Are you planning a trip to Japan, and asking yourself when should I visit Japan? What is the best month to visit Japan? Do you wonder what is the best time to see the Cherry Blossoms in Japan, to see the fall foliage, go skiing, climb Mt Fuji, do the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, get the best weather, find the lowest prices, take part in a cool festival, or beat the crowds? Then you have come to the right place, as I will answer all these questions and more, and help you find the perfect time to visit Japan according to your interests and preferences.
Japan is an all-year holiday destination. The country has four seasons, however, so the weather and temperature vary a lot from season to season with snow and minus degrees in the winter (November – February) and hot and humid weather during the rainy season in summer (June – August).
Therefore you should pick the dates for your Japan trip carefully so that it meets your expectations and what you want to get out of your trip to Japan. All four seasons are excellent times to visit Japan, although they give you a very different Japan travel experience and completely different things to do.
The most popular time to visit Japan is spring (March – April) when the beautiful Sakura/ Cherry Blossoms turn the parks and landscape of Japan pinkish. The autumn (September – November) is a good number two in popularity as the fall foliage make the Japanese landscape into a colorful sea of yellow, orange, red, and brown.
These two seasons are, however, the most crowded and expensive months to visit Japan, with big crowds everywhere especially in the parks and temples. You can expect hotels to be sold out, packed trains and buses, long queues to get into the important sights, and the prices on both accommodation and plane tickets to skyrocket. But these two seasons are popular for a reason; they are stunning with pleasant temperatures and beautiful weather.
When planning your visit to Japan and deciding when to go to Japan, you should consider what is the most important to you – avoiding the crowds, seeing the Cherry blossom or autumn foliage, go skiing, climbing Mt Fuji, join a festival, or saving some money.
Here is a detailed breakdown of the four different seasons in Japan with the pros and cons, plus an overview of the weather and temperature, for each of them:
Spring (March-May) – Cherry Blossom/ Sakura Season
The famous and stunning cherry blossom season is on during these spring months, making spring the most popular time to visit Japan.
The actual flower blossom, however, only lasts for a couple of weeks, starting in the south of Japan in late March and moving upwards through the country up to the north (Hokkaido and Sapporo city) in early May. The exact blooming dates vary a bit from year to year due to the weather and temperatures, but April is usually the best month for Cherry Blossom in the central part of Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka).
Check the Cherry Blossom forecast when planning your exact dates and where to go for hanami (cherry blossom flower viewing). The first cherry blossoms forecast is usually given in December/ January when they see how the winter and temperatures have affected the cherry trees.
Spring is a fantastic time to visit Japan, not only because of the beautiful pink cherry blossom that is everywhere but also because of the exceptional food.
The food in Japan is seasonally based, and during spring you will find lots of cherry blossom-related dishes and candy. The most famous is the sakura mochi – a pink rice cake wrapped in salted leaves of the cherry tree. The cakes are filled with sweet red bean paste called anko. Delicious!
You will also find everything from classic Japanese sweets to ice cream being flavored with cherry blossom. Be sure to try Kit Kats chocolate with cherry blossom flavor, as these are only available during spring (you can buy them at convenience stores and supermarkets).
The real spring sweet in Japan is, however, strawberries as they are ripe during spring. Japan put their pride in their strawberries, who come in different varieties. They are all sweet and juicy and simply perfect both in shape and color, well worth a taste.
Spring is, however, the busiest and most expensive time to visit Japan. So do not expect to see the cherry blossoms all by yourself, it will be crowded some places. April is the start of both the school year and business year, so it is a new start for the locals with lots of activities going on.
The most popular places to see the cherry blossoms, like the Shinjuku Goyen Park in Tokyo that has more than a thousand cherry trees, are packed with people during the week when the pink flowers are at their full bloom. Here you can lay down on one of the many open lawn areas and watch the full glory of the pink flowers if you can manage to find a spot on the grass, though.
Other favorite places to see the cherry blossoms are the Yoshino mountain in the Nara prefecture, located in Yoshino town, which is probably Japan’s most famous place for cherry blossom flower viewing. It is a stunning view during spring with 30 000 pinkish cherry trees covering the mountain. Mount Yoshino is linked together with two other sacred sites (Yoshino and Omine, Kumano Sanzan, Koyasan) by pilgrimage routes to the ancient capital cities of Nara and Kyoto.
This pilgrimage area is so beautiful with its lush forest landscape, rivers, waterfalls, and three shrines that in 2004 it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the name Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range. This area is well worth a visit and is at it´s most beautiful during cherry blossoms, but also the whole year around. Yoshino is located about 1,5 hour by train from Nara, and 1 hour and 45 min by train from Kyoto.
Himeji Castle is another favorite place to view the cherry blossoms. Seeing the bright white castle surrounded by a thousand pink cherry blossom trees is spectacular and almost like being in a Disney fairytale movie. 🙂 Himeji Castle is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
If possible, try to avoid Golden Week (29th of April to 6th of May) when the Japanese have holiday and time off and tend to travel the country themselves. The sights are usually extremely packed and the accommodation fully booked during Golden Week.
If you want to do the beautiful Alpine Route Tateyama Kurobe, the full mountain route opens on the 15th of April, while the lower part of the route opens on the 10th of April. During these spring months, you can see and walk through the ice and snow wall which is a fantastic experience. When they clear and open this road for snow, it is literally carved through the snow, making 18-meter high snow walls on each side of the way. So cool! It is, however, very popular both among foreign tourists and the locals, so you will not be alone admiring the huge snow corridor.
How Is The Weather And Temperature Like In Japan In Spring
The spring months (March-May) usually offers pleasant weather and mild temperatures, perfect for traveling around Japan. Bring a warm jacket, however, as it might get chilly in the evenings.
In March, temperatures are on average 8-9 °C (47-48 F) during the day in central Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima) but can drop to as low as 3-4 °C (38-39 F) in the evenings. Takayama, however, is still rather chilly with daily mean temperatures around 2-3 °C (36-37 F), where it can get below zero in the evenings. Sapporo has daily mean temperatures around 0 °C (33 F).
April is warmer than March, but still a bit chilly. Central Japan has daily mean temperatures around 12-14 °C (56-58 F) and gets around 7-9 °C (46-48 F) in the evenings. Sapporo has daily mean temperatures around 7 °C (44 F).
May can be rather warm with daily mean temperatures around 18-20 °C (64-66 F) in the central area of Japan. Sapporo usually has temperatures around 12 °C (54 F) in May.
Pros Of Visiting Japan In Spring
- The beautiful cherry blossom
- Nice weather, mild temperatures
- Alpine Route Tateyama Kurobe opens 15th of April (the lower part opens 10th of April) – see the 18-meter high snow and ice wall
Cons Of Visiting Japan In Spring
- Expensive and fully booked hotels
- Expensive plane tickets
- The trains might get full
Summer (June – August) – The Rainy Season
Summer is the rainy season in Japan, although it rains the most in June. We visited Japan once in July and August, and we had some rain but not every day and not all the time. These summer months are hot and humid.
If you plan on climbing the famous Mount Fuji, the Yoshida Trail is open from 1st of July until 10th of September, while the trails Subashiri, Gotemba, and Fujinomiya open on 10th of July.
And if you plan on doing the Alpine Route Tateyama Kurobe, you can even in late June see the snow and ice walls, as they are still over 10 meters high. There are also fewer visitors on the Alpine Route in June, so it is more relaxed, and you can enjoy your walks in more peace. The Alpine Route is pleasant to do during the summer as the temperatures are mild and the weather more predictable, so you don’t have to wear full winter clothing. We did the Alpine Route at the end of July. You can see how it was here.
Although festivals, or matsuri, are arranged all year-round in Japan, summer is the big festival season with lots of celebrations going on all over the country. We attended the Taiko Drum Festival at the Crow Castle in Matsumoto in July. It was great fun! Also, the Lantern Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima that is held every 6th of August in memory of everyone that was killed during the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 is stunning and something I will remember for the rest of my life.
Gion Matsuri Festival in Kyoto is the most famous and oldest Japanese festival, arranged every year in July since 869. The annual Gion Matsuri festival lasts for the entire July and ends with a big parade called the Yamaboko Junkō (山鉾巡行) on the 17th and 24th of July. It takes place in central Kyoto (around the streets Shijo, Kawaramachi, and Oike), and is one big party.
On the three nights before the big parade (14th – 16th, and 21st – 23rd of July), central Kyoto is closed for traffic and turned into walking streets filled with night street stalls selling delicious traditional Japanese food and sweets. Great fun and a fantastic opportunity to indulge in some local delicacies. Also, women dress up in yukata (summer kimono) while walking around in the streets.
During the three nights before the parade, when the streets of central Kyoto turn into a night food market, some private traditional houses in the old kimono merchant district (the Shinmachi and Muromachi areas) open up their homes to the public (called Byobu Matsuri) and display old family kimonos and antics. This is a unique and rare opportunity to see some of the old traditional Japanese residences where people still live today.
If you plan on visiting Japan during summer 2020, be aware that Tokyo hosts the summer Olympic Games 2020 between the 24th of July and 9th of August. So you can expect expensively and sold out accommodation during these weeks in Tokyo mainly, but also in the surrounding areas of Tokyo. There will also be more international visitors than usual during these weeks.
How Is The Weather And Temperature Like In Japan In Summer
Japan has rain throughout the whole year, but it rains, in general, more often and in more massive amounts during these summer months. Bring a raincoat and an umbrella as you are most likely to get some rain if you travel to Japan in June, July, and August. These summer months are hot and humid.
In June, the daily mean temperatures are around 21-23 ºC (70-72 F) in central Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Kanazawa). Sapporo has daily mean temperatures around 16 ºC (62 F) in June.
July is slightly warmer than June, with daily mean temperatures around 23-25 ºC (72-74 F) in central Japan. Sapporo has daily mean temperatures around 20 ºC (68 F).
July is hot in Japan, but August is even warmer with daily mean temperatures around 26-28 ºC (79-82 F) in the central part of Japan. Even Sapporo in the north is hot in August, with a daily mean temperature around 22 ºC (72 F).
Pros Of Visiting Japan In Summer
- Less crowded with fewer tourists, at least compared to the spring months
- Lots of excellent festivals all around Japan
- The biggest and oldest festival in Japan takes place every July – Gion Matsuri Festival in Kyoto
- The climbing season for Mt Fuji starts in July and ends in September
Cons Of Visiting Japan In Summer
- Summer is the rainy season in Japan, hot and humid, but it does not rain every day or all the time
Fall (September – November) – Fall Foliage Season
The famous and beautiful autumn fall foliage happens during the fall. After the hot and humid summer, mother nature puts on a stunning color show turning the leaves of the maple trees into bright red, orange, brown, and yellow. Whether the leaves turn red (koyo), yellow (oyo), or brown (katsuyo) depends on what sort of maple tree it is. Usually, different types of maple trees are planted together, which turn the hillside or park into a stunning sea of different autumn color shades.
October and November are when the koyo or momiji (meaning red leaf) is at its best, starting at the middle of September in the north (Hokkaido) and goes southwards through the country bringing colorful trees to the very south of Japan in late November. Exactly when the turning of the leaves happens around Japan, varies due to temperature, elevation, and latitude, and the dates vary a bit from year to year.
In the central parts of Japan (Toyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara) the best autumn foliage viewing is usually from mid-October until early December. Like for the cherry blossom, there is also autumn foliage forecasts with exact dates for when each area of Japan will experience changing of the leaves. Luckily, the autumn leaves colors can be seen during a more extended period compared to cherry blossom, which is over in just a week or two. The colorful leaves usually last from two weeks to over a month at each place, so you don´t have to rush it, and there are fewer people than at cherry blossoms.
Searching for the most beautiful and brightest colors of the leaf is called momigari in Japanese (meaning red leaf hunting) and has been popular in Japan for centuries, ever since the Heian period (794-1195) as it is written about in the classic novel “The Tale Of The Genji” and different poetry. Nowadays it is just as popular among foreign tourists.
You can see the fall foliage everywhere in Japan, like in the parks and temples of Tokyo, Kyoto, and other cities. Nikko, with its temples and shrines surrounded by forest, is magnificent in the fall. You will also see the beautiful autumn colors from the train when going between places in Japan.
But, of course, the best is to head out of the cities and into the mountains, like the Mt Fuji area (Fuji Five Lakes) or Hakone area where you can go hiking among these colorful trees. The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is also stunning during this time of year. The mountains are all covered in a sea of beautiful autumn colors. November is the last month you can make the Alpine Route Tateyama Kurobe trip as it closes on the 1st of December.
Autumn foliage has had a significant influence on Japanese culture. For Buddhists, it is important both symbolically and spiritually as it is a symbol of that life is short and things are being transitory.
You can find the maple leaf, which symbolizes fall, on kimonos, fabrics, and in the food, like maple shaped cakes. The leaves are eaten too, as tempura (crispy deep-fried). You find different versions of maple leaf tempura in the different regions of Japan.
If you plan on visiting Japan during fall 2019, be aware that Japan hosts the Rugby World Cup 2019 between 20th of September until 2nd of November. Twelve Japanese cities are venues for the Rugby World Cup, so if you are going to Japan these dates, you might experience sold out hotels and crowds of rugby fans.
How Is The Weather And Temperature Like In Japan In Fall
The fall months usually has beautiful weather and mild temperatures. Bring a warm jacket (for instance a light down jacket) to wear in the evenings as the temperatures drop, and especially if you want to do the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.
September is still pretty hot with daily mean temperatures around 22-24 ºC (73-75 F) in central Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Kanazawa). The daily mean temperatures in Sapporo has dropped to 18 ºC (64 F).
October is a bit more comfortable temperature wise, with daily mean temperatures in central Japan around 17-18 ºC (62-63 F). In Sapporo in the north, the daily mean temperatures go down to around 11 ºC (53 F).
November is, on the other side a bit chilly, as winter is coming….. 😉 The record low temperature for Tokyo in November is -3,1 ºC (26,4 F), but usually the daily mean in November for central Japan is around 12 ºC (53,8 F), although it gets chilly in the evenings so bring a warm jacket. Takayama, however, has a daily mean temperature of 6,6 ºC (43,9 F) and the record low November temperature of freezing -10,7 ºC (12,7 F)! Sapporo is even colder, with the daily mean temperature of only 4,9 ºC (40,8 F) and the record low is -15,5 ºC (4,1 F).
Pros Of Visiting Japan In Fall
- The beautiful fall foliage turning the landscape into bright fall colors of red, orange, yellow, and brown
- Beautiful weather and mild temperatures
Cons Of Visiting Japan In Fall
- Can be crowded at the most popular parks and temples to see the fall foliage, but not as packed as during cherry blossom in spring
Winter (December – February) – Skiing Season
December to February are the coldest months in Japan, and the perfect time to go to Japan for some excellent skiing and snowboarding. Parts of Japan get plenty of fluffy snow, especially inland in the Nagano area and up north in the Sapporo area in Hokkaido. Japan also has some fantastic skiing resorts well worth a visit.
Sapporo has a famous Snow Festival in January/ February (the dates varies a bit from year to year) with hundreds of stunning snow and ice sculptures and lots going on. Great fun and well worth the trip!
These winter months are low season so you can expect low prices on accommodation and peaceful and quiet atmosphere at the sights, temples, museums, and parks. Some sights are even more beautiful when covered in snow, like the Shirakawa-go with its thatched-roof farmhouses.
Winter is the perfect great time to enjoy one of the many onsen/ hot springs that Japan has to offer. Japan has around 2300 onsen/ hot springs, so there is a lot to choose from. You will find onsen all over Japan, many of them in traditional Japanese inns called ryokan, but also public onsen where you pay an entrance ticket. Hakone area has lots of charming ryokans and resorts with private onsens and is easy to get to from Tokyo (about 2 hours by bus or train).
Beppu city, located in Oita prefecture (southern part of Japan), is by many considered the real onsen area of Japan with eight distinct onsens. Each of these eight onsens has public baths and ryokans where you can stay. Here you can also enjoy sand baths (where you are covered in naturally heated sand), steam baths, and mud baths. You can also join different tours (called “tours of hell”) in Beppu where you get to see the different onsens and even boil an egg! 🙂
Not only humans like to dip in the onsen, but also monkeys love to bathe in the boiling water! One of the biggest attraction in Japan during the winter season is the Snow Monkey Park/ Jigokudani Monkey Park in Yamanouchi outside of Nagano. I’m sure you have seen photos of these cute monkeys bathing and relaxing in the hot springs in this park. While the monkeys bathe in the hot springs year-round, the best time to visit is during the colder months from December to March when there is likely to be snow.
Tokyo is beautiful during December and January, with its winter illuminations where the trees and buildings are decorated with thousands of lights.
How Is The Weather And Temperature Like In Japan In Winter
Temperatures are chilly all over Japan during these three winter months, but still above zero in the central part of Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto). If you are heading north to the Nagano area or even more north, to Hokkaido, you must expect minus degrees and snow. Winter is low season for typhoons, however, which is a good thing. 🙂
December is the first real winter month in Japan with daily mean temperatures around 6-7 ºC (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Kanazawa, Hiroshima). The coldest temperature ever in Tokyo in December was -6,8 ºC (19,8 F), but that is very rare. Takayama, however, is cold in December with a daily mean temperature of 1,4 ºC (34,5 F). The record low temperature in Takayama in December is -19,5 ºC (-3,1 F)! Sapporo has -0,9 ºC (30,4 F) as the daily mean temperature in December, and the record low is incredible -24,7 ºC (-12,5 F), brrrr, that´s cold!
January is even colder than December, with daily mean temperatures around 5-6 ºC (41-42,8 F) in central Japan. Takayama has daily mean temperatures of -1,4 ºC (29,5 F), and Sapporo -3,6 ºC (25,5 F).
February has the same daily mean temperatures as January, 5-6 ºC (41-42,8 F), in central Japan. Also in Takayama and Sapporo, January and February have more or less the same cold temperatures.
As for snow, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, and Hiroshima, get an average snowfall of around 5 cm in January and February, and almost no snow in December. But the snow usually melts pretty quickly, so you seldom see much snow in the streets.
Kanazawa, however, gets more snow, around average snowfall of 37 cm (15 inches) in December, 119 cm (47 inches) in January, 93 cm (37 inches) in February, and 27 cm (11 inches) in March.
Takayama is a real winter-wonderland with an average snowfall of 7 cm (2,8 inches) as early as November, 87 cm (34 inches) in December, 167 cm (66 inches) in January, 147 cm (58 inches) in February, 54 cm (21 inches) in March, and 5 cm (2 inches) in April.
The same goes for Sapporo which can get snow as early as October with an average snowfall of 2 cm (0,8 inches), 32 cm (13 inches) in November, 132 cm (52 inches) in December, 173 cm (68 inches) in January, 147 cm (58 inches) in February, 98 cm (39 inches) in March, and 11 cm (4,3 inches) in April.
Pros Of Visiting Japan In Winter
- Few tourists, this is the time to go to Japan if you want to beat the crowds
- Low prices on accommodation and plane tickets
- Great skiing/ snowboarding
Cons Of Visiting Japan In Winter
- Cold weather so bring proper winter clothes and boots
There you go, a break-down and overview of the four different and distinct seasons of Japan and what to expect in each season when it comes to pros and cons, weather and temperatures, festivals, and the activity highlights.
To sum up, spring (March, April, and May) is the most popular time to visit Japan due to the beautiful cherry blossom/ Sakura, but also the most expensive time of year to visit Japan as plane tickets and accommodation prices skyrocket and gets fully booked. This is also not the time to go to Japan if you want to beat the crowds as all significant sights will be packed with people.
Summer (June, July, and August) is the rainy season in Japan, but it does not rain every day or all the time, but it is hot and humid. Summer is still a good time to visit Japan as it is fewer tourists compared to spring, and there are lots of fun festivals to attend.
Autumn (September, October, and November) is, in my opinion, the best time to visit Japan. The autumn foliage is stunning, and the weather is nice, and even though it is a popular time to visit Japan due to the colored leaves it is still less crowded than spring.
Winter is the perfect time to visit Japan if you want to beat the crowds and have the sights all to your self, and if you want to save money as the accommodation and plane tickets are at their cheapest. And, of course, if you like skiing and snowboarding (like me!) then Japan is a must-visit during winter as the snow conditions are fantastic!
If you wonder where in Japan you should go, check out our recommended Japan Itinerary which is an all-year itinerary (except for the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route which is closed from 1st of December until 10th of April).
What is your favorite season? Have you been to Japan, and if so, what season did you visit Japan? We would love to hear from you in the comment area below. Thank you so much! 🙂