Best Time To Visit Japan

Japan is famous for its Spring cherry blossoms and its changing colors in Autumn, but there are beautiful places to see in every season. Japan stretches from subtropical southern extremes to the northern reaches just across from Siberia, so with a little planning, you can find the right place to explore any time of year.

Fast Facts

  • April to May is the busiest travel season (during the spring cherry blossom)
  • Escape the spring crowds by visiting places in the early morning
  • If you're traveling in the spring, make your reservations 6-12 months in advance
  • Japan is booming as a great destination for winter sports
  • Autumn is an ideal time to visit due to long, cool days and stunning foliage
  • Escape the summer heat by heading into the mountains or to northern Japan

Overview

Japan has four distinct seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn). In theory, they are three months each, but it actually feels like winter and summer are longer, with short, marvelous spring and autumn. December to March are winter, April and May are spring, June to early September are summer, and mid-September to November are autumn.

Spring and Autumn offer the most pleasant temperatures throughout the country, especially on the main island of Honshu where most travelers stay for visiting cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. Many popular tourist destinations can be very crowded during these seasons, though they can mostly be avoided by choosing to visit places in the early morning or late afternoon.

Japan has four general regions with different climates: 

  • Hokkaido / Northern Honshu
  • Central Honshu
  • Western Honshu / Shikoku / Kyushu
  • Okinawa

Winter (December to March)

Traditional Gassho-zukuri style house in Shirakawa-go

Traditional Gassho-zukuri style houses in Shirakawa-go

Snowfall is common in the northern half of Japan from December to March. In recent years, tourism has boomed as people have realized that there is incredible skiing, winter festivals, and much fewer crowds during these months.

Winter in the south of Japan becomes milder the farther you go, with Okinawa being the warmest region.

Hokkaido / Northern Honshu. Hokkaido is a great winter destination, with Niseko's famous winter sports and many snow and ice festivals in addition to the famous Sapporo Winter Festival (usually February). Expect temperatures of 25°F (-4°C).

Central Honshu. Winters are chilly but without heavy snow and all traveler destinations remain open. Tokyo and Kyoto temperatures are around 41°F (5°C).

Western Honshu / Shikoku / Kyushu. Mild weather makes Kyushu a great option in winter months, with accessible hikes and plenty of onsen. Fukuoka temperatures are around 49°F (9°C).

Okinawa. Winter isn't the best time to enjoy watersports in Okinawa but is a good time to fish, hike, or drive around the islands. Naha temperatures in January are around 63°F (17°C).

Spring (April and May)

Sakura cherry blossoms in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Tokyo

Sakura cherry blossoms in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Tokyo (© Yuri Awanohara)

Spring is the magical season in Japan when the cherry blossoms (sakura) bloom across the country. They start in the south in Kyushu then work their way up north, finally blooming around early May in Hokkaido. Weather is quite variable in spring, and if you're lucky you can see snow falling on cherry blossoms. 

The pleasant weather and the beautiful flowers make this the most crowded time to visit Japan. It is extremely important to book accommodation, transport, and even meals if possible, in advance during this season as many hotels, trains, buses, and restaurants will be fully booked. If you have your heart set on seeing the cherry blossoms but don't want to be in a massive crowd, you can choose to visit sights during off-peak hours, or go a bit off the beaten path; virtually everywhere on the four main islands of Japan have amazing cherry blossom viewing spots.

If you have your heart set on seeing the cherry blossoms but don't want to be in a massive crowd, you can choose to visit sights during off-peak hours, or go a bit off the beaten path; virtually everywhere on the four main islands of Japan have amazing cherry blossom viewing spots.

Hokkaido / Northern Honshu. It often continues snowing in Hokkaido until April or early May, with temperatures in Sapporo averaging 52°F (11°C).

Central Honshu. Peak travel season with heavy crowds. Daytime temperatures in Tokyo and Kyoto are around 55°F (13°C).

Western Honshu / Shikoku / Kyushu. Kyushu sees the first cherry blossoms of the season, usually in mid-March. Fukuoka temperatures are around 60°F (15°C).

Okinawa. Spring is a great time to visit Okinawa, although some may prefer ocean swimming with a wetsuit. Naha temperatures in April are around 70°F (21°C).

Summer (June to early September)

Kamikochi, Nagano

Hiking in the Japan Alps in places like Kamikochi, Nagano is a great way to escape the lowland heat. (© Yuri Awanohara)

The rainy season begins around mid-June and can vary between a few showers a day to multiple days on end of rain. Usually, though, it doesn't last all day and a stroll in light rain through a vibrant green Japanese garden covered in moss and ferns will be a serene, memorable experience. It does get hot, early morning and evenings are the best time for sightseeing.

Hokkaido / Northern Honshu. Many domestic travelers head north to Hokkaido to avoid the monsoon rains and enjoy cooler temperatures around 68°F (20°C).

Central Honshu. Hot and humid, with a lot of precipitation, it's best to do outdoor sightseeing in the mornings and evenings. Daytime temperatures in Tokyo and Kyoto are around 83°F (29°C).

Western Honshu / Shikoku / Kyushu. A lot of Kyushu is uncomfortably warm in the summer but hiking higher up is still enjoyable. Fukuoka temperatures are around 88°F (31°C).

Okinawa. Summers are extremely hot and humid so staying in the ocean is the perfect way to stay cool. Naha temperatures in August are around 88°F (31°C).

Autumn (mid-September to November)

Autumn colors in Nikko

Autumn colors in Shoyo-en, Nikko (© Yuri Awanohara)

Autumn is arguably the best time to visit Japan, given the long daylight hours and sunny, cool days. Autumn is typically less crowded than the peak cherry blossom season, and the bright foliage lasts for several weeks. 

Hokkaido / Northern Honshu. Autumn colors are at their best in mid to late October, with temperatures in Sapporo averaging 53°F (12°C). Many places in eastern Hokkaido start to close for the winter by late November.

Central Honshu. Peak foliage viewing is in mid to late November, or slightly earlier in mountainous areas. Daytime temperatures in Tokyo and Kyoto are around 64°F (18°C).

Western Honshu / Shikoku / Kyushu. Changing colors will typically happen in late November or early December. Fukuoka temperatures are around 75°F (24°C).

Okinawa. Autumn is a good choice for Okinawa, with perfect weather for fun above and under water. Naha temperatures in January are around 80°F (27°C).

A few things to consider...

Depending on your interests and preferences regarding crowds and activities, you can find the perfect time for your trip to Japan. It is important to consider that in peak travel times — spring and autumn — many accommodations and transport options are booked well in advance so the farther ahead you can plan, the better.