Traveling to Japan is a dream for so many people. From the island’s rich culture to its unique geography, there’s a lot to look forward to – you could make a hundred trips and enjoy a completely different experience every time.
Because of this, knowing the best time to visit Japan depends on why you’re interested in going and where you want to be!
The more you know about Japan’s climate, geography, and where to find activities and festivals, the better. You’ll be able to choose the perfect time for your trip while dodging tourist rushes and typhoons.
Our comprehensive guide tells you all you need to know about the best time to visit Japan – let’s plan our visit!
How to Choose the Best Season to Visit Japan
Japan might not be a massive country by landmass, but its islands span almost 2,000 miles from north to south. Along with its position in the East Pacific and varied geography, this exposes it to various climatic conditions.
The north tends to experience extremely long winters and is famed for its skiing and snowboarding opportunities. Meanwhile, the beautiful southern islands of Okinawa and Amami enjoy a subtropical climate and are enduringly popular among visitors.
Most people head for the main island of Honshu. This region has perhaps the most balanced climate, with four distinct seasons.
Depending on where you’re from, you may still be surprised by what these seasons bring – if summer is a dry season back home, you may not anticipate what you’ll see if you visit Tokyo in July!
Honshu is also home to most of Japan’s largest cities, including:
We’ll cover each of these cities as we move through the districts of Japan. However, it would be remiss of us only to discuss Honshu – there’s so much to discover across all the islands, and you need to understand how wildly the climates vary if you want to know the best time to visit Japan!
We’ll start with Hokkaido in the far north, then work our way down through Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, finishing with the southern island areas of Okinawa and Amami.
We’ll discuss the climate in the district to cover key cities, events, and geographical features in the area. This should give you a great idea of the best time to visit Japan, wherever you want to go – and maybe even discover places you hadn’t considered!
The north is the coldest region of Japan. The island of Hokkaido is one of the main four islands of Japan and makes up its northernmost point, while Tohoku is a large district that comprises the northern area of Honshu. Here’s what to look out for, events and activities to enjoy, and when to visit to enjoy these regions at their best.
Hokkaido’s climate is a blend of Eastern Pacific and Subarctic. The first thing you need to know is that it snows in Hokkaido – a lot in winter. It gets so snowy in some areas that houses are built with an additional upstairs entrance in case the downstairs access gets blocked by snowdrifts.
Winter Sports in Hokkaido
The winters are very long. Temperatures drop towards the end of November, and you can expect heavy snowfall between December and March. The heaviest snows come in February, making this one of the best times to visit Japan if you enjoy winter sports such as skiing or snowboarding.
The mountainous geography of Hokkaido helps this – it boasts popular ski resorts across the center and southwest areas of the island. You’ll also find the wild and unspoiled Kitami range in the far north, which is virtually inaccessible in the depths of winter but spectacular if you enjoy hiking in the late spring and summer.
Hokkaido is Temperate in the Summer
Despite its reputation as the coldest part of Japan, Hokkaido’s summers are temperate and reasonably warm. Summer temperatures hover around 70-80F or in the low-to-mid 20C area. While we often think of southern climes as boasting the best summer weather, savvy travelers know that Hokkaido is arguably the best place to visit during the summer months in Japan. That’s because it avoids the heavy rainfall and high, muggy temperatures you’ll find across the rest of the archipelago.
Late Cherry Blossoms & Beautiful Fall Colors
Hokkaido tends to experience the cherry blossom (sakura) season later than the rest of Japan. Its cherry blossom season often begins in mid-April or even May due to its colder temperatures in the early months of the year. This means it’s an excellent choice if you want to avoid the tourist crowds heading for the earliest blooms but still appreciate the marvel of the sakura.
You’ll also witness fantastic fall colors in Hokkaido if you travel in September and October. While the fall weather is chilly in some parts of the island, there are many areas where towns and villages are built on hillsides otherwise covered by thick woodland, creating a breathtaking valley of color.
What to Look For
Summer: There are many remote areas of Hokkaido if you want to get off the beaten track. Sapporo is its central city and is a bustling cultural hub. You’ll find plenty to do and thriving nightlife, especially if you visit in the summer.
Winter: The island has a long history of volcanic activity and is famous for its hot springs. Enjoy these during the colder months as a reprieve from the snow! Something to not miss if you are in the North of Japan is probably the Sapporo snow festival.
Year-round: If you’re on a food pilgrimage, Hokkaido should be your first stop in Japan for seafood. Its cold waters are enriched by currents loaded with plankton and are teeming with sealife – Hokkaido is known for the freshest seafood in Japan.
Best Time to Visit Hokkaido
Hokkaido is a top destination for many travelers in late spring and early summer. Its temperate climate and the beautiful natural colors at this time of year are hard to match across Japan. Fall is also a superb choice – travel towards the end of September and through October. While there’s plenty to do if you enjoy winter sports in the cold months, you might find that the heavy winter snowfall restricts your activity list somewhat.
Tohoku is a large district covering the northern area of the main island of Honshu. It’s home to many mid-sized population centers, the largest of which is Sendai, with just over 1 million population. Like Hokkaido, it experiences cold, snowy winters but a temperate summer, with slightly more humidity in the warm months.
Hot Springs Resorts in Tohoku
Regardless of what time of year you’re visiting Japan, you’ll want to visit one of the many towns in Tohoku boasting hot springs. These are especially pleasant in spring or fall when the weather isn’t as biting as it can get during the winter – although if you enjoy winter activities, you’ll appreciate them all the more!
Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival
As its climate is cooler than much of Honshu, Tohoku is another excellent place to enjoy a later cherry blossom experience. Hirosaki Park is home to thousands of cherry trees and is one of the finest displays nationwide. Hirosaki is located towards the district’s northern end and has a spectacular sakura festival that usually runs from April through to early May.
What to Look For
Summer: Tohoku is renowned for its agricultural produce. This is where to go if you want an authentic trip through golden rice paddies in Japan.
Winter: Tohoku has many excellent winter sports facilities. The mountains that make up the district’s spine are dotted with top-quality ski resorts and beautiful places to stay during fall.
Year-round: a hidden gem is Morioka, a city in the north with lower tourist footfall. It’s overlooked by the majestic Mt. Iwate, which provides a stunning backdrop to wake up to whenever you visit Tohoku. There’s also a spectacular snow festival at Mt. Iwate in the winter.
Best Time to Visit Tohoku
There’s something for everyone at all times of the year! With slightly less snowfall than Hokkaido and better connections to the rest of Honshu, it’s an excellent choice for winter travelers. It’s another great destination for summer, as it avoids the heavy humidity of more southern areas.
Many travelers considering the best time to visit Japan will look to the eastern region. This encompasses most of Honshu and many of Japan’s major population centers, including Tokyo. The climate tends to be slightly heavier in summer, but the latter part of the year is temperate and balmy compared to conditions across much of North America and Europe.
Hokuriku is one of the least-known regions of Japan but has a distinct climate that sets it apart from the rest of the eastern area in terms of the best time to visit Japan. It’s a mountainous region with a more relaxed atmosphere and plenty of unique, unspoiled coastline.
Hokuriku Offers Great Summer and Fall Hiking
The region is dominated by the Japanese Alps, which means it has fewer major population centers than most regions. However, you’ll find no shortage of top-class accommodation along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, one of the best hiking trails in the country. It’s open from April to November each year.
Kanazawa is a Gorgeous, Historical City in Spring and Fall
Kanazawa is located in the southern part of Hokuriku, so it experiences hotter summer temperatures and more rainfall. It also receives more snowfall than many areas in winter – the best times to visit are in spring and fall when you can appreciate the stunning history of this beautiful city in pleasant weather.
What to Look For
Summer: The Himi Seaside Botanical Garden is celebrated for its fantastic array of marine and seaside plants. It’s best to visit during the warmer months.
Winter: Niigata Prefecture experiences heavy winter snow because it’s towards the northern end of Hokuriku. However, it’s also renowned globally for its whisky production—a perfect tonic for winter travelers.
Year-round: This coastal region is a great place to view sea life and simply enjoy the proximity to the ocean. It also has the Marinepia Nihonkai aquarium, which is open year-round and a great spot to visit in winter. You’ll also find plenty of delicious seafood in Hokuriku.
Best Time to Visit Hokuriku
The end of summer brings cooler temperatures and ideal hiking conditions. As the mercury drops and hiking becomes less accessible, settle into one of the small settlements in this region and enjoy its incredible range of whiskeys. The latter half of the year has a lot to offer for this region – it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, making it a perfect destination if you want to avoid the crowds!
The Kanto region is dominated by the Tokyo metropolitan area, the largest population center in Japan. Many people considering the best time to visit Japan will visit Tokyo at some point – so when should you arrive?
Tokyo Thrives in Spring
Arguably the best time to enjoy Tokyo is between March and May. The rainy season hasn’t yet begun as it starts in mid-July, and the pleasant climate gives you plenty of time to check out attractions and events. The Meiji Shinto Shrine and Imperial Palace are both glorious at this time of year, although note that you’ll experience busy tourist crowds.
Beat the Crowds in November and December
September brings lovely fall colors to Kanto, but the temperature has dropped to a pleasant level by November, and it’s a beautiful time to visit this usually busy region.
The weather in December is less pleasant, but it is a great time to visit the capital’s many museums and cultural attractions without large crowds.
Matsumoto in the Koshin Region is a Thriving Cultural Hub
The climate of the Kanto and Koshin regions is somewhat similar. The best time to visit Japan in this area tends to be spring or autumn, which is also a great time to take in the incredible Samurai castle at Matsumoto in Koshin. It also has a vibrant arts scene, making it an excellent place for an extended visit.
What to Look For
Spring: From mid-March, watch Tokyo transform as sakura season arrives. There’s no comparable spectacle in a city of this size.
Fall: Tokyo provides a comfortable base to explore the incredible geography of the Kanto and Koshin regions.
Year-round: Tokyo never sleeps! There’s something incredible going on whatever time of year you visit.
Best Time to Visit Kanto/Koshin Region
We generally avoid visiting in summer, as it’s hot and rains heavily. Spring and fall are the best seasons to visit, with November being a great choice. Note that spring is the primary tourist season, so expect it to be busy!
The Tokai region is almost at the center of Japan from east to west. While it’s an industrial center, it also has many attractive destinations for visitors. It experiences a more southern climate than other regions in the east and is home to several large cities.
Mt. Fuji is Most Visible in Winter – But Climbers Should Choose Summer
A significant reason to visit Tokai is the iconic Mt. Fuji. The best time to visit Japan to see Mt. Fuji is between October and February – in the summer, heavy clouds tend to obscure the view.
However, if you want to climb the mountain, you’re advised to arrive in summer. Trails and huts are only open during this period, and winter climbing isn’t recommended.
Nagoya is a Bustling City with Great Transport Links
Nagoya is Japan’s third-largest population center. Like Tokyo, the city can be stifling and muggy in summer – the best time to visit Japan in Tokai tends to be autumn, as the temperatures have cooled. You can take trains from this lively hub to many unique destinations.
What to Look For
Spring: Visit the Izu Peninsula for gorgeous white-sand beaches in late spring. The coastal breeze keeps it slightly cooler in early summer, and prices begin to fall around June.
Fall: The Ise Grand Shrine is always worth visiting – it’s one of the most important monuments in Japan. The Hannamesai Festival in fall is a great time to go.
Year-round: Tokai has some fascinating museums and excellent art galleries, including the legendary Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry & Technology in Nagoya.
Best Time to Visit Tokai
The ideal time tends to be between October and November, especially if you’d like to view Mt. Fuji. Spring and early summer on the coast can also be a wonderful experience – the only less recommended season is late summer.
Western Japan takes in the southern portion of Honshu and the smaller island of Shikoku. It enjoys an almost subtropical climate and some of the country’s best-loved cities. The best time to visit Japan in this area tends to be during the cooler months.
The Kinki or Kansai region is home to several of Japan’s major cities, including Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara. There’s no shortage of places to stay in this gorgeous, historic region. So when’s the best time to visit Japan if you want to see this area?
Kyoto is Best Enjoyed During Cooler Months
Kyoto is a must-see for many visitors to Japan. It’s the nation’s cultural capital and a wonderful place to discover Japan’s rich history. Spring and fall are the most popular times to visit. But note that tourist footfall tends to be very high. January and February are pretty cold but often more accessible.
Try Smaller Villages in the Fall
Try straying off the beaten path if you want to dodge the crowds in the fall. Many picturesque villages are lodged in the gorgeous countryside, including gems like Ine with its scenic boathouses, and Uji, which offers legendary green tea.
What to Look For
Spring: The cherry blossom season in Kinki/Kansai comes pretty early – usually between March and May. It’s truly spectacular in the beautiful historical cities of this region.
Fall: You can go anywhere in this region and enjoy its beauty in the fall. Osaka Castle is stunning, and this major city has so much to do.
Year-round: Enjoying some fine Kobe beef and the region’s legendary sake doesn’t rely on good weather; it’s always the best time to visit Japan for foodies! Kobe is also generally less expensive than Kyoto or Osaka.
Best Time to Visit Kansai/Kinki
As with most parts of Honshu, spring and fall are the preferred seasons. The summer months can experience monsoon-like conditions – however, January and February are a great choice if you don’t mind a chill in the air and are looking to save some money.
Chugoku is the southernmost part of Honshu. It contains the notable cities of Hiroshima and Okayama. It’s an important cultural region that enjoys a hot climate.
Chugoku Has an Incredible Cherry Blossom Season
This is one of the best places to enjoy the early sakura. Cherry, peach, and plum trees blossom earlier than in much of Japan, and the region is less crowded than Kansai or Kanto. This is especially true if you step off the well-worn path and try Shimane, Tottori, or Yamaguchi prefectures – these areas are gorgeous but see relatively few tourists.
What to Look For
Spring: The Koraku-en garden in Okayama is celebrated as one of the finest gardens in Japan. The best time to visit Japan for most formal gardens is spring.
Fall: Rural Chugoku is spectacular for hikers in the fall. Dazzling subtropical skies, cooler air, and excellent autumnal colors abound, while accommodation tends to be very affordable.
Year-round: The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is a critical part of Japanese and world history. Whenever you’re in Chugoku, you should schedule a visit.
Best Time to Visit Chugoku
The winter is temperate and a great time to enjoy the population centers. The summer can be prone to typhoons and monsoon weather, so it’s best avoided. However, spring and fall are the best times to visit Chugoku, with spectacular sakura displays and pleasant weather.
Shikoku is the smallest of Japan’s main four islands. It’s somewhat isolated and rural compared to the rest of the country, making it an excellent choice for visitors seeking a tranquil experience. The best time to visit Japan for a quiet stay in Shikoku doesn’t depend so much on festivals or events – the main trick is to avoid the rainy season.
What to Look For
Spring: The Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu is genuinely spectacular. If you’re looking for the best time to visit Japan for a peaceful experience, come to Takamatsu in spring and visit the Ritsurin Garden.
Fall & Winter: The cooler conditions are great for hiking. You could even follow the legendary 88-temple pilgrimage around the island – buses are available, but you’ll learn more on foot!
Year-round: Shikoku is legendary for its udon noodles. There’s never a wrong time of year to enjoy this wonderful dish prepared by masters.
Best Time to Visit Shikoku
Any time except the summer! You’ll find a tranquil environment, lower prices than more touristy areas, and many hidden gems from the fall through to spring. The summer months are simply too hot and humid for most travelers.
Southern Japan includes the large island of Kyushu and the island chains of Amami & Okinawa. Its subtropical climate makes spring and fall the most attractive time to visit for most guests.
Historically known as the “gateway to Japan,” Kyushu’s main city is Fukuoka, with a population of around 1.5m. It boasts some stunning natural geography and important cultural centers. The island is renowned for its hot springs – winter is an excellent time to visit Kyushu, as you’ll avoid the tourist season but benefit from mild temperatures and wonderful hot baths!
What to Look For
Spring: Kyushu has many excellent seaside areas, and spring is the perfect time to enjoy them as the weather warms up.
Fall: Nagasaki is mainly known for its Peace Memorial Park commemorating its bombing in WW2. However, it’s a hidden gem of a city and especially lovely in the fall.
Year-round: The Uminonakamichi Seaside Park is famous for its seasonal flower displays – you can discover beauty here at any time of year.
Best Time of Year to Visit Kyushu
Spring is a great time to spend a few weeks in Kyushu. If the best time to visit Japan for you is winter, Kyushu is also an excellent choice owing to its temperate winter climate. The island also has plenty to offer in the fall, with summer the least attractive season due to the humidity.
Amami & Okinawa
Amami & Okinawa make up an island chain stretching out beneath Kyushu. They have a tropical climate that makes the islands more accessible in summer than the damp mainland areas – sparkling blue seas and glittering beaches await when you visit these gorgeous islands.
What to Look For
Year-round: the unique tropical climate means these islands are most famous for their fantastic seaside opportunities. The region offers incredible diving opportunities if you’re feeling brave. Otherwise, simply enjoy splashing around in the warm ocean – it’s even okay to swim in winter!
When to Visit Amami & Okinawa
You’ll enjoy these islands at any time of year. Seeking the hot tropical sun? Visit in July-September. Looking for lower prices and fewer crowds? Try the winter months.
Best Time to Season to Visit Japan
By covering each region of Japan, we hope we’ve shown why there’s no “best time to visit Japan.” The Japanese islands have a varied climate, and you’ll find unique opportunities in different regions at different times of the year. Here’s a breakdown of the best regions to visit by season.
Visiting Japan in Spring
The weather is pleasant everywhere, so it’s up to you where to go! Late March and April are the best times to visit Japan if you’re seeking the famous cherry blossoms. Areas like Kanto and Koshin tend to be busier and more expensive as they hold the island’s main cultural capitals. Golden Week in Japan (a yearly Japanese national holiday that lasts about a week) is happening during spring so expect a massive crowd at the beginning of May.
Visiting Japan in Summer
Summer is considered the least attractive season for visiting anywhere except Northern Japan. It tends to be muggy and humid across much of Honshu, although you’ll find lower prices in many areas.
On the other hand, summer is a great time to visit Hokkaido or Tohoku, where the climate is cooler. Okinawa and Amami also experience fantastic tropical summer weather, although there’s always the risk of storms.
Visiting Japan in Fall
Fall is another excellent choice wherever you go. From September to November, pleasant temperatures and coloring of the foliage characterize Fall in Japan. Visiting Japan in Fall is probably one of the best options so you can avoid golden week and the crowd of foreign tourists that come for the cherry blossom season but still enjoy pleasant weather.
Visiting Japan in Winter
Are you looking to travel in the winter? Hokkaido is covered in snow but offers excellent skiing, while you could try Amami and Okinawa for a winter island paradise. In the southern regions, you’ll find lower prices across Honshu and temperate climates.
Our Verdict on the Best Time to Visit Japan
The best time to visit Japan depends on your destination. For the popular parts of Honshu, such as Tokyo and Kyoto, we’d recommend late May or November as the ideal time of year. You’ll find a perfect blend of cheaper accommodation and beautiful weather, and there’ll always be plenty to do and see.
However, perhaps you’d like a summer trip up North or a bracing January trip to Shikoku for its unspoiled hiking opportunities. Matching the time to the destination is how you’ll know the best time to visit Japan – start planning now!
Best Time to Visit Japan FAQs:
Typhoons typically occur in late summer.
Most of Honshu is unpleasantly humid through the summer months.
Late May and November are good choices to enjoy fine weather with more affordable accommodation and flights.
Cherry blossom season starts in March and ends in May.
It rains across most of Japan through the late summer months.
Cherry blossom season tends to be very busy as people want to experience Hanami. Summer is also busy in some parts due to the Western school holidays though you can expect very hot and humid weather from early July to the end of summer.