Best time to go to Japan
A bi-monthly weather guide | What to Expect | Events/Festivals | National Holidays | Clothing Guide to support your travel plans
From spring blossoms to autumn leaves and winter festivals, Japan is a country that can be visited at anytime of the year. Typically, late spring, March – May and late autumn, September to November is ideal as the temperature is mild and rainfall is low. December and January are the driest months with January and February being the coldest in Japan. However, to pick the best time to go to Japan will depend very much on what you want to see, do, and experience in this Land of the Rising Sun.
When planning a visit to go to Japan, note that although Japan has all four seasons, it also has a rainy season and a typhoon season. Japan’s weather changes dramatically from one month to another and from one region to another. Given that the Japanese archipelago stretches 3000 kilometres (1800 miles) from north to south, the changes from region to region can be quite drastic even within the same season.
To support your travel plans to Japan, here is a complete and detailed bi-monthly guide for you to use. This guide includes Japan’s national holidays calendar for you to peruse, tips on what to pack and festivals/events to look forward to.
January/February | Best time to go to Japan
January: High 9.6℃ (49.2°F)/ Low 1.8℃ (35.1°F)
February: High 10.3℃ (50.3°F)/ Low 2.7℃ (36.9°F)
What to expect in January and February
January and February are the coldest months of the year in Japan and sees the ground covered with a blanket of snow. Northern regions of Japan such as Hokkaido sees a thick blanket of snow and welcomes winter sports enthusiasts. A perfect time to hit the ski slopes in northern Japan. These months are the perfect time to see the snow monkeys in Nagano as well.
During these winter months, in cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima located in the middle part of Japan, the Honshu island, get lighter snow. Days are short during winter but January has been recorded to be the sunniest in Tokyo due to little or no rain or snow.
February marks the second coldest month in Japan and people are often indoors or some may indulge in winter sports. February also kicks off the diving season in Japan with sea turtles, sharks, seahorses and manatees can be spotted easily during this season.
As for notable events and festivals, February sees the popular Sapporo Snow Festival.
Why you should visit in January/February
Winter months of January and February are one of the best time to go to Japan as it presents one of the best picturesque landscape. Mountains covered in snow. Still temples and castles covered in snow and drip in icicles. Lit-up snow-covered stone lanterns flicker in the dark to pave the path to the shrines. So peaceful, so serene.
If you are willing to brave the cold, then this is your perfect opportunity for a more personal experience of Japan as there will be less tourists, less crowd at all the touristy spots.
Keep yourself warm. You will need a thick coat at the very least and a scarf, woolly or knit cap + mittens. Layering is recommended towards latter February
March / April | Best time to go to Japan
March: High 16.4℃ (61.3°F)/ Low 7.9℃ (46.1°F)
April: High 19.2℃ (66.8°F)/ Low 10.8℃ (51.2°F)
What to expect in March and April
Early March is still relatively cold and the snowboarding season still continues in some places although it has passed the peak season.
Tokyo sees warmer weather all month and spring days start to appear. In Okinawa, the sea is warm but the waters can be chilly for a dive without a wet-suit.
Daytime temperatures in March are quite refreshing and there are warmer days as well.
April brings pleasant spring weather all across Japan. It is the peak of cherry blossom season in most regions of the country. In Okinawa, the beaches start to open.
March is a popular time to visit Japan as the weather is mild and the onset of the cherry blossom season draws many visitors to the various locations. By mid-march, you can see the budding blooms on the trees, signalling the beginning of the Hanami season. Hanami is the tradition of viewing and appreciating the beauty of the sakuras. Hanami has long been adored by locals as well as people across the globe as it is regarded as a symbol of renewal, vitality, and beauty.
In late March to early April, you will be able to catch the cherry blossoms at their best. If you are planning a trip during Hanami, dedicate some time to planning your travels. The sakura are in full bloom for only 2 to 3 weeks in Spring, between 20th March and 14th April, so you don’t really see them in full-bloom for a full month. Cherries peak at different times and are very weather dependent but they generally peak on 1st April.
Milder climate in the southern region means first blooms are produced in places like Okinawa, and blooming progresses northward. Wind, rain, and temperature can cause the blossoms to appear either earlier or later than average and can lengthen or shorten the blooming season.
If you are planning a trip to witness the hanami, then you may want to consider the following:
- Where will you be going to for the Hanami: Kyoto is a popular destination for hanami and so is Osaka, Himeji and Tokyo;
- When will you be going – you need to visit as close to the time as possible. You also need to decide where you want to witness the hanami as cherries bloom at different times depending on the region;
- As well, consider your accommodation – where would you stay?
It’s worth noting that March and April are expensive months, so plan ahead and book your flights and accommodations well in advance of your travels. Take a look at the 6-step guide to an awesome vacation.
Early March is still cold so you might want to have a warmer coat. Latter March and April might require a medium weight/spring jacket with a liner. Keep your feet warm as well during these months. April is comfortably warm, so you can wear light clothes, like t-shirts with jeans, long-sleeve shirts and pants, and thin cardigans.
April through to June are the most comfortable months
May/June | Best time to go to Japan
May: High 24.1℃ (75.2°F)/ Low 16℃ (60.9°F)
June: High 26.5℃ (79.4°F)/ Low 20℃ (68°F)
What to expect in May and June
The weather in May is almost perfect with the right temperatures. Days are warm and sunny at almost every region. It is a popular time for tourists as well. If you can’t make it to Japan in March and April for the Hanami, then head over to Hokkaido in May to catch the white and pink hues of the cherry blossoms. However, avoid travel during the Golden Week where prices soar and flights, hotels and activities get booked up quickly.
In Okinawa, rainy season begins in May.
Notable Festivals in May: Meiji Shrine Spring Festival (Tokyo) | May 2 – May 3
Golden Week typically falls during the last weekend in April and the first week of May. [In 2020, April 29 falls on a Wednesday. Festivities and travel are expected to continue through Tuesday, May 5. l
June sees the beginning of the typhoon season in Japan. Typically the first week of June is the rainiest, with rain continuing on till September. Rainy season is a period of grey, humid and wet weather. Every region in Japan plunges into a rainy season in June except Hokkaido.
Hokkaido has no rainy season. No rain means it is perfect for hosting events and festivals.
Sapporo holds the largest event called Yosakoi Soran Festival, a dance competition to take advantage of the good weather.
Tokyo sees a lot of rain and is one of the rainiest cities in Japan. Despite the rain, the city continues to be lively.
In June, head to Osaka around the 15th where on the nearby sacred mountain of Koyasan, hundreds of priests celebrate the birth of Kukai, the grand master of Japanese Buddhism.
In May, with pleasant and moderate temperatures, lightweight cardigan or sweater for early mornings and late evenings are ideal. Long skirts, dresses and short-sleeved shirts will be perfectly okay during the day. June sees the start of the rainy season in Japan. It rains quite heavily at times and unexpectedly. Humidity is high. Best to bring along a light raincoat and waterproof shoes.
July/August | Best time to go to Japan
July: High 31.4℃ (88.3°F)/ Low 24.2℃ (75.8°F)
August: High 33.2℃ (91.9°F)/ Low 26℃ (78.9°F)
What to expect in July and August
July is the start of summer in Japan. In most regions, the rainy season ends around mid July. This is also the start of school holidays. The beaches open and is the beginning of summer festivals throughout the country as well.
The weather turns very hot and humid.
Mount Fuji opens its doors to climbers on July 1st. If you are a climbing/hiking enthusiast and wish to climb Mount Fuji, then late July through to late August is the best time for you to do so. The weather conditions are ideal for climbing but this also means that the mountainside is congested.
The last weekend in July sees Japan’s largest music festival kick off – Fuji Rock Festival at Naeba Ski Resort in Yuzawa, Niigata, featuring both international and national artists.
August is Japan’s hottest month with varying highs of 90 in places like Okinawa and 72 in Hokkaido but less humid. Osaka and Kyoto can get much hotter. Nightlife is busy during these times with festivals, fireworks and events.
There is a three-day Buddhist custom called “Obon Festival” which falls in the middle of August. This is a much celebrated festival where the Japanese believe that the dead and the living are re-united on this day to celebrate, drink and be merry. The streets will be blocked off to the festival and dancing. The dancing, “Bon Odori” is a traditional dance performed throughout Japan. It is a fun time to visit Japan to experience this part of their culture.
The southern regions of Japan such as Okinawa, Kyushu and Shikoku are exposed to strong typhoons during August.
Honour a special and moving tradition on August 6
You may wish to go to Japan early August, in particular to Hiroshima.
On August 6, you could participate and honour the moving tradition of setting paper lanterns off adrift on the River Ota to commemorate the anniversary of the atomic bomb that fell on the city of Hiroshima on August 6. About 10.000 lanterns float past the A-Bomb Dome in the Motoyasu River every year on August 6th.
Light, breezy clothes are best for July. Short sleeves, skirts etc. As it is festival time, kimono and yukata are popular attires as well. Wear a summer hat to protect from the strong sunlight. Use sunscreen as well.
Plan ahead to secure best deals
Holidays and festivals in Japan also means that it is a favourite time for travellers. Flights and hotels are usually booked up months in advance. If you are planning a visit to Japan in August, make your bookings well in advance so you can secure the best deals on flights and hotels.
September/October | Best time to go to Japan
September: High 28.8℃ (83.9°F)/ Low 21.8℃ (71.1°F)
October: High 23℃ (73.2°F)/ Low 17℃ (62.8°F)
What to expect in September and October
The weather cools down a touch in September but still with some fluctuating showers. There are occasions of long period of rain and typhoons. Tokyo experiences the rainiest month of the year.
Mount Fuji closes its hiking trails by the 2nd week of September. One of the largest professional Sumo tournaments takes place in Tokyo in September. September is also a time to avoid travels during Silver Week. End of September sees the first of the falling leaves, making way for the onset of the renowned Japanese autumn.
October is a perfect time to visit Japan! The weather is mild, drier and cooler. The start of autumnal colours are spectacular at this time – perfect atmosphere to enjoy the natural sights. Exploring the countryside is highly encouraged during this season.
Kyoto is a popular destination to see the momiji – red maple leaves. But there are beautiful colours throughout Japan especially in the parks and gardens.
October 9th /10th – Takayama Festival takes place. On 22nd Kyoto’s Jidai Festival takes place when 2,000 people in ornate costumes depart from Kyoto Imperial Palace towards Heian Jingu shrine. A colourful and vibrant event which you may want to see.
Early September is still warm and summer clothes are ideal along with kimono or yukata. It gets cooler from mid September onwards and thicker/warmer fabric would become necessary. While October is pleasant and you can wear a variety of clothing, always bring along a light sweater or a cardigan as temperatures may drop.
November/December | Best time to go to Japan
November: High 17.4℃ (63.2°F)/ Low 9.8℃ (49.4°F)
December: High 12.1℃ (53.9°F)/ Low 4.9℃ (40.9°F)
What to expect in November and December
The weather in November is generally dry, crisp, sunny and cool but this can change to become colder. Typhoon season ends. Full autumn takes hold. Japan’s gardens, parks, temples and natural landscapes look spectacular. As well, it is harvest time in Japan and there are a number of harvest festivals.
December sees the first sign of snowfall as winter begins. It is colder and snow begins to settle. It is the third coldest month in Japan. Ski slopes in central Japan and Hokkaido open for business in December.
While it is cold and snows almost everyday in Hokkaido, and you definitely need to wrap up, don’t let this deter you. Japan has one of the most picturesque landscape in winter, blankets of snow covered castle roofs and temples – a sight to behold!
However, do keep in mind that between 29th and the first week of January, Japan has lots of New Year’s activities and holidays. You may want to either join in the celebrations or avoid these dates.
If you are planning travels to Japan, try and avoid these dates because the public transport will be overcrowded, hotels will be on full occupancy, and at a higher rate. Temples and shrines may also be closed for winter, so best check on what you want to visit.
Bring along a sweater or a jacket in November. Be prepared for colder evenings. You may need a scarf as well. December calls for winter clothing of thick coats, sweaters and many layers. Woolly/knit hats and gloves are highly recommended also. Be prepared for occasional gusts of wind so it does not blow your hats off!
Japan’s Calendar of National Holidays and Observances
Japanese holiday calendar 2021
- New Year’s Day – January 1
- Coming of Age Day – January 11
- Foundation Day – February 11
- Emperor’s birthday – February 23
- Vernal Equinox Day – March 20
- Showa Day – April 29
- Constitution Day – May 3
- Greenery Day – May 4
- Children’s Day – May 5
- Sea Day or Marine Day – July 19
- Mountain Day – August 11
- Respect for the Aged Day – September 20
- Autumnal Equinox Day – September 23
- Sports Day – October 11
- Culture Day – November 3
- Labor Thanksgiving Day – November 23
Japan’s distinct culture and striking natural landscapes makes it a rewarding destination to visit at anytime of the year. Whilst it is recommended that you avoid travelling during the Golden and Silver Week, it is also one of the best times for festivals and events. It all depends what you want to experience and what you would like your visit to be. I sincerely hope the information on this page will support and guide your travel itinerary.
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