Travel Guides

BEST TIME TO VISIT Japan

Japan is one of the most dynamic countries, where there are plenty of things to do in every season. The city has a wonderful mix of nature, culture and modernity. Japan weather changes dramatically region-wise starting from its northern tip, the Islands of Hokkaido to its southern tip, the Okinawan archipelago.  Let’s have a brief look at the different seasons in Japan and leave it to the traveller to decide the best time to visit Japan.

Spring Season in Japan: March – May: Best Time to Visit Japan for Cherry Blossoms

Spring in Japan marks its beginning from mid- March and lasts till May. The temperature is the best, not too cold or too warm. The weather is relatively dry and pleasant making it the best time to visit Japan.

The tourist season is at its peak, making accommodation a rare commodity. At some places bookings are made a year in advance! Japan is thronged with tourists and travellers in spring mainly for two reasons:

  1. Spring season is marked by the famous Cherry Blossom all over the Japanese cities. The bloom takes place between second half of March and continues till first half of April, depending upon the weather conditions.
  2. The Golden Week (late-April – early May) is a period of extended holidays for the Japanese people, so majority of the local crowd is also travelling then. The rates are very high for not only the hotels, but other entertainment sectors and restaurants.

The Spring Festival in Takayama city known as Sanno Matsuri is considered as the most beautiful festival in the country. The festival is marked with floating parades, which have traditional craftsmen displaying their moving puppets made up of intricate wood work, lacquer work, exquisite metal work and woven textiles.

For budget seekers and solitude lovers, May can be considered the best time to visit Japan, as the tourist crowd lessens, they can catch a glimpse of the finishing cherry blossom season, and the rates of everything starts lowering.

Late April to Late May is when nature’s “pink carpet” is rolled out in the base of Mount Fuji! Head to the Lake Motosu for the Fuji Shibazakura Festival to witness the blooming of these pretty pink flowers, “Shibazakura” that bloom so quickly and cover the entire ground.

Spring is the best time to visit Japan, as many beautiful festivals take place during this time. Kanda Matsuri is held on 15Th May in Tokyo where parades of local shrines, musicians, dancers and priests on horseback blessing the onlookers, takes place. Sanja Matsuri, a famous Shinto festival is held on the 3rd Sunday of May in Tokyo to honour the founders of the Sensoji Temple. It is the largest festival in Japan with over 2 million people visiting it.

Summer Season in Japan: June - September

Summers in Japan start their onslaught from June and finish around mid-September. Central and Southern Japan experience very high temperature along with high humidity.  Famous cities like Tokyo and Kyoto experience very uncomfortable days, and sightseeing during this time can be restricted due to the heat and humidity. Whereas, places like the Japanese Alps, Hokkaido (northernmost Japan) and Tohoku are cooler and the best places to visit in Japan in summer.

Summer season is the time of numerous festivals, and also being the holiday season, a huge number of tourists flock to the country. Accommodation is very difficult to get, and bookings done months in advance is suggested. If you’re travelling to Japan in summer, pack a lot of comfortable cool summery clothes.

Major festivals during summer:

  • Obon: The Japanese Festival of the Dead or Bon Festival – annual 4 to 5-day Buddhist festival in August where most Japanese travel to their native hometowns to pay homage to their ancestors.
  • Gion Matsuri is celebrated throughout July in Kyoto. It is among the most famous festivals of Japan. Large decorative and elaborate floats are paraded around the city, while traditional food stalls, music and dancing succeeds the parade.
  • Tenjin Matsuri is celebrated at the end of July in Osaka, to honour Michizane, a respected poet from the Heian period, with umbrella dancers, musicians, goblins on horseback and many more festivities.
  • Nebuta Matsuri is held in Aomori prefecture and has exquisite floating lanterns which take almost the entire year to build.
  • Tokyo’s Sumida River Fireworks is another hugely attended festival.

Autumn Season in Japan: September - November

Autumn in Japan starts from mid-September and lasts till early December. This is considered the best time to visit Japan as the temperature is perfect, neither too hot neither too cold. Since it marks the onslaught of winter, the days are warm, and evenings are cool and pleasant.

The tourists season is again on the rise during this time as the Koyo season or changing colour of the foliage can be seen, which is very beautiful. All the places are crowded and accommodation becomes unavailable, if not planned in advance. Prices of hotels, restaurants and travel are also high, so book months in advance!

Winter Season in Japan: December - March

Winters in Japan start from December and stretches till mid-March. The Islands of Hokkaido and the Japanese Alps receive the maximum snowfall. The rest of the southern parts like Okinawa and Central Japan, experience no winters to very mild winter season.

The tourist crowd varies from place to place, although winters is considered the best time to visit Japan, especially for the adventure sports enthusiasts, budget travellers and cold loving crowd.

This time of the year is considered the best time to visit Japan especially for ice skiing lovers. Ski resorts in Hokkaido and the Japanese Alps are full and getting accommodation at this time is difficult. Niseko in Hokkaido is considered the best powder city in the world, due to its fine quality of snow, which is the best for skiing and snowboarding.

Sapporo, Hokkaido’s largest city holds the annual Yuki Matsuri or the snow festival. It is counted amongst the world’s largest winter festivals. Experts gather here to create artistic and huge ice sculptures, which when illuminated in the evenings are worth visiting!

The Snow Monkey Park or Jigokudani Yaen Koen in winters sees the maximum number of snow monkeys gathering in the hot springs to soak and get a respite from the chilly winters.

The main attraction in winters are the Onsen or hot springs. The Onsen experience is considered the best during the winter time, along with a stay at the traditional Japanese inns called ryokan, coupled with savouring authentic Japanese dishes like the miso soups and other staples.

Winters in Japan is the best time to visit the Shirakawago & Gokayama Winter Light-up – which are special illumination events organized by these two historic villages which are also on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. A lot of the unique “gassho-zukuri” styles homes in these villages are lit up on select weekends in January & February, transforming them into a winter wonderland – a sight to behold!

Christmas and New Year are busy periods in places like Tokyo and Kyoto. Although this is not the peak tourist season, the Japanese travel a lot during this time due to long holidays. In the major cities, thus, accommodation is difficult to find and expensive. Post New Year’s many hotels, restaurants, shops, museums and entertainment sectors remain closed.

Central and Southern Japan are warmer, less crowded and thus cheaper in winters as compared to the rest of the year.

Japan is one of the most dynamic countries, where there are plenty of things to do in every season. The city has a wonderful mix of nature, culture and moder...

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