From its ancient history and calming national parks to its new-age bustling skyscraper cities, Japan is one of the most interesting countries in the world. Take a bullet train, spot a geisha, dine on sushi or be dazzled by the neon city lights. Japan is a wonderful mix of old and new.
Japan weather and the best time to visit
With a coastline of 29,751 km, Japan is a long country and with that length comes the diversity of its weather. The northern island of Hokkaido can be found in a subarctic zone, whereas the southern island of Okinawa is subtropical. The central area of Japan including Honshu has diverse weather conditions and is influenced by the cold of the north and the subtropical temperatures of the south. The eastern side of the Japanese Alps facing the Pacific Ocean gets more rain, and the west side more snow.
However, the country does have the four distinct seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter. But it also has a rainy season, which starts in the south at the end of May working its way up north until mid-July, stopping before it reaches Hokkaido. A typhoon season usually hits between May and October, with August and September being the peak season.
The spring months of March to May bring with it the famous cherry blossom season. The summer months of June to August bring the most festive time of year and lots of colourful festivals known as ‘matsuri’. The autumn months of September to November bring beautiful autumnal colours. And the winter months of December through to February bring winter sports, hot springs and lots of fresh seafood.
Taking all of this into consideration, the best time to visit Japan depends on what you want to experience, and where you want to experience it. However, many agree that spring (March – April) and autumn (October – November) are the best months.
Best time to visit Northern Japan -Sapporo
The summer and winter seasons are the best time to visit northern Japan. But for different reasons. The summer months of June through to August are filled with sunshine and temperatures that average at about 24 degrees Celsius. There are lots of opportunities to explore national parks and the local mountain ranges.
However, it’s in the winter season that Sapporo and its surrounding areas really come alive. The months of December through to February and often March are filled with beer, skiing and the annual Sapporo Snow Festival which features enormous ice sculptures. It’s the perfect destination for those who love winter sports and the après ski time that follows. On top of that, it’s the perfect place to get delicious seafood, as it’s harvesting time for oysters and crabs. Add to your platter, a shot of Japan’s world famous Sake, and your dish is complete.
Travel Tip: Hot Springs are fabulous any time of year; but during the winter it really is magical to soak in one whilst surrounded by freshly fallen snow. There are a number of hot springs in northern Japan, some you can drive right up to, and others are reached by hiking up mountains and through forests. Rainy season does not reach the northern island of Hokkaido. Therefore it is an option for dryer weather and good travel deals.
|One important factor to be aware of is the big difference between the peak and off-peak periods in Japan. Prices can soar and hotels book out during New Year (December 27 to January 4), Golden Week (April 29 to May 5) and the Summer Bon Holiday (the week of August 15).|
Best time to visit Central Japan -Tokyo, Yokohama and Kyoto
The spring and autumn seasons are the best times of the year to visit central Japan. Temperatures do fluctuate from day to day but the weather is mostly fine. The average temperature is about 20 degrees Celsius, and it’s mostly dry before the rainy season comes to play.
The best time to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka is usually from the end of March to the beginning of April. It’s the perfect time of year for visiting parks and appreciating nature, where you get to witness plum blossoms, rape and wisteria flowers spread their colourful charm across the country. May is the month Tokyo and Kyoto celebrate their biggest spring festivals before the weather turns.
As with spring, autumn is also a great month to visit central Japan. The average temperature, like spring, is about 20 degrees Celsius. The leaves on trees begin to change colour and the landscape and cityscapes turn a different shade. Nara, Kyoto and Nikko City are popular destinations with locals and tourists alike when it comes to enjoying the changing of the season.
Travel Tip: The Dolls Festival ‘Hinamatsuri’ falls on March 3rd and is a day to pray for the fortune, health and happiness of Japan’s girls. One of the busiest weeks of the year in Japan is ‘Golden Week’. Its business is due to the number of festival days celebrated very close together. It starts with Showa Day on April 29th and ends with Children’s Day ‘Kodomo No Hi’ falls on May 5th.
Best time to visit Southern Japan – Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Okinawa
When visiting southern Japan, one does need to take into consideration a couple of weather factors: The rainy season of end of May, and the typhoon season which often peaks in the months of August and September. And when it comes to typhoons, the likes of Okinawa and southwestern Japan can be hit hardest. Other than that, southern Japan is great all year round.
Mild winters offer visitors opportunities to get outdoors and see the countryside. Explore Kyushu Island and all that its beautiful landscape has to offer, before settling in historical harbour city of Nagasaki. Or enjoy the experience of a Sumo Tournament, with the November Grand Sumo Tournament in Fukuoka.
Meanwhile, the summer months with their rising temperatures and the subtropical climate of southern Japan offer visitors the perfect time to enjoy water sports, swimming and snorkelling.
Travel Tip: Places that are a must visit include Hiroshima and its Peace Memorial Park. Itsukushima, also known as Miyajima, is one of Japan’s holiest Shinto sites. It’s actually a small island and can be found in Hiroshima Bay. And to relax the hours away after all your sight-seeing how about a soak in one of the oldest hot springs in Japan – the Dogo Hot Springs ‘Dōgo Onsen’. It’s found in the city of Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku.