When is the best time to visit Japan? Well, we could simply tell you spring or fall, but there’s so much more to it than that. Weather and events vary across the country throughout the year so, when it comes to planning your trip to Japan, timing is everything!
Only planning to visit Tokyo? Then here are the best (and worst) times to visit Tokyo.
When is the best time to visit Japan?
The most generic answer to this question is spring (March to May) or fall (September to November), when the weather is mild and fairly pleasant. And it is true. In general, spring and fall are good times to visit central areas of Japan — which includes the classics like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. Visiting in spring means you have a chance to see cherry blossoms (although the bloom forecast can change a lot) and other spring flowers. On the other hand, fall foliage can be just as beautiful (and less time sensitive). During both seasons, humidity is lower and it rains less often. Day time temperatures will range of course, but it’s usually warm (in the 20ºC range).
However, there’s more to it than that. Japan is a long country, and on any given day the weather in the northern-most region of Hokkaidō will be very different to the weather in the southern-most islands of Okinawa. In other words, a ‘spring’ day in Hokkaidō is not the same as one in Okinawa. Which is why we want to give more than just a generic answer. Instead, we want to make sure you’re armed with the best information to help you make your trip to Japan perfect. So let’s also talk about the worst times to visit Japan, and specific recommendations based on your interests.
When is the worst time to visit Japan?
When it comes to the worst time to visit Japan, there are two things to consider — the crowds and the weather. Most people living in Japan travel during National Holidays. These are the peak travel seasons in Japan, and are by far the busiest and most expensive times to travel. If you can, we strongly recommend not traveling to Japan during these holiday periods. In particular, Golden Week, Silver Week, and the New Yearholiday, are the ones to look out for. Like most other countries, school holidays are also a busy travel period, especially from mid-July to late August.
As for weather, Japan experiences a rainy season, which is usually from early June to mid-July. This is also the start of summer, so it will be wet and humid. Typhoons are also rarer at this time, with most hitting Japan during August and September. Depending on the severity, typhoons can cause flight and train delays — even if the typhoon is far away — as well as set off landslides and flooding.
Also, keep in mind your personal preferences — what weather conditions do you like to travel in? During winter there is snow in the north of Japan and some mountainous regions in central Japan. Additionally, Japan has very high humidity during summer that can exceed 80% in August. If either of these is a deal breaker for you, steer clear of those seasons.
When to visit Japan according to your interests
Now let’s talk about the best time to visit Japan for you. What are your interests? What’s your travel style, and what do you want to see and do in Japan? Thinking about these things will help you decide the best time to visit. To help you along the way we’ve come up with a list of popular activities and things to do in Japan, and worked out the best time to visit if you want to do them.
The best time to travel to Japan for snow sports: January and FebruaryConsider timing your visit with the world famous Sapporo Snow Festival.
If you want to experience some of Japan’s world class ski resorts, we recommend visiting during January and February. This is when the powder conditions are best, although some resorts open as early as November and December. If you prefer blue bird days and cheaper ski packages, you could also consider visiting during March.
Keep in mind that the snow season lasts longer in the north of Japan in Hokkaidō. That’s where you’ll find the Niseko ski resort area. Alternatively, other famous ski resorts like Hakuba (Nagano Prefecture), Nozawa Onsen (Nagano Prefecture), and Gala Yuzawa Onsen (Niigata Prefecture) are in central Japan, where the season can be a little shorter.
The best time to travel to Japan for hiking and outdoors activities: July to OctoberThe Mount Fuji climbing season is usually from mid-July to mid-September.
Those who want to experience the great outdoors in Japan have a lot of wiggle room. Your main consideration will be where exactly you’d like to go — summer in the north of Japan is mild, but it gets hotter and more humid the further south you go. There are mountains all over Japan, so mountain climbers and hikers are spoilt for choice. Kayaking, canyoning, and camping holidays are also popular summer activities in Japan and can be done all over the country.
If you’re interested in longer treks like the Kumano Kodō, the 88 temple pilgrimage, or the old Tokkaidō Road you may want to opt for the cooler weather of spring or fall. However, if you’d like to climb Mount Fuji, the climbing season is only about two months long from early-July to mid-September.
When to visit Japan for beach getaways and watersports: May and OctoberWe don’t recommend visiting Japan at all if the only thing you want to do is go to the beach.
Unfortunately Japan’s beaches can be quite dirty compared to more well-known beach destinations. But if that’s what you want to do there are some options. We recommend heading to Okinawa, a chain of islands in the south of Japan during May or October for the best beaches and beach-going weather. The beaches in Okinawa are known for their white sand and clear water, and the swimming season is longer there than elsewhere in Japan. In May especially, the conditions are quite good for windsurfing. Steer clear of going during the typhoon season (August and September), as they can be quite strong in Okinawa.
On the Japanese main islands, Shizuoka Prefecture, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Chiba Prefecture are known to have good beaches. The swimming season in these locations usually starts around July or August.
When to visit Japan for anime and pop culture fans:
For anime fans, any time of year is good to visit — merchandise stores, anime theme parks, and museums are open year-round. One thing to consider is whether you want to attend an anime or pop culture convention. There are a number of different ones throughout the year, but if you want to visit lots of them December has three: Winter Comiket, Jump Festa, and Tokyo Comic Con.
If you want to get your hands on the shiniest, newest merch try timing your trip with new anime seasons. New anime seasons usually start in January, April, July, and October. Visit during one of those months and you’ll also get to enjoy a whole slew of promotional materials too, like a train with Bleach characters all over it, or convenience store snacks with SpyXFamily characters on them.
When to visit Japan for traditional festivals and fireworks: July and August
Dream of wandering around a traditional Japanese festival in a yukata (summer kimono)? Then you want to visit during July and August. There are an incredible number of festivals happening at this time of the year, ranging from small, local festivals to some of the biggest and most famous festivals in Japan. Summer festivals are a fantastic cultural experiences — in addition to yukata, you might see mikoshi (portable shrines) carried through the streets, traditional dances like Awa Odori, and of course delicious festival food.
When planning your trip, you can check the dates for festivals like the Tenjin Festival (Osaka), Gion Festival (Kyoto), and Nebuta Festival (Aomori). However, keep in mind that big festivals like these can attract visitors from all over, guaranteeing crowds and making hotels very difficult to book. Smaller, local events tend to be less busy but can still give you a fun festival experience. Keep your eyes on our Japan and Tokyo event listings for some ideas.
Fireworks festivals are also a lot of fun. At one of these you can expect yukata and festival food, but it’s unlikely you’ll see mikoshi or dances. The Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival is the biggest in Tokyo, while the Ise Shrine Dedication Fireworks Festival (Mie Prefecture) is another big one that’s a big off-the-beaten-path option for foreign visitors.
When to visit Japan for hot springs: Anytime except maybe summer
Onsen are hot springs, and there is no shortage of them in Japan. The Japanese hot spring experience is quite different from other parts of the world. There’s a whole etiquette involved, and yes, in most cases you’ll be getting naked with strangers. If you want to visit an onsen during your trip, you’re in luck — most hot spring facilities are open year-round. The exceptions are remote mountain hot spring resorts, which can be completely inaccessible during winter months.
Personally, we love visiting onsen during winter. Not only is the warm water incredible in the cold weather, but being in an outdoor onsen in the snow is pure magic. In fact, if you plan to come to Japan in winter for snow sports, we recommend pairing it with a visit to a hot spring. There are a number of ski resorts which are also famous for their onsen, including Nozawa Onsen.
The only time of year when you might want to avoid hot springs is summer. It’s more of a preference than a rule, but hot springs aren’t as relaxing in summer because it’s so hot both in and out of the water.
Frequently asked questions
Which month is the least crowded in Japan?
According to Japan National Tourism Organization, from 2017 to 2019 September and February had the fewest international visitors to Japan.
Which month is the most crowded in Japan?
Using the same data as above, April and July had the most arrivals.
When is the cheapest time to visit Japan?
Using what we known from above, September and February are cheaper periods to travel in Japan. You’ll enjoy off-peak transport and hotel prices — and smaller crowds.