When is the best time to go to Japan?

posted in: Asia, Japan 7

When is the best time to go to Japan?

A month-by-month guide and national holidays to aid your travel plans

From spring blossoms to autumn leaves, Japan is a country that can be visited at anytime of the year. Typically, late spring, March – May and late autumn, September to November is ideal as the temperature is mild and rainfall is low. December and January are the driest months with February being the coldest in Japan. However, to pick the best time to travel to Japan will depend very much on what you want to see, do, and experience in this Land of the Rising Sun.

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That said, here is a month-by-month guide for you to consider when planning your travels to Japan.

January / February

January and February sees the ground covered with a blanket of snow and it is the perfect time to see the snow monkeys in Nagano. During these months, Japan presents one of the best picturesque landscape of still temples and castles covered in snow, so peaceful, so serene.

If you are willing to brave the cold, then this is your perfect opportunity for a more personal experience of Japan as there will be less tourists, less crowd at all the touristy spots. January is also a popular time to hit the ski slopes in northern Japan.

February marks the coldest month in Japan and people are often indoors or some may indulge in winter sports. February also kicks off the diving season in Japan with sea turtles, sharks, seahorses and manatees can be spotted easily during this season.

March / April

March is a popular time to visit Japan as the weather is mild and the onset of the cherry blossom season draws many visitors to the various locations. By mid-march, you can see the budding blooms on the trees, signalling the beginning of the Hanami season. Hanami is the tradition of viewing and appreciating the beauty of the sakuras. Hanami has long been adored by locals as well as people across the globe as it is regarded as a symbol of renewal, vitality, and beauty.

Cherry blossoms at Philosopher's Path, Kyoto
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Cherry blossoms at Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto

In late March to early April, you will be able to catch the cherry blossoms at their best. If you are planning a trip during Hanami, please dedicate some time to planning your travels. The sakura are in full bloom for only 2 to 3 weeks in Spring, between 20th March and 14th April, so you don’t really see them in full-bloom for a full month. Cherries peak at different times and are very weather dependent but they generally peak on 1st April.

Milder climate in the southern region means first blooms are produced in places like Okinawa, and blooming progresses northward. Wind, rain, and temperature can cause the blossoms to appear either earlier or later than average and can lengthen or shorten the blooming season.

If you are planning a trip to witness the hanami, then you need to consider the followings:

Where will you be going to for the Hanami and When will you be going. You will also need to consider your accommodation – where would you stay?

March and April are expensive months, so plan ahead.

May / June

The weather in May is almost perfect with the right temperature and it is a popular time for tourists. If you can’t make it to Japan in March and April, then head over to Hokkaido in May to catch the white and pink hues of the cherry blossoms. However, avoid travel during the Golden Week where prices soar and flights, hotels and activities get booked up quickly.

MyTimelessFootsteps suggests: Golden Week typically falls during the last weekend in April and the first week of May. [In 2020, April 29 falls on a Wednesday. Festivities and travel are expected to continue through Tuesday, May 5. l

June sees the beginning of the typhoon season in Japan. Typically the first week of June is the rainiest, with rain continuing on till September. Head to Osaka around the 15th where on the nearby sacred mountain of Koyasan, hundreds of priests celebrate the birth of Kukai, the grand master of Japanese Buddhism.  

July / August

Mount Fuji opens its doors to climbers on July 1st. If you are a climbing/hiking enthusiast and wish to climb Mount Fuji, then late July through to late August is the best time for you to do so. The weather conditions are ideal for climbing but this also means that the mountainside is congested.

The last weekend in July sees Japan’s largest music festival kick off – Fuji Rock Festival at Naeba Ski Resort in Yuzawa, Niigata, featuring both international and national artists.

August is Japan’s hottest month with varying highs of 90 in places like Okinawa and 72 in Hokkaido but less humid. There is a three-day Buddhist custom called “Obon Festival” which falls in the middle of August. This is a much celebrated festival where the Japanese believe that the dead and the living are re-united on this day to celebrate, drink and be merry. The streets will be blocked off to the festival and dancing. The dancing, “Bon Odori” is a traditional dance performed throughout Japan. It is a fun time to visit Japan to experience this part of their culture.

You may wish to honour the moving tradition of setting paper lanterns off adrift on the River Ota to commemorate the anniversary of the atomic bomb that fell on the city of Hiroshima on August 6.

Holidays and festivals in Japan also means that it is a favourite time for travellers. Flights and hotels are usually booked up months in advance. If you are planning a visit to Japan in August, make your bookings well in advance so you can secure the best deals on flights and hotels.

September / October

The weather cools down a touch in September but still with some fluctuating showers. Mount Fuji closes its hiking trails by the 2nd week of September. One of the largest professional Sumo tournaments takes place in Tokyo in September. September is also a time to avoid travels during Silver Week. End of September sees the first of the falling leaves, making way for the onset of the renowned Japanese autumn.

October is a perfect time to visit Japan! The weather is mild, and the autumnal colours are spectacular at this time – perfect atmosphere to enjoy the natural sights. Exploring the countryside is highly encouraged during this season.

October 9th /10th – Takayama Festival takes place. On 22nd Kyoto’s Jidai Festival takes place when 2,000 people in ornate costumes depart from Kyoto Imperial Palace towards Heian Jingu shrine.  A colourful and vibrant event which you may want to see.

November / December

The weather in November is dry, sunny and cool. It is harvest time in Japan and there are a number of harvest festivals. December sees the first sign of snowfall as winter begins. It is colder and snow begins to settle. Ski slopes in central Japan and Hokkaido open for business in December. While it is cold and snows almost everyday in Hokkaido, and you definitely need to wrap up, don’t let this deter you. Japan has one of the most picturesque landscape in winter, blankets of snow covered castle roofs and temples – a sight to behold! However, do keep in mind that between 29th and the first week of January, Japan has lots of New Year’s activities and holidays.

If you are planning travels to Japan, try and avoid these dates because the public transport will be overcrowded, hotels will be on full occupancy, and at a higher rate. Temples and shrines may also be closed for winter, so best check on what you want to visit.

Japan’s Calendar for National Holidays and Observances

To aid planning your travels to Japan in 2020 and 2021, I have the following information from Japan Rail Pass.

MyTimelessFootsteps suggests: Take note of the national holidays and observances in Japan. Book your flights early, book your accommodation early and buy your Japan Rail Pass before leaving home.

Japanese holiday calendar 2020 – info credit to Japan Rail Pass

In order to accommodate the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Japan has decided to shuffle the dates of some of its national holidays.

Check the list below for the exact public national and consecutive holidays in Japan in 2020:

  • New Year’s Day – January 1
  • Coming of Age Day – January 13
  • Foundation Day – February 11
  • Emperor’s birthday – February 23-24
  • Vernal Equinox Day – March 20
  • Showa Day – April 29
  • Constitution Day – May 3
  • Greenery Day – May 4
  • Children’s Day – May 5
  • Constitution Memorial Day (observed) – May 6 (additional day for Golden Week)
  • Sea Day or Marine Day – July 23 (date changed only for 2020)
  • Sports Day – July 24 (date changed only for 2020)
  • Mountain Day – August 10 (date changed only for 2020)
  • Respect for the Aged Day – September 21
  • Autumnal Equinox Day – September 22
  • Culture Day – November 3
  • Labor Thanksgiving Day – November 23
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Japanese holiday calendar 2021

  • New Year’s Day – January 1
  • Coming of Age Day – January 11
  • Foundation Day – February 11
  • Emperor’s birthday – February 23
  • Vernal Equinox Day – March 20
  • Showa Day – April 29
  • Constitution Day – May 3
  • Greenery Day – May 4
  • Children’s Day – May 5
  • Sea Day or Marine Day – July 19
  • Mountain Day – August 11
  • Respect for the Aged Day – September 20
  • Autumnal Equinox Day – September 23
  • Sports Day – October 11
  • Culture Day – November 3
  • Labor Thanksgiving Day – November 23

You may also like these activities when visiting Japan

Visit Nagano and the Snow Monkeys

Tours to Mount Fuji – select from this list to suit your requirements

Kyoto travel – selected tours to enhance your experiences in Japan

You may also like to read other experiences in Japan:

Is this post valuable to you in planning your visits to Japan? If so please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you.

Have a great time discovering Japan 🙂


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7 Responses

  1. Georgina

    Thank you so much. I am glad you found my article on when is the best time to go to Japan informative and concise. I want to give as much information as I can to my readers so they can make an informed decision when planning their travels.

  2. ScribblingGeek

    This is an informative and concise rundown. It’s great that you highlight weather inconveniences like the typhoon season too.

  3. […] When is the best time to go to Japan? […]

  4. […] When is the best time to go to Japan? […]

  5. […] When is the best time to go to Japan? […]

  6. Georgina

    Thank you! I am so glad you found the post informative and useful. Sincerely hope you will visit Japan one day soon.

  7. adewyatt

    Only just had enough signal to comment. We missed out last year being in Japan this time of year Sonam going to keep this blog. The details and information are excellent and really appreciated.

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