Best Time to Visit Japan

For travel enthusiasts, Japan is a bucket-list destination. With budding cherry blossoms and high-spirited festivals, there is no bad time to visit Japan. However, this does make choosing the best time of year to travel challenging and maybe even overwhelming.


Written by Echo Wang | Edited by Bianca Versoza

For travel enthusiasts, Japan is a bucket-list destination. With budding cherry blossoms and high-spirited festivals, there is no bad time to visit Japan. However, this does make choosing the best time of year to travel challenging and maybe even overwhelming.

Japan features four distinct seasons, each boasting its own exclusive sights, events, interests, and other special highlights. And as with any tourist destination, there are peak travel seasons, which cause airfares and hotels to spike in price.

In 2019, approximately 15.2 million people traveled to Japan. Throughout each year, tourism varies from month to month, depending on local attractions and events happening at that time.

However, with the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, travel has become much more restricted, and tourists are looking to stay away from large crowds.

In this article, we’ll delve into the best—and safest—times of year to travel to Japan, depending on your style and interests.

Understanding Japan’s Geography

First, we must understand the distinct regions of Japan and how they differ from one another. Choosing the best time to visit Japan largely depends on where you want to go.

While Japan isn’t exactly a large country, the island’s geography is spread over 2,300 miles from north to south, stretching over 147,100 total square miles (comparable to the size of California or Germany).

With such a large distance, the weather varies from region to region. From the frigid regions of Hokkaido to the subtropical island of Okinawa, you can either enjoy the ski resorts and hot springs or spend a warm day at the beach.

In the areas in between—like Tokyo and Kyoto—the weather tends to be less extreme.

It’s also important to consider the fact that Japan is a particularly mountainous island. Using common sense, you’ll discover chilly temperatures when you travel to higher elevations.

Several continental plates meet in the region of Japan, which results in frequent earthquakes year-round. For this same geographical reason, the country experiences many natural hot springs and volcanoes. Mt.Fuji, Japan’s most famous volcano and highest mountain, is a famous tourist destination.

Technically, Japan is made up of thousands of islands, but the largest and most notable are Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Honshu.


Hokkaido (translates to “Northern Sea Circuit”) is Japan’s second-largest and least developed of the country’s four major islands.

While the summer doesn’t get as humid as other islands of Japan, Hokkaido’s winter months are particularly frigid with large amounts of snowfall, frozen seas, and below zero temperatures.

With its untouched natural beauty, rural landscapes, and national parks, Hokkaido attracts many outdoor enthusiasts—from snowboarders and skiers in the colder months to campers, cyclists, and hikers in the warmer months.


Located southwest of Honshu, Kyushu (translates to “nine provinces”) is the third-largest island in Japan. One of the earliest known centers of Japanese civilization, Kyushu offers various modern cities, historic gems, and natural treasures.

Best known for its sunny beaches, volcanoes, and hot springs, Kyushu features a subtropical climate. The island also includes many museums, such as the Atomic Bomb Museum. Visitors can travel to Nagasaki Peace Park, which commemorates the devastation left by the 1945 atomic bomb.


Shikoku (translates to “four countries”) is the smallest of Japan’s four major islands, southwest of Japan’s main island Honshu. Much like its name suggests, Shikoku is split into four prefectures.

The island’s most notable cities include Matsuyama, home to 8 of the 88 Buddhist pilgrimage temples, and Dogo Onsen, one of the country’s most ancient hot-spring spas, and feudal mountainous Matsuyama Castle.

Shikoku features a mountainous center with whitewater rapid rivers and various hiking trails.


Home to many of the country’s main cultural sites and cities, Honshu is where Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo reside. For most international travelers, your trip is likely to begin and end in Honshu.

Located in the center of Honshu, Kyoto is known for its traditional geisha entertainment, Zen temples, and cherry blossom gardens. Other popular cities include Tokyo, Osaka, and Hiroshima.

To keep things simple, we’ll mostly be covering travel on Honshu, Japan’s main island.

Beautiful sakura with gold color temple in Japan

When is the Best Time to Visit Japan?

Now that we’ve touched on the main regions of Japan let’s dive deeper into the Land of the Rising Sun’s spectacular seasons and what each has to offer.

Japan in Spring

Depending on the geographical location, spring in Japan generally starts in mid-March and extends to May. The weather during the spring is famously changeable, and temperature can range from 4 to 18 °C (40 to 65 °F).

While some days may make you break a sweat, other days might demand a heavier winter coat.

For most of the country, the most popular time to visit is during the spring, or hanami season, while the cherry blossoms, or sakura, are fully blooming.

The one downside of traveling during the spring is large crowds. Most tourists plan their trips to the island around this season, which causes airfares and hotel prices to spike.

It’s also difficult to predict when exactly the Hanami season will begin. Sometimes, the sakura flowers blossom earlier than expected. Other years, the blossoms bloom much later. Additionally, a particular windy season could blow away all the blossoms, thus shortening the Hanami season.

The question here isn’t whether or not cherry blossoms are a beautiful sight to see. Rather, the question is whether the unpredictability is worth the expense.

As a traveler, there are four key factors you’ll have to consider when traveling during spring in Japan:

  • Higher accommodation prices
  • Lower accommodation availability
  • More tourists
  • Planning far in advance

Other than their uncertainty, cherry blossom season has nearly become too popular.

More specifically, cherry blossom season, in general, is an enchanting time to visit Japan. But over the recent years, the country has experienced a constant record-breaking amount of tourists (mainly from Asia, the U.S., Europe, and Australia).

The most crowded time of cherry blossom season is primarily from the middle of March to the middle of April. When it comes to numbers, the crowds are comparable to that of summer vacations in Europe.

Golden Week

From April 29th to May 5th, Japanese locals celebrate “Golden Week” each year, including several national holidays that all occur in a single week.

  • April 29, Showa Day: Commemorates Emperor Showa’s (commonly known in English as Emperor Hirohito) birthday, who ruled Japan throughout World War 2 (from 1926 until 1947).
  • May 3, Constitution Day (Kenpo kinenbi): The celebration of the ratification of the Constitution of Japan in 1947.
  • May 4, Green Day (Midori no hi): Celebrates the environment; Set aside as the day to commune with nature.
  • May 5, Children’s Day (Kodomo no hi): Commonly called “the Boy’s Festival” or “Feast of Banners,” this day honors young boys by flying Koinobori, or carp streamers, outside houses to wish young boys success in their life.
  • For young girls, the “Girls’ Festival” (Hina Matsuri) occurs on the 3rd of March.

Since these are observed as national holidays, the majority of Japanese residents have a week off work. Many tourists take this opportunity to visit the country.

If you’re planning your trip during or near this time, you’ll undoubtedly have an open window to explore and partake in some of Japan’s most famed celebrations.

But it’s important to take accommodation into account before settling on a date. Hotels and other establishments of accommodation—particularly in Kyoto—to be booked far in advance, so start reserving your room as soon as possible.

We also advise booking train tickets ahead of time. Otherwise, you’ll have no mode of transportation.

In summary, cherry blossom season and Golden Week are beautiful and celebratory times to travel to Japan. However, they’re also some of the busiest and crowded.

If you’re not a fan of huge crowds, we advise against traveling to Japan in April or May since huge crowds tend to gather during this time.

If you still want to enjoy the budding cherry blossoms and beautiful weather, instead visit Japan in early March, where crowds and prices are much lower.

During the last half of May, crowds tend to disperse, and warmer temperatures emerge. Though this month is starting to become more popular for this reason, there are still significantly fewer tourists than at the beginning of the season.

As May comes to a close, the warm spring weather slowly transitions to the humid and hot summer months, which brings us to the next season.

Higashiyama district in Kyoto during spring

Japan in Summer

Summers in Japan reach temperatures of 21 to 32 °C (70 to 90 °F) and offer a lot of fun, warm activities.

From June-August, summer in Japan includes all sorts of festivals and celebrations. Perhaps the busiest time of year to travel is August, when school is no longer in session and the Obon holiday commences, so planning your trip around June or July is recommended.

In June, the weather is comparable to May: not as humid, but still fairly warm. However, the rainy season (tsuyu) begins around the middle of June, in most cases lasting until mid-July.

While it doesn’t rain all day, the skies are rather gloomy and cloudy. As the month continues to pass by, temperatures rise, and it gets more humid.

Due to tsuyu, July starts fairly drizzly but starts to dry up towards the middle of the month. Humidity and temperature continue to increase. In general, July is the second hottest month each year in Japan.

But despite the heat, travelers have the opportunity to witness festivals, including Kyoto’s celebrated Gion Matsuri festival.

In August, temperatures can reach up to 90 °F—making it Japan’s hottest month. To dodge the heat, tourists can explore the mountainous regions of Japan. Since the 13th through 15th of August is considered a national holiday, it’s best to avoid large crowds.

During summertime, Japan hosts some of the most colorful, entertaining, and exotic festivals in the world. Tourists love to travel to Japan during this time for this reason.

Some of the most notable festivals include the Awa Odori festival in Tokushima, Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri, and Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri. Additionally, travelers can enjoy several neighborhood matsuris (traditional festive occasions) across the country.

For fireworks lovers, summer is one of the most “explosive” times of year to travel to Japan.

Fireworks, or Hanabi, are serious Japanese events, and attending the Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai Festival is both a cultural and entertaining experience. It was created to honor the dead and ward off evil spirits. This annual festival takes place on the last Saturday of every July.

Tokyo’s Sumida River Fireworks is another considerably famous pyrotechnic display. During the summer months, numerous firework shows happen over the island.

While the weather is generally hot, humid, and sticky, it’s not as bad as people make it seem. Both central and mountainous regions of Japan enjoy cooler temperatures in the evening, especially in Kyoto and Tokyo. In Japan, summer is the prime time for outdoor activities of all kinds.

If you plan on visiting Japan in June, July, or August, but you’re not a fan of the heat, we recommend traveling to Tohoku, Hokkaido, or the Japanese Alps, where temperatures are much cooler and less humid.

There will still be plenty of opportunities to enjoy the fireworks displays, outdoor excursions, and maybe even some scuba diving, but just in a less extreme way than if you were traveling to the primary cities and hot spots.


Depending on where you’re traveling, Japan typically experiences typhoons (or tropical storms that take place across the Atlantic Ocean) which generally begin in May and last through October. The peak for the rainy season is through June and July.

While typhoons can affect all regions of Japan, Okinawa and southwestern parts of the country experience the highest volume of rain.

During the summer, it’s somewhat expected for typhoons to interfere with travel plans, specifically transportation. However, this doesn’t happen as often in other regions of Japan.

Still, for travelers, typhoon season is something to be aware of in any case.

Seigantoji, Temple in Nachikatsuura, Japan

Japan in Fall

Depending on the location, the changing of the leaves in Japan begins around mid-September, as the temperatures cool down, and end in early December. For most travelers, fall is considered to be the most enjoyable time to visit Japan due to the pleasant weather conditions, which range from 10 to 21 °C (50 to 70 °F).

Besides the clear weather and comfortable temperatures, Japan is one of the most famous countries known for its vibrant fall foliage, known as koyo.

In the beginning, to mid-September, the weather is generally still warm, whereas the weather in late September/early October begins to drop in preparation for the winter. Depending on where you travel in Japan, you may even find September to be more of a summer month.

Now that the weather has cooled down, tourists can partake in various fall activities while enjoying the comfortable temperatures. For this reason, October is one of the most popular seasons to travel to Japan and is even considered the “Goldilocks” of months, where the weather is not too hot and not too cold.

However, the peak season for travel starts in November, when fall is in full swing. Large crowds begin to gather to watch the fall foliage.

Because of this spike in tourism, travelers who are looking to stay away from large crowds might want to consider visiting in early December, where crowds are lower, and koyo is still in session.

Relaxing in an outdoor hot spring, or onsen, while witnessing the changing autumn leaves is an experience to be remembered.

The excitement surrounding Japan’s fall season is similar to the excitement surrounding Hanami, or the transient blooming of cherry blossoms. Unfortunately, this eagerness causes prices in airfares and hotels to increase, and large crowds of tourists flood into the country.

Consequently, this enthusiasm also demands the need to plan much further in advance. So if you still plan on visiting Japan in the fall, we recommended booking trains, flights, and accommodations as early as possible.

Beautiful Daigoji temple with colorful tree and leaf in autumn

Japan in Winter

From December to early March, winter in Japan reaches cold temperatures, ranging from -1 to 7 °C (30 to 45 °F).

While some people have love-hate relationships with the cold, wintertime in Japan has a lot of opportunities, including festivals and celebrations. Once you get past the fact that this season demands chilly temperatures, you can enjoy all Japan has to offer during “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Throughout early December, Japan receives very few visitors (depending on where you plan to visit) since the winter season is in full gear.

Most tourists prefer visiting during the fall or spring seasons, where the weather is pleasant, and the foliage is spectacular. But winter in Japan can be just as beautiful as any other season—if you know where to look.

In the Japanese Alps, there’s an abundant amount of snowfall, attracting skiers and snowboarders from all over the world. In fact, Japan has some of the best powder skiing than any other country.

The island of Hokkaido offers some of the highest-rated ski resorts in the country, including Rusutsu, Niseko, and Furano Prince Snow Resorts. After you’re done skiing, feel free to warm yourself up in one of Japan’s famous hot springs, which many tourists consider to be a major perk to visiting Japan in the winter.

The Japanese hot springs are available to use all year round, but there’s something special—and almost magical—about soaking in onsens as you watch the snowfall.

Winter Festivals

For the most part, the winter season is a less crowded time to visit Japan. However, there are a few notable celebrations that take place throughout December-January that tend to bring in travelers.

Specifically, during the New Year’s holidays, the island hosts various festivals and celebrations. While this is certainly a joyous time to visit, you may want to consider the potential downsides.

Since New Year’s is generally a prolonged holiday in many countries throughout the world, the days in preparation for the festivity become busy with tourists, traveling families, and locals who are off school or work.

For instance, along the generally quiet Kyoto streets, people from all over the world suddenly flood the roads to take in the festive atmosphere.

However, if you’re a person who prefers quieter and less crowded areas, you may want to consider traveling to Japan outside this time of year.

Accommodations during the holidays are typically hard to reserve, as well. In Japan, most people receive multiple vacation days for New Years’ celebrations, whereas places in the U.S. and Europe typically only receive one day. And since many Japanese people travel inward to visit their families, most hotels are booked far in advance and for prolonged periods. This demand results in higher-than-usual prices and low availability.

Starting at the last half of December and extending on through early January, many places remain closed off to the public, including shops, museums, restaurants, and more.

Over the past few years, there have been some exceptions. But going into it, it’s wise to assume that most places will remain closed during this time. For most parts of the country, the majority of restaurants stay closed from December 31st until January 2nd or 3rd.

However, there are some department stores and luxury restaurants that specifically stay open to cater to tourists.

While people are hustling and bustling throughout the major cities, travelers can use this time to visit more secluded parts of Japan. You can also tour shrines and temples, which generally remain open to tourists before and after New Years’.

Kanazawa Winter Gardens

Celebrations and National Holidays in Japan

Japan is one of the few countries that host celebrations and festivals throughout the year. For travelers, knowing when these holidays occur can significantly impact travel plans, either negatively or positively.

To provide travelers with a clearer understanding of these holidays, we’ve detailed a list of annual Japanese holidays, celebrations, and other annual public occasions.

Note: If a publicly observed holiday takes place on a Sunday, the succeeding Monday also becomes a holiday. In the same regard, if two public holidays surround a regular day, that day also becomes a holiday.

January 1: “New Year” (shogatsu)

  • For Japanese natives, New Years’ is the greatest celebrated holiday. Businesses typically remain closed two days after the holiday.

Second Monday of January: “Coming of Age” (seijin no hi)

  • This holiday celebrates the “coming of age” of young men and women aged 20 years.

February 3: Beginning of spring (setsubun)

  • The beginning of spring isn’t observed nationwide as a holiday—however, many temples and shrines throughout the country honor Setsubun.

February 11: “National Foundation Day” (kenkoku kinenbi)

  • This national holiday celebrates the founding of Japan and the first crowning of the Japanese emperor.

February 14: “Valentine’s Day”

  • In the U.S. and Europe, men typically give women gifts on Valentine’s Day. However, in Japan, men actually receive goodies, like chocolates and cakes, from women.
  • Valentine’s Day isn’t a national Japanese holiday

February 23: “Emperor’s Birthday” (tenno no tanjobi)

  • Nationally observed as a public holiday, Japanese locals celebrate the current emperor’s birthday.

March 3: “Doll’s Festival” (hina matsuri)

  • Families display peach blossoms and traditional Japanese dolls throughout their homes to wish their young daughters a happy and successful life.

March 14: “White Day”

  • Considered the counterpart to Valentine’s Day, Japanese men honor this day by gifting women chocolates and cakes.

Around March 20: “Spring Equinox Day” (shunbun no hi)

  • Japanese natives honor this day by visiting graves throughout the week on which the Equinox Day falls.

Golden Week

  • April 29: “Showa Day” (Showa no hi): Celebrates the birthday of Japanese Emperor Showa (Hirohito), who ruled during WW2.
  • May 3: “Constitution Memorial Day” (kenpo kinenbi): Observed nationwide as a holiday to celebrate the enactment of the new Japanese system of law after WW2, the 1947 Constitution of Japan.
  • May 4: “Greenery Day” (midori no hi): The last holiday of Golden Week. Due to Emperor Showa’s love for nature and foliage, the Japanese celebrate May 4 as Greenery Day.
  • May 5: “Children’s Day” (kodomo no hi): This national holiday is set aside to celebrate a young boy’s life and wish them ongoing success and happiness.

July/August 7: “Star Festival” (tanabata)

  • According to ancient Japanese myths, the Vega star and Altair star (symbolizing deities Orihime and Hikoboshi) travel across the Milky Way each year of the 7th of July, renewing their age-old commitment of love.
  • Japan celebrates the ancient lovers with lively decorations, stories of Vega and Altair, and wishes written on long strips of colorful paper and attached to bamboo trees.

Third Monday of July: “Ocean Day” (umi no hi)

  • First observed in 1996, Ocean Day is a national holiday to honor the blessings of the ocean and consider the economic wealth of maritime Japan.

August 11: “Mountain Day” (yama no hi)

  • The most recent accepted public holiday, Mountain Day, celebrates the island’s blessing of mountains.

July/August 13-15: “Obon Festival”

  • This festival celebrates the Buddhist Obon event designed to honor one’s, deceased ancestors.

Third Monday of September: “Respect for the Aged Day” (keiro no hi)

  • This Japanese national holiday is set aside to pay respect to elderly citizens

Around September 23: “Autumn Equinox Day” (shubun no hi)

  • On this day, families reconnect with one another and visit the graves of their ancestors.
    Second Monday of October: “Health and Sports Day” (taiiku no hi)
  • This national holiday commemorates the opening of the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
  • To this day, Japan honors this holiday to promote healthy and active lifestyles.

November 3: “Culture Day” (bunka no hi)

  • Schools and the government celebrate this day of promotion of arts, education, and culture by awarding specific people for their academic endeavors or unique cultural accomplishments.

November 15: “Seven-Five-Three” (shichi-go-san)

  • This “rite of passage” event honors young boys aged three and five and young girls aged three and seven.
  • This national holiday celebrates the well-being and health of children.

November 23: “Labor Thanksgiving Day” (kinro kansha no hi)

  • Previously celebrated as a harvest festival, this national public holiday honors production and labor.
  • Families gather together and take time to give thanks to one another.

December 24th and 25th: Christmas

  • Though Christmas isn’t a nationally observed holiday in Japan, shop owners decorate their stores leading up to the famous celebration.
  • Similar to other parts of the world, many Japanese families partake in Christmas dinners.

December 31: New Year’s Eve (omisoka)

  • The night before New Years’.
Cherry-Blossom Viewing (Hanami) Festival

Plan Your Next Trip to Japan

If there’s one thing you’ve learned from this article, it’s that there is no wrong time to visit the beautiful island of Japan. The best time to visit Japan depends on your budget, where you want to go, and what you want to do.

Japan is a year-round dream destination for many, and the country offers a wealth of opportunities. From skiing in the winter, vibrant and colorful cherry blossoms in the spring to warm adventures in the summer, and vivid hues of changing leaves and festive activities in the fall.

Most seem to agree that the best time to visit Japan is either late May or mid-September to early December. But regardless of the time you choose to visit, there’s guaranteed to be plenty of activities to enjoy.

Maybe you’ve dreamt of visiting Nikko’s Toshogu Shrine, the Todaiji temple, or other architecturally beautiful ancient buildings. Or perhaps you want to take a snowboarding trip to the chilly northern island of Hokkaido.

Below, we’ve detailed a list on when the best time to travel to Japan, depending on some of the most popular activities, so you can see what time of year best coincides with your interests.

  • Beating the crowds: Winter
  • Skiing/Snowboarding: Winter
  • Hiking: Spring, Summer, or Winter
  • Seeing Mount Fuji: Late Fall, Winter, early Spring
  • Hot springs/Onsens: Winter, Spring, or Fall
  • Photography: Spring or Fall
  • Beaches: Summer
  • Scuba Diving: Summer
  • Celebrations and Festivals: All year round

Whatever your travel style or interests, we hope we’ve helped you identify the best time to visit Japan.