Updated April 17, 2022
The Best Times to Visit Japan: When Should You Go?
If you’re an avid traveler, Japan should definitely be on your must-visit list.
After all, it has a rich culture and stunning natural scenery that attracts millions of foreign visitors per year. It’s one of the top travel destinations worldwide that everyone should visit at least once.
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While you can always go at any point in the year, it’s better if you know when is usually the best time to visit Japan. That way, you can maximize the experience and enjoy what the country has to offer during your stay.
So, when should you visit Japan?
Let’s find out!
When Should You Visit Japan?
Japan is beautiful all year round, so the best time to visit Japan depends on what you want to see or experience during your stay.
The four seasons hold various meanings for the Japanese people. Each one showcases and highlights a different aspect of the country’s rich culture. So, you’ll always experience something new and exciting when you visit at different times of the year.
Of course, the location also matters when determining the best time to visit. Japan’s unique geography means that each region or prefecture is distinct. In addition, their defining characteristics stand out more depending on the season.
For example, Aomori Prefecture is the go-to destination if you’re looking for some winter fun. Its capital, Aomori City, experiences an average of 8 meters or 26 feet worth of snow each year. This is higher than anywhere else globally. In fact, that’s why it’s called the “snowiest city in the world.”
Meanwhile, Okinawa Prefecture is well-known for its breathtaking beaches and crystal clear waters. It also has a tropical/subtropical climate, so it’s almost always warm in Okinawa. Many have even dubbed it “Japan’s Hawaii” due to the two locations’ similar ambiance.
Spring in Japan
Springtime in Japan is usually from March to May. It’s known for its milder and more pleasant weather conditions. Spring is also one of Japan’s busiest seasons.
Thousands of travelers often try to schedule their trips to coincide with the country’s hanami season. They’re hoping to catch a glimpse of its famous cherry blossom trees or sakura. Their peak blooming times usually happen around late March to early April.
Aside from the sakura, Golden Week is another busy time during spring. It’s usually celebrated from the last week of April to the first week of May.
Most locals use this time to take a break from work and travel. It’s one of the few times they get to do so in the year. Because of this, you can expect trains and other popular attractions to be quite crowded and busy.
How to Avoid the Crowds in Japan in Spring
Again, spring is usually Japan’s busiest season, especially at the sakura’s peak blooming time. Still, avoiding the crowds doesn’t mean you have to miss out on what springtime offers.
If you want to enjoy Japan in spring but don’t want to deal with the massive crowds, here are a few tips you can consider:
Check Sakura Forecasts
Their blooming times vary every year, so don’t forget to check out these forecasts before planning your trip. This will give you an idea of when specific areas will be crowded, allowing you to avoid them.
Consider Other Flowering Trees
Cherry blossoms are undoubtedly Japan’s most famous flowering species. But, they’re not the only ones that bloom in spring. Ume trees or Japanese plum blossoms also bloom around this time, and they look as spectacular as their more famous counterpart.
Some of the best places to view ume in spring include the following:
- Hanegi Park
- Yushima Tenjin
- Koganei Park
- Odawara Ume Festival
- Okurayama Park
Allow for Intervals When Traveling
You can also avoid getting stuck in crowds by giving your schedule enough breathing room when traveling. You can go when it’s least crowded and enjoy a more leisurely pace.
Summer in Japan
The summer months in Japan are from June to August, and the weather is usually hot and humid around this time of the year.
Around July and August, summer temperatures reach their peak, averaging about 24 to 31 degrees Celsius. This is also usually when their rainy season or tsuyu starts.
Summers in Japan are always lively and exciting. This is due to the many festivals or matsuri the country celebrates during this season. In fact, many locals even dress up for these special occasions.
One of the most popular choices is the yukata, a traditional Japanese garment. It’s more lightweight than the usual kimono, so it’s more comfortable to wear, even in the summer.
You’ll find the streets filled with colorful decorations, food stalls, and souvenir booths. You’ll also see stunning floats on the road where people chant, dance, and generally have fun. You can also see the skies light up with gorgeous fireworks in the evening.
Summer Matsuris in Japan
Each area has its own celebration, but some festivals are more popular than others. Some examples include:
- Gion Matsuri
- Aomori Nebuta Matsuri
- Tenjin Matsuri
- Sendai Tanabata Matsuri
Keep in mind that these festivals don’t only make summers in Japan more exciting and lively. They also highlight a critical aspect of Japanese culture. Summer matsuris are meant to celebrate significant historical events or pay tribute to a particular deity or god.
Summer is the best time to visit Japan if you want to learn more about the local culture and immerse yourself. So, make sure to check the local festivals in the area you’re staying in for the summer.
Autumn in Japan
If you’re looking to enjoy more of Japan’s beautiful natural sceneries, visiting the country in autumn is an excellent idea. Autumn in Japan is from September to November, and the weather will start to cool by then.
The foliage during this period is as beautiful as what you’ll witness in spring – possibly even more so. During autumn, the leaves turn a vibrant shade of red, orange, brown, and yellow.
There’s also one popular fall activity called momijigari. Its concept is like hanami, although you’re hunting for the most beautiful fall leaves this time instead. The practice started in the Heian era and has remained popular even today.
Aside from this, autumn is also when the Japanese celebrate Silver Week. This is usually when the Autumn Equinox (September 22 or 23) and Respect for the Aged Day (September 21) results in a long weekend.
When this happens, you can expect crowds as large as you’d encounter during Golden Week. Fortunately, Silver Week only happens every five years.
Momijigari in Kyoto and Tokyo
The good news is that you can see the stunning autumn foliage almost anywhere in Japan. So, you can get a good view of the beautiful leaves, no matter where you are.
But, if you’re staying in either Kyoto or Tokyo, here are some of the areas where you can find the most beautiful autumn foliage:
Tokyo has no shortage of green spaces, so you have plenty of options where you can enjoy the beautiful autumn sceneries. Still, if you want the best view, you can visit the following areas:
- Oze National Park
- Koishikawa Korakuen
- Mount Takao
- Yoyogi Park
Two of the most popular hanami locations – Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen – are also fantastic spots in Japan to visit during autumn.
Kyoto has a vast selection of traditional temples that add to the stunning views during autumn. That’s why it’s considered the best city to enjoy Japan’s gorgeous autumn foliage. Here are some of the top areas to check out:
- Daigo-Ji Gardens
- Tofukuji Temple
You can also ride the Eizan Electric Railway and go through the famous “Red Leaf Tunnel” for a more magical time.
Winter in Japan
Winter in Japan is from December to February, and the temperatures can become freezing during this time. You can also find snow in many places, mainly in the northern prefectures like Hokkaido, Aomori, Niigata, and Yamagata.
Much like the other seasons, there are a lot of festivals during winter, such as the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido.
Interestingly, the Japanese don’t consider Christmas a national holiday, so most people still have work or school during this day. Nonetheless, you can still enjoy the Christmas spirit because they have also adopted most of the associated practices in recent years.
While Christmas isn’t an official holiday, the New Year is significant in Japanese culture. In fact, many people flock to the local temples or shrines on the new year’s first day to pray for good fortune (hatsumode) in the coming year.
You can also expect most places to be closed or crowded during this time. So, you might want to schedule your trip after the holidays if you want to avoid the crowds.
Visiting and relaxing in the country’s many natural hot springs or onsen is another popular wintertime activity. Taking a bath outdoors while surrounded by the snow and nature can be an unforgettable experience.
Mt. Fuji in Winter
If seeing Mt. Fuji is on your bucket list, the winter season is the best time to visit Japan. Mt. Fuji is most visible from November to February. Even if you’re staying in Tokyo’s city center, you can still see it clearly.
Many buildings in Tokyo have observation decks you can use to get a better view of the said mountain. The Bunkyo Civic Center, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Observatory, and Tokyo Tower are excellent options for this.
Still, one of the most iconic areas you can have a fantastic view of Mt. Fuji is from the Chureito Pagoda. You can see the mountain in the distance from the five-storied pagoda, serving as the perfect backdrop for photos.
But, you should know that its official climbing season is only during the summer. So, if you want to hike up Japan’s highest mountain, you can only do it then.
Some Information to Consider Before Visiting Japan
Now that you have a better idea of what to expect during the different seasons, you can better determine the best time to visit Japan.
But, if you truly want to maximize your stay, here are a few things you need to know:
There’s a Language Barrier.
While most of the signs in train stations and airports are both in English and Japanese, it would be helpful to know that not many in the country speak English fluently.
So, you may want to learn a few key Japanese phrases before you visit the country. You can check this article for the best tools you can use.
Getting a Japan Rail Pass Is a Good Idea.
Japan has a robust mass transportation system, so you’ll have no trouble getting around. If you plan to visit two cities or more during your trip, availing of a JR pass can help you save money on fares.
Be Aware of the Rules.
Following proper etiquette, especially in shared spaces like onsens, is critical for having a good time. Being polite is a significant aspect of Japanese culture, so always make sure to be considerate to the people around you during your trip.
Japan is one of the most beautiful travel destinations worldwide, whose natural beauty attracts a large volume of travelers each year.
There’s a lot to see and experience each season, which means you’ll always have something new to discover when visiting at different points of the year.
While this can make it tougher to determine the best time to visit Japan, you can rest assured that every trip will be worthwhile.
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