Before the first time I travelled to Japan, I never asked myself the question ‘When to travel to Japan?‘ or ‘What is the best time of year to travel to Japan?‘. I was lucky enough to have come here in the spring, and see the gorgeous cherry blossoms and the festivals that go with it.
This article has an overview, from my perspective (i.e. an Australian who likes more temperate weather) about the best time when to travel to Japan.
Spring is the best time to travel to Japan
Spring in Japan is from March to May.
The best time to come to Japan is in the spring. The first 3 weeks of March and then the last 3 weeks of April every year are specifically the best times to travel to Japan. This is when the students are at school finishing up the school year, and most other people are at work. The Japanese school year starts in April and finishes in March, so they have a 2 week break at the end of the school year.
Depending on where you travel to in Japan, during spring you will usually be able to see the cherry blossoms in bloom and perhaps attend a cherry blossom festival. The weather is great, however if the winter tends to drag on then the nights can be a bit cold.
Summer is probably the worst time to travel to Japan
The summer months in Japan are June to August.
First, there is the humidity, it is regularly above 80% almost all the time. I’ve never sweated from my shins (except for during Bikram Yoga) until I had experienced Japan’s summer. There aren’t many good places to swim either. The beaches aren’t great and good rivers to swim in are off the usual tourist track.
The biggest factor here though is that the school summer holidays generally run from mid-July and finish at the end of August. The Japanese like to travel, and during the summer holidays it seems as though everyone is out travelling! You’ll pay peak prices for hotels and many other attractions.
One of the good things about Japan in the summer is that there are many festivals.
If you really like the heat or just want to come to Japan in the summer, try early July.
All that being said, I had an awesome summer in Japan and packed in a whole lot of travelling in 2 short weeks.
Autumn is the next best time to travel to Japan
Autumn is September to November in Japan.
Autumn in Japan is from September to November. Everyone is back to school and work usually from the 1st of September. The temperature is nice, the humidity has dropped, and major tourist attractions, especially Kyoto, are turning that classic golden/red/brown colour as the trees prepare for winter.
There are a few national holidays: 2 in September; 1 in October; 2 in November. So you may be surprised here and there by the huge amount of people travelling around.
Winter is 50/50…
The cold, snowy winter months in Japan are December to February.
If you love the snow and are wanting to ski and snowboard during your holiday, then Japan is the right place to come. It snows everywhere in Japan, except for Okinawa and the snow fields are known as some of the best in the world… hence why the 1998 Winter Olympics were held in Japan (they were held in Nagano, which is great to see in the summer too!). Hokaiddo is well known for great snow fields, but any mountain area in Japan is awesome.
One thing I love about Japan in winter is that in ryokans and other places, you will find a kotatsu. This is a low table that has a heater underneath, you put your legs underneath it and a blanket to keep warm, very cosy.
And although onsen (hot springs) are available all year round, they are extra enjoyable in winter!
But if you don’t like the cold then don’t travel in winter, it does snow and it is very very cold.
When it really comes down to it, your personal choice of climate will dictate when you want to come. For example, I find winter in Australia to be cold enough, so Japan’s winter is almost unbearable for me!