From snow and slopes to blossoms and blooms, Japan is stunning all year round. Now that you’ve chosen this enticing destination, it’s time to decide the season that suits you.
In-season travel will serve up autumn foliage and cherry blossoms, but don’t be afraid to take your Japan adventure off-season. Here, we’ll give you the ultimate guide to Japan’s weather and tell you exactly what makes each season special.
Spring is the season of cherry blossoms. Known in Japan as sakura, these beautiful white and pink flowers draw visitors from all over the world, eager to watch the blooms float gracefully to the ground. Several factors can affect the timing of the bloom, which is why forecasts are monitored intensely throughout the season.
Although the blossoms can appear as early as January on Japan’s southernmost islands, late March to early April is considered the best time to see the bloom in tourist spots like Tokyo and Kyoto. Other spring flowers to admire include tulips, wisteria, plum blossoms and azaleas.
Because Japan sits within the Northern Hemisphere, their spring season runs from March to May. While central tourist spots like Tokyo enjoy a fair amount of springtime sun, the rainy season, known as tsuyu, begins in May in the southern end of the country and starts in early June through early July in other regions on Honshu. Hokkaido in the north does not typically experience tsuyu.
Spring in Japan will bring you mild weather, but temperatures can vary significantly over the course of the season. April temperatures average around 11C in the north and 24C in the south, while May brings average temperatures of 17C in the north and 26C in the south.
Japan’s summer season won’t just bring you warm weather; it’ll also serve up folk dancing festivals and magical fireworks displays, called hanabi taikai.
The summer season runs from June to August and tends to be Japan’s rainiest time of year. The rainy season affects the country’s southern regions from mid-May and other regions of Honshu from June to July. The rainy season ends in the first half of July, with humidity rising through August. Areas with higher elevations, such as Hokkaido, may be more comfortable for late summer travel.
Summer visitors will usually encounter steamy daytime temperatures, averaging about 26C in the north and 31C in the south.
Summer also coincides with one of Japan’s best-kept seasonal secrets. ‘Green Season’ sees the hills and valleys that play host to powder snow in winter transform into lush green wonderlands. Temperatures remain cool in these mountainous regions, making it the perfect time for hiking and other outdoor adventures.
Visitors should also be aware of Japan’s typhoon season, which typically peaks in August and September. Although travellers may experience high winds and strong rains for a few days, perfect weather often follows.
With its vibrantly coloured leaves, Autumn is one of the most popular times for Japanese travel. For centuries visitors and locals alike have ventured across the country to find the best viewing spots for the breathtaking patterns of red and orange leaves.
Japan’s autumn season runs from September through November. The start of the season can still see warm daytime temperatures of around 22C in the north and 30C in the south. By the end of autumn, temperatures drop to an average of around 8C in the north and 24C in the south. Although typhoon season may affect the beginning of autumn, October and November tend to be relatively dry and mild.
If it’s vibrant foliage you’re after, you’ll want to venture to the mountainside during early autumn, or to major cities in mid-autumn. The colours begin to descend into the cities in mid to late November, making November the best month to view the autumn leaves in most parts of Japan.
If you’re keen for a cool and calm Japanese adventure, then autumn might be the best season for your travels.
Japan’s winter is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. Skiers and snowboarders come from around the globe to enjoy the huge snowfall and stunning mountains. Beyond winter sports, visitors can enjoy snow-surrounded hot springs and must-see winter festivals such as the Sapporo Snow Festival, which features mammoth snow sculptures and illuminated ice statues.
Winter in Japan lasts from December through February, and the weather can vary greatly depending on the altitude and latitude of the location. Large cities, such as Tokyo, enjoy short winters with plenty of sunny days. The more mountainous regions of Japan tend to have longer winters with a high amount of snow. These conditions make Japan’s mountains and northern regions perfect for winter activities like skiing and snowboarding and some resorts stay open as late as the first week of May.
The northern end of Japan sees the country’s coldest temperatures, with January averaging -1C in Sapporo. Cities in Japan’s south can still enjoy mild temperatures averaging around 19C during the day.
One of winter’s downsides is the short days and early sunsets. However, while you might sacrifice a few hours of sun, the days tend to be bright and clear.
Japan offers a vast combination of temperatures, weather conditions, and seasonal attractions. Winter serves up a wonderland of snow and spring brings a snowfall of flowers, but all of Japan’s seasons show off the beauty and individuality of this extraordinary country.