As a truly year-round destination, the best time to visit Japan depends on what you want to do there.
The most popular times to go are spring (end of March to mid-April), when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, or autumn (November to early December), when the autumn leaves put on another spectacular colour show. But since these times attract the most tourists, you might consider going at another time so if you prefer to avoid the crowds.
So, when's best time for you? That depends heavily on the sort of weather you prefer. Japan has four distinct seasons, with January being the coldest month and August the hottest. In winter snow is common, while summers are hot and humid with tropical storms.
Since Japan is a relatively long, skinny country, weather also varies from place to place – from the frigid northern island of Hokkaido, to the subtropical islands of Okinawa in the southwest. Generally speaking, the south and west tend to be slightly warmer, while the north and east are cooler. Of course, the higher you go into the mountains, the colder it gets.
Read on to discover what you can expect from Japan's seasons, and all the highlights worth travelling for throughout the year.
The Top Things to do in Japan
Whether you are in search of cutting-edge culture, outdoor adventure, big city life or an escape from it, Japan is truly a destination that has it all. Here’s when to visit Japan to enjoy your favourite activities and events.
See the Cherry Blossoms
The spring season between March to April is the best time to visit Japan for the cherry blossoms . This period marks the end of winter. Depending on weather conditions, the sakura season can last for a few days, up to a couple of weeks. This is also the peak season in Japan.
Keep in mind that the sakura bloom schedules can vary year-to-year, depending on temperature, and how long it lasts is a matter of luck – some years the blossoms might stay on the trees for a couple of weeks, while other times they could be felled early by strong wind or rain.
Cherry blossoms usually only bloom for around one week per location, and at slightly different times throughout the country – starting from Okinawa in early-February and moving northward to northern Hokkaido until late-May. Travel south to north to see them for longer, and check out this article to find out the best places to see cherry blossom in Japan.
See the Autumn Leaves
The best time to visit Japan to see the autumn leaves is between November to December. In areas like Hokkaido, the autumn season begins as early as mid-September while Tokyo and Kyoto see orange leaves as from mid-October.
A visit to Japan when the leaves are changing colour is really spectacular. In fact, we think it's one of the best places to spend autumn in Asia – and, thankfully, the autumn leaves tend to stick around for a bit longer than the cherry blossoms.
By late September, the leaves start changing in the North around the mountains, gradually making their way down to the central and southern cities (Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo) by mid-October and remaining colourful into early December. Bear in mind that the autumn colours tend to peak a bit later than other places in the Northern Hemisphere, with the most spectacular displays often reserved for the end of November and even the beginning of December.
Autumn is the second busiest time of year to visit Japan, so it’s best to book your trip way in advance.
Experience Festival Culture
The best time to travel to Japan to enjoy events and festivals is during the summer months between June to mid-September. While it can get quite humid throughout this period, you get to catch a glimpse of the local culture. This is a great time to visit Japan to skip the crowds.
Summertime brings with it many of Japan’s best festivals (or 'matsuri) – including Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri, Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri, Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri, and the Awa Odori festival in Tokushima on the island of Shikoku.
This season is also renowned for dazzling fireworks displays, or 'hanabi taikai'. Tokyo’s Sumida River Fireworks are particularly deserving of a mention, but there are plenty of events throughout the country.
Catch the Snow Crab Harvest
November to early December is the best time to visit Japan for the crab season. This period marks the harvest season, which is only allowed for four months in a year. You can find snow crabs at fish markets as well as in restaurants.
Known as 'echizen', these giant crabs are considered a delicacy and can fetch quite high prices at the fish markets. It's a must-try for foodies – and there are loads of different ways to eat it, from soups to sushi.
Go Skiing and Snowboarding
Late-December to March is the best time to visit Japan for snow activities like skiing and snowboarding. The best months to travel to Japan for its winter festivals are January and February. Occasional snowfall is expected between March and April.
Japan's ski season runs as late as May in some areas, although the best time to hit the slopes depends where you're going.
Snow usually arrives mid-November on the north island of Hokkaido, with the earliest resorts opening during the third week of that month – Niseko, Rusutsu and Kiroro are usually the first of the big resorts to welcome skiers and boarders.
March and April are great for both in-resort and backcountry snow sports. The plentiful early-season snow ensures resort conditions are excellent right until the end of the season and, at this time, the clear weather affords stunning views.
See Mount Fuji
The best time to visit Japan to see Mount Fuji is during late autumn to early spring, throughout the months of November to February. This period sees clear skies and fewer clouds. Early mornings are when you get to enjoy unobstructed views of Mount Fuji.
During these months you can also catch a glimpse of the cherry blossoms or autumn leaves in Japan. The best place to see Mount Fuji is at Lake Kawaguchi.
Keep in mind that between April and August, the mountain can be hidden behind clouds and haze, while typhoon season begins in September. This means that your chances of spotting Mount Fuji are significantly lower.
Our Team's Favourite Trips to Japan
What is the best season to visit Japan?
The best time to visit Japan for the cherry blossoms is during spring between late March to mid-April. From November to December, you can bask in colourful autumn leaves. The best time to travel to Japan for the snow is during the winter months of November to March.
Spring in Japan: March - May
Lasting from March until May and with temperatures ranging from around 4°C to 18°C (40°F to 65°F), Japanese springtime is known to be unpredictable. That being said, this period also sees clear skies as it is generally sunny (although it can be cool at night).
Famous worldwide for ‘hanami’ (cherry-blossom viewing), spring in Japan could well be one of the most romantic sights you’ll ever see. Keep in mind that this is also one of the busiest time for tourists in Japan.
Domestic travel is at its peak during Golden Week, a run of four national holidays within a week from late-April through to early May. Avoid travelling at this time if at all possible. (Don’t worry, you won’t be missing out on much.)
From mid-May to end of June, there are fewer tourists around and the weather is great, with very little rain. Temperatures start to rise and flowers other than the cherry blossom start to bloom – a sight that’s well worth the visit.
Summer in Japan: June - September
Lasting from June to mid-September (depending where you are), Japanese summers are hot and humid, with temperatures ranging around 21°C to 32 °C (70°F to 90°F).
Saying that, most places like shopping malls and restaurants in Japan are air conditioned, so the heat is still manageable. It’s also much cooler in the mountains, where summer is the prime season for outdoor activities like hiking.
At the beginning of summer comes Japan’s rainy season – known as ‘tsuyu’, the plum rain – which starts in early- to mid-June and lasts around a month. Compared to much of Asia, Japan’s rainy season is relatively mild – you might not even get rain every day, and when it does come down it’s not usually torrential.
Summer may be one of the quieter times for tourists, meaning you’re more likely to have the beauty spots to yourself, but it’s pretty lively on the culture front, with plenty of festivals (or ‘matsuri’) filling the calendar.
Just try to avoid travelling around mid-August as this marks the school holiday in Japan and many locals travel over the Obon holiday (13th-15th August).
Autumn in Japan: September - December
Autumn in Japan starts in mid-September (although it can still be quite hot in some places) and continues until early December. Weather-wise, it’s a gorgeous time to go, with temperatures ranging from around 10°C to 21°C (50°F to 70°F) and generally clear skies.
Autumn in Japan is best known for its stunning colours, as the leaves turn all shades of red and orange (known as ‘koyo’).
Thanks to the beautiful scenes and more pleasant weather, autumn in Japan is a busy time for tourists. November in particular is a peak time – something to consider if you’re not a fan of crowds.
Winter in Japan: December - March
Starting in December and lasting until mid-March, Winter in Japan is cold and quite dry, with temperatures ranging from around -1°C to 7°C (30°F to 45°F). This is a great time to visit to escape the crowd.
Winter in the mountainous and northern parts of Japan is a bit longer and brings with it plenty of snow – if you’re a keen skier or snowboarder, you’ll no doubt have heard of Japan’s legendary powder.
Meanwhile, in southern and western Japan winter can be much milder – and in subtropical places like Okinawa it’s almost non-existent.
If you’re considering visiting around New Year, be warned that since this is an extended holiday period – both in Japan and across the world – it can be quite busy. Added to that, many places are closed from the end of December until a few days into January – although you can still visit most temples and shrines, as well as enjoying the great outdoors, of course.
Where to Stay in Japan
Aman Tokyo$$$$$Embracing the minimalism of traditional Japanese architecture, this retreat is the epitome of the luxury found in the very heart of Tokyo. Aman is a stylish, bespoke hotel that will offer you an array of amenities and easy accessibility to the city’s sights. Each of the 84 guest rooms and suites have unique layouts with uncompromising city views and every contemporary convenience. You’ll find the design inspiration evident throughout the hotel, from traditional Japanese residential structures to the use of classical materials such as camphor wood, washi paper and stone alongside modern luxurious fabrics. The hotel also offers an exquisite dining experience in their elegant mediterranean fine dining restaurant on the 33rd floor with views of the Imperial Palace Gardens and Mount Fuji. Take a dip in the infinity pool on the 34th floor, high above the hustle and bustle of the city or head to the spa to relax after a long day of exploring the city. You’ll also enjoy Ginza, the upmarket shopping area just a pleasant 15 minute walk away.
Four Seasons Kyoto$$$$$Traditional Japanese aesthetics can be found throughout the luxury Four Seasons in the centre of historic Kyoto. Lanterns brighten interiors filled with artisanal furnishing and sleek hardwood floors while fusuma screens and urushi lacquerware create an engaging cultural experience. The guest rooms enjoy balconies with incredible views overlooking the fascinating cityscape, Shakusuien Pond Garden or the distant Higashiyama Mountains. Upon imperial purple carpets, a custom Four Seasons bed waits after freshening up in a private rain shower oasis. The suites contain spacious living areas with sofas, coffee tables and marble-topped desks, natural light streaming in through floor-to-ceiling windows. Special touches such as shoji paper lamps and tatami-inspired wall panels contributes to a rich and contemporary residence. Savouring views of the beautiful 12th-century Myoho-in Temple, the Presidential Suite consists of Asa-no-ha hexagonal patterns and an approach to artisanal décor that authentically and intimately captures the essence of Japan. The Four Seasons has two restaurants. Brasserie boasts a relaxed atmosphere and a simple yet delicious menu. Locally-sourced ingredients combined with modern cooking techniques contribute to seasonal dishes throughout the day and into the evening. Sushi Wakon operates under the skilled hand of Michelin-starred Chef Rei Masuda, preparing a fine-dining extravaganza at the 200-year-old, 10-seat Hinoki counter. Drink tea while relaxing beside the 800-year-old pond garden, taking in the true essence and mystery of the Land of the Rising Sun. Additionally, the Spa is a haven of healing, restoring your mind and body to a state of blissful serenity.
HOSHINOYA Resort$$$$$A world away from the hustle and bustle of Japanese city life, immerse yourself in the relaxed culture of Japan’s southern Islands. HOSHINOYA promises to modernise the traditional Japanese ryokan offering you an authentic stay with modern comfort and conveniences. With just 48 villas on the remote island of Taketomi, you’ll find yourself in paradise. Architecturally the hotel mirrors the local culture. The single-level, wooden villas, which are surrounded by stone walls and topped with red tiles, seem almost Mediterranean to the western eye, however, inside the Japanese influence is apparent. With spacious, minimalist decor and the use of light wood, relax in contemporary Japanese tranquility. During your stay, dine in the hotel’s restaurant. The chef define’s his cuisine as Ryukyu Nouvelle, a brand new style of Okinawan food based on French cuisine. With a new menu every evening savour this truly unique culinary experience. Relax on the white sand beaches, take a water buffalo cart ride or scuba dive to experience one of the world’s top spots for watching manta rays. With a variety of activities there is something for everyone to enjoy in this bespoke resort.
"Perfect planning, perfect execution."
“Kate and others at Jacada listened when we told them what we wanted to do in Japan. Many of the requests were unusual. Kate made sure we knew what we were asking for and then planned a trip to accomplish it.
Listening is not always something travel planners do. The execution of the trip was flawless. Each guide was not only knowledgeable, but went to great lengths to make sure we were doing and seeing the things we wanted. We have already planned our next trip with Jacada!”
– Arthur, 5 stars
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