and sunshine are common. You can enjoy exciting skiing and snowboarding in Nagano prefecture or Hokkaido, or going to a hot spring especially in the mountains with snow falling all around can be quite relaxing and romantic. Winter is also the time to see the cute hot spring-bathing monkeys of Yudanaka ( Wild Snow Monkey Park -Website in English). For those who prefer warmer weather, you can always head to Okinawa to enjoy beautiful blue sea and sandy beaches with the average winter temperatures of 19°C – 21°C.
Here is our guide of what to expect and what’s happening in each month in Winter:
Pros of travelling in Winter
- Best time to enjoy winter sports especially Japan’s world class powder snow
- Fewer crowds during winter at popular sightseeing spots except Christmas/New Year
- Many winter foods can be enjoyed such as Nabe hot pots and Ramen
Cons of travelling in Winter
- It is cold during winter, and temperatures are low especially in the northern part and the countryside
- Year-End/New Year holiday period (Dec 29th – Jan 3rd) means many businesses are closed at this time
- Expect less vibrant photos around sightseeing spots in general and shorter daylight hours
- Average temperature in Tokyo is 12°C, Takayama is 6°C and Sapporo is 2°C.
- Temperature starts to dip although generally dry conditions. The days are shorter which will affect outdoor sightseeing.
- Events & Festivals: Chichibu Night Festival (Saitama), Akiba Great Festival (Komaki), Winter illuminations & Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations throughout Japan.
- Average temperature in Tokyo is 10°C, Takayama is 3°C and Sapporo is -1°C.
- January is the coldest month although typically dry with crisp, sunny and clear days.
- Events & Festivals: Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival (Nagano), Usokae & Onisube Festival (Fukuoka), Wakayama Yamayaki Festival (Nara), New Year related events and festivals across Japan.
- Average temperature in Tokyo is 10°C, Takayama is 4°C and Sapporo is 0°C.
- Starts getting mild weather in many places as it gets warmer especially during daytime.
- Events & Festivals: Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo), Yokote Kamakura Festival (Akita), Odawara Plum Blossom Festival (Kanagawa), Setsubun related events and festivals throughout Japan
When should you not travel to Japan?
We would say each of the 4 seasons has its unique characteristics and you can enjoy travelling in Japan all year round. Having said this, the best time not to visit Japan would be during the following national holiday periods when domestic travel makes it harder to travel and the top ryokan or hotel accommodation can get fully booked up months in advance.
- Golden Week (usually April 29th – May 5th / more details here)
- Silver Week (it varies for each year, but usually around mid-September for a week including 2 national holidays)
- Obon Week (Obon is August 13th to 16th & Mountain Day is August 11th)
- Year-End / New Year Holiday (usually December 29th to January 3rd)
Also, it depends on what your Japan trip goals are, but the rainy season during June and mid-July will mean less days for taking photos outdoors (although some would argue they make for more magical photos in the countryside or Hakone). The typhoons during August, September, and early October may affect public transport and potentially sightseeing, so especially if you are going for a short one-week trip, we would suggest avoiding these two periods:
- The rainy season (early June to mid-July for most areas)
- The peak typhoon season (mid-August to September, often extended to early October)
Looking for Japan Travel Tips?
We hope this information on the best time to travel to Japan was helpful for you. If you are hoping to get information on what to plan for before travelling, take a read through our Japan Travel Tips. Also, see how much flights cost from London in February 2023 as we’ve checked these for you in our post on How much are flights to Japan?
Interested in taking a look at hotel availability in Tokyo? Booking.com provide their top picks and most reviewed hotels across the capital or on other Golden Route destinations like Kyoto or Hakone.Booking.com
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