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The best time to visit Japan is either spring, when the cherry trees bloom, or autumn, when the country is bathed in stunning shades of autumn foliage. The weather is also great, with mild temperatures.
In summer the weather is hot and humid but there are many interesting festivals throughout the country, and hiking in the Alps is also suitable for hikers. Enjoy a snowy getaway in Hokkaido and take the opportunity to soak in an outdoor hot spring while admiring the beauty of winter snow.
Spring, from March to May, and autumn, from October to November, are considered the best times to visit Japan. Many visitors come to Japan during hanami (cherry blossom) season in April, and during autumn, when the leaves are changing to red and yellow. During these seasons, rainfall is low, skies are clear, and temperatures are mild.
Summer in much of Japan is hot, humid, and rainy; but this season sees lots of great festivals in Japan such as Kyoto Gion Festival. It is Kyoto’s biggest annual festival, one of Japan's most famous festivals, with a spectacular grand procession of floats which can reach enormous proportions at 25m tall.
Winter is cold and quite dry. One of the highlights of traveling in winter is a relaxing stay at a Japanese onsen (hot spring) resort. You can choose either indoor onsen, open-air onsen, or even private in-room onsen. You can also enjoy an onsen soak in winter, outside, with the snow swirling around you.
Spring is warm and pleasant, the average temperature around 8-22°C, with sunny skies and low rainfall, around 100-140mm. Summer is hot and humid, up to 35°C and 5-6 sunshine hours per day. Rainy season begins in June and lasts for four weeks, with average rainfalls up to 450mm per month.
Autumn temperatures are cooler, around 8-10°C, September has the risk of typhoons with 210mm rainfall. Winter, on the other hand, is quite dry, with average temperature around -4-6°C, average rainfall of 60mm and 3-4 hours of sunshine per day.
Spring in Japan is definitely famous for the cherry blossom, which bloom in parks, streets, mountains or along the rivers. It is beautiful, from the full bloom to when the petals begin falling from trees. The cherry trees usually are only in full bloom for one week.
It starts from Okinawa in early February and moves northward to northern Hokkaido until late May. The average time for the sakura to bloom in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto is around late March to early April.
During this time, celebrate hanami (cherry blossom viewing) with friends and family by going out, eating and drinking together underneath the sakura trees. Book hotels and transportation at least 6 months in advance, as there will be many visitors during this season.
To avoid crowds, consider to go to Kanazawa Kenrokuen Garden in early April for night blossom viewing, experience a breathtaking nature at Matsumoto Castle Honmaru Garden in mid-April, or take time to visit Hiroshima flower festival in early May.
The Golden Week is a collection of four national holidays within a week from late April to early May. Trains, airports, sightseeing spots get very crowded during this time, and accommodation in tourist areas can get booked up early on.
Many interesting festivals and events are held during spring. Omizutori, or the sacred water-drawing festival, is located in the Todai-ji temple’s Nigatsu-do in Nara for 2 weeks, starting on March 1st. People confess their sins before Buddha and pray for things like world peace.
Hana Matsuri, or Buddha’s birthday, is celebrated on April 8th. Various events are staged in the majority of Buddhist temples. For example at Asakusa’s Sensoji, people come to lay flowers in front of a new-born Buddha and pour sweet herbal tea over him.
Summer is a vibrant season with wonderful traditional festivals, firework displays, music festivals − many activities that can only be enjoyed during late May until early September.
People get kitted out in their colorful yukata (cotton kimono), food stalls cram the streets, and colorful firework displays enliven the night skies. Tokyo’s Sumida River Fireworks are especially famous, but firework displays take place all around the country during summer.
For hikers and outdoor lovers, the temperatures remain cool and manageable in the Japanese Alps, in Kamikochi, and the mountains of the Kii Peninsula. Experience summer in a milder way in Tohoku and Hokkaido, or enjoy Okinawa’s tropical beach vibes with its classic bright blue-water beaches.
The rainy season lasts from June to July, depending on the location. Typhoons generally occur between May and October with the peak in late summer. Okinawa and southwestern Japan are particularly vulnerable to typhoons.
Obon is an annual Buddhist event for commemorating one's ancestors. Lanterns are hung in front of houses and obon dances are performed. It is held on 13-16th July or in mid-August in many regions of Japan.
The Gion Festival is Kyoto’s biggest annual festival, a month-long series of events which are religious observance and raucous street festival at equal parts. The main events are held on 17th and 24th July.
Kangensai Music Festival is a gorgeous centuries-old ceremony of traditional music in boats on the Miyajima, held late July to early August. During this event, families and friends cook and eat together on the boats.
Fall is considered the most pleasant time to visit Japan, with comfortable temperatures and generally clear weather, also famous for the vibrant autumn foliage (koyo). It’s great to take a trip to some areas where leaves have turned red and yellow, especially in the mountains, public parks, and shrine grounds.
North regions will experience autumn colors earlier, such as Hokkaido in mid-September and some parts of Kanto and Chubu regions in early October. For Tokyo and Kyoto, best viewing times are around mid-October through early December, then move southward to Kyushu where the best season is in early December.
Fall also offers wonderful festivals all across the country, from late September until late November, including traditional dance performances, fighting festivals, parades of historical costumes, and gourmet street food that will satisfy the visitors.
A number of spots that are famous for koyo are near hot springs (onsen). With some easy planning consider to enjoy both, the relaxing hot baths and the stunning autumn colors in one visit. During this season, there will be more tourists, lower accommodation availability and higher prices.
Kunchi Matsuri is held October 7-9th in Nagasaki. The festival's highlights are the dance and show performances by groups representing Nagasaki's various city districts.
The Nada no Kenka Matsuri is the biggest fighting festival held at Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture on October 14-15th. Seven villages take part in the festival and it is believed that the gods will bless the winner with a good harvest.
Nagoya Matsuri is held in mid-October in central Hisaya Odori Park. The festival’s highlight is the procession of Nagoya’s three heroes who come along with their soldiers clad in armor and carrying weapons and banners.
The Jidai Matsuri, or Festival of Ages, is one of Kyoto's renowned three great festivals, held on October 22nd. The participants are dressed as famous historical figures or in accordance with the period of Japanese history.
Winter in mountainous and northern parts of Japan is a bit longer and blessed with abundant snowfalls, whereas in southern and western parts of the country it can be a lot milder. Meanwhile, winter barely exists in a subtropical place like Okinawa.
In Hokkaido, snowfall is so plentiful that skiers and snowboarders consider it to have some of the best-quality powder in the world. Visit Sapporo Snow Festival in February, which is staged in three sites, including the Odori, Susukino and Tsu Dome Site.
Stay in a traditional ryokan (Japanese-style inn) and soak your body at a hot spring, surrounded by white landscape with snow falling. The magical combination of nature, culture, and hospitality result in an experience that is both, incredibly relaxing and culturally fascinating.
Winter is filled with public holidays, and so it tends to become quite busy with tourists. Availability of accommodation throughout the country is typically low and prices higher. Some restaurants or department stores might be closed during New Year holiday.
January 1st is New Year's Day, a national holiday and one of the biggest annual events in Japan. From well before dawn on New Year's Day, people flock to shrines and temples to pray for a healthy and happy year.
The Dezome-shiki or New Year’s Parade of Firemen is a New Year’s event held at Tokyo Big Sight on January 6th. It is held by the Tokyo Metropolitan Fire Department to remind and warn citizens of the dangers of fire and to pray for a safe New Year.
Sapporo Snow Festival is one of the world’s great winter celebrations; it is renowned for its massive and awe-inspiring ice sculptures. It starts in the second week of February and lasts for seven days or longer.
Japan is truly a year-round destination − each season is celebrated with festivals. Asia Highlights staff will help you get the most out of your precious time in Japan. We’ll make the process as fun and effortless as possible, so you can simply relax and savor every moment of your experience.