“When is the best time to go to Japan?”
I get this question at least once a week. I used to answer with a bunch of information about my favorite festivals, food, seasonal flowers, and so on. But now, I counteract it with this question:
“What interests you about Japanese culture?”
No matter when or where you go, you’ll have more than enough options for things to see and do. Here, we’ve broken down the best things about Japan by season and month to help you start planning your trip!
Japan’s spring season lasts from mid-March to early May, depending on where you visit. Most parts experience fluctuating temperatures with chilly mornings and evenings and warm afternoons. Average temperatures in Tokyo range between 40°F to 79°F (4°C to 23°C). Check your destinations’ weather reports before you pack and bring multiple layers.
In Japan, spring means it’s time to go back to school, start the new fiscal year, and—most excitingly—have a picnic with family and friends under the shade of a cherry tree. Without a doubt, it’s the most romantic time of year and attracts millions of visitors from all over the world. And that’s not an exaggeration.
The iconic cherry blossom season in Japan typically lasts from late-March to early April in most parts of the country, although there are some exceptions. For some travelers, seeing cities like Tokyo and Kyoto smattered in shades of pink is reason enough to cross oceans.
Historic and culturally significant places like Kiyomizudera Temple and Ueno Park turn even more fabulous when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. When light breezes blow through the branches, the petals fly around like snowflakes and carpet the ground. Meanwhile, the normally stoic and shy Japanese people celebrate with joyous parties, festivals, and nighttime illuminations.
There are thousands of reasons to see the cherry blossoms bloom in Japan at least once in your life. However, while there’s no denying the allure of rows of cherry blossoms flowering at the same time, there are some potential downsides.
Cherry blossoms are fragile, and Mother Nature can be unforgiving. Heavy rains will scatter petals before they reach their peak bloom, and unseasonably warm or cold conditions mean they might last two weeks or two days. Their impermanence has served as inspiration for poets through the centuries, but their unpredictability makes it a little hard to plan around.
Another part of what makes a cherry blossom viewing vacation somewhat complicated is how popular they’ve become. We weren’t kidding when we said millions of foreign tourists come to Japan for this event. And some start making their reservations as early as a year before their arrival! If you commit to making cherry blossoms part of your journey, book early to guarantee your spot.
Thankfully, while late March and early April might be the most noted weeks for cherry blossoms, they aren’t the only ones. You can see them as early as February in places like Okinawa and Kawazu, or as late as May in Hokkaido. Also, if you’re one of the unlucky folks who doesn’t get to see them at their peak, cherry blossoms aren’t the only thing to do in Japan in spring!
Before sakura became the “fleur du jour,” Japanese nobility
regarded plum blossoms to be the most beautiful spring flower. Mito City’s Kairakuen (one of Japan’s top three landscape gardens) has 3,000 trees that bloom from late February and through March.
If you love manga and anime, March is your month to go! The AnimeJapan Convention in Chiba is one of the largest of its kind. Developers from within Japan and abroad flock here to show off their latest films, games, toys, and software.
The Kansai region is one of the best places to go in Japan at any time of year, but March is a particularly exciting month. The Higashiyama district in Kyoto holds the Hanatoro Festival from the 9th to the 18th, in which lanterns line the streets from Shoren-in to Kiyomizudera Temple. In Nara, monks brandish massive torches at Todaiji Temple during the Omizutori Festival on the 12th.
Average Temperatures in Tokyo in March
Click Here for More About March
The Sanno Spring Festival is the pride and joy of this little mountain town. During the celebration, teams of locals pull wooden floats around town during the day and again at night. Walking around town, you’ll feel like you’ve slipped back into the 15th century.
As beloved as cherry blossoms are, Japanese people will travel to see wisteria. Ashikaga Flower Park is the best place to see these flowers near Tokyo. From mid-April to mid-May, the park holds a festival that centers around a 150-year-old wisteria tree. Its branches have grown to such proportions that beams must support them!
Average Temperatures in Tokyo in April
Click Here for More About April
Sakuras aren’t the only pink blossoms to see. May is the peak month for moss phlox festivals. South of Lake Motosuko, 80,000 shibazakura flowers carpet the vast fields, with Mount Fuji completing the picture on clear-weather days. A pop-up cafe and food stalls open during the blooming period.
Most festivals in Japan are exuberant affairs with lots of laughs and sake, but the Kyoto Aoi Matsuri (May 15th) is an austere and sophisticated parade. Around five hundred men and women dress in Heian Period clothing and reenact a historic procession from the Imperial Palace to the Kamo Shrines. After they finish their journey, horseback archery demonstrations begin.
Ibaraki Prefecture’s newest claim to fame is the Baby Blue Eyes flower display in Hitachi Seaside Park. From mid-April to early May, 4.5 million flowers bloom on Miharashi no Oka Hill. Around the same time, you can also see thousands of tulips and some late-blooming cherry blossom trees.
Average Temperatures in Tokyo in May
Click Here for More About May
There’s no getting around it. Many regions of Japan have subtropical climates, and they can get quite hot and humid. In Tokyo, the lowest average temperature in June is 66°F (19°C), and the highest in August is 88°F (31°C). That might not sound terrible to some, but take into account that the humidity level can reach 83%!
The hot and humid months of June, July, and August might not seem ideal to everyone, but don’t count them out just yet. Summer is the liveliest season and the best time of year to enjoy festivals and flowers across the country.
While you can find a festival to attend any time of year, summer celebrations are the most colorful ones. Even the smallest neighborhood shrines hold spectacular events that are worth attending. If you’re looking for larger-than-life festivities, we can’t more than recommend Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri, Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri, and the Awa Odori Festival in Tokushima (more on those below).
Summer also means it’s fireworks season. Tokyo’s Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival in July attracts nearly 100,000 attendees and millions of spectators watching from a distance. For one and a half hours, 20,000 rockets light up the night sky. Part of what makes this particular display so sensational is that it happens in the center of the city with SkyTree in plain sight.
If you’re spending several hours at an outdoor festival, take precautions against heat sickness. Pack light and comfortable clothes and drink plenty of water. You might also want to take a page out of the Japanese book to beat the heat. Consider carrying a parasol to keep the sun off, and look out for “cool spray” spritz bottles or “refresh sheets” in convenience stores.
By the way, that parasol will serve more than one purpose, most of Japan enters the rainy season during these months. You’ll want rain gear if you’re hiking, but leave the galoshes and ponchos at home if you stay in the cities. Most often, you’ll experience sudden downpours that only last a little while or all-day drizzles.
The closer you get to mid-August, however, the harder it will be to keep from getting your energy sapped by the heat. Thankfully, you can escape from the worst of it on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, where summers are mild and not as humid as other regions.
Yosakoi is a joyous dance that celebrates the return of warm weather, and no one is happier about that than the people in Hokkaido! Sapporo explodes in a city-wide dance party as hundreds of teams from all over Japan meet to compete for titles and prizes.
Hakone’s natural beauty intensifies in June as the hydrangeas bloom around town. One of the best ways to see them is by boarding the Tozan Train, which slowly climbs up the mountains where the little pom-poms grow. The city illuminates the flowers at night for romantic views.
Average Temperatures in Tokyo in June
Click Here for More About June
The lavender fields in Furano and Biei cities reach their full bloom in mid-July. At Farm Tomita, you can explore the "Traditional Lavender Field," which is one of the oldest of its kind in Hokkaido. Lavender and other flowers blossom on Shikisai Hill. Walking through either of these places will make you feel as though you’ve stepped into an impressionist masterpiece.
Gion Matsuri is the most well-known festival in Japan. There are activities throughout the entire month that culminate in a grand procession of floats on July 17th. They can reach heights up to 25 meters tall and weigh as much as 12 tons. Most interestingly, their constructions don’t use any nails!
Naturally, you can wear traditional clothes any time of year, but you’ll especially appreciate shedding your jeans for a cotton yukata in summer. The light fabric is comfortable in the humidity, and the colorful motifs will keep you looking stylish, no matter how sweaty you are! Best of all, you won’t feel self-conscious as these are the clothes of choice for locals at festivals.
Average Temperatures in Tokyo in July
Click Here for More About July
According to legend, the first Awa Odori Festival took place when the citizens of Tokushima celebrated the local castle’s establishment in a raucous party 400 years ago. Hundreds of teams continue the tradition every year as they joyously dance in the streets wearing period clothes.
Around the same time in August, three of Japan’s biggest festivals take place in the Tohoku region. Aomori City holds the Nebuta Festival, where teams pull massive paper floats through the streets. During the Kanto Festival in Akita, performers balance several-meter-high poles with dangling lanterns on different parts of their bodies. You can also celebrate Tanabata in Sendai, where paper decorations and streamers cover every inch of the downtown area.
Average Temperatures in Tokyo in August
Click Here for More About August
Depending on where you go, you’ll start to feel the autumn chill at some time between September and early December. The temperate weather and fall foliage brings in almost as many visitors as cherry blossoms but is a little less overwhelming. The leaves’ brilliant colors stay around for about a month, which helps stagger the influx of crowds. Pack long sleeves and plenty of layers if you intend on racing around Japan’s rural areas.
The fall equinox might take place at the end of September, but many parts of Japan are still warm—or even hot—for weeks after it passes. Tokyo, for instance, doesn’t start cooling off until mid to late October, and the high temperatures stick around longer the further south you go.
Frugal flyers will be pleased to know that September is one of the least expensive times to go to Japan. However, there’s a specific reason why most travelers skip this month. Late summer and early autumn is typhoon season!
Although it isn’t likely you’ll get caught in a disastrous storm, flights often get canceled due to strong winds. If you decide to take a gamble so that you can save, we urge you to look into travel insurance. Also, just in case the weather gets iffy, downloading a few apps to your phone can assist you in getting any help you might need faster.
By October, the risk of typhoons and tropical storms decreases, and kōyō begins. Since ancient times, Japanese nobles would retreat from the cities to watch the maples change colors. Rural parts of northern Japan and mountainous areas start to get their fair share of red, gold, and orange hues. We can’t more than recommend taking a stroll through Sounkyo Gorge or seeing the Oirase Mountain Stream!
By November, fall is in full swing and travelers from all over the world flock to places like Kyoto, especially to Kiyomizudera Temple and the Arashiyama district. Although you’ll have to contend with crowds, it’s worth it to see these historically and culturally significant places surrounded by autumn hues. Also, consider seeing the leaves at night when spotlights illuminate the trees.
Kishiwada is a small town near Osaka and is home to perhaps the most thrilling Japanese festival. During the Danjiri Matsuri, teams of locals from different neighborhoods race 4-ton wooden floats for fun and bragging rights. The most hair-raising moments happen when they make hairpin turns on street corners!
Sumo matches take place every other month throughout the year. Different cities host each tournament, and September is Tokyo’s turn. Watch as immense men slam into each other to try to knock their opponents down!
Average Temperatures in Tokyo in September
Click Here for More About September
Takayama’s Hachiman Autumn Festival celebrates the harvest. Like the Sanno Spring Festival, the town pulls out the Edo Period floats to pull through the streets. The grand and storied tradition takes place every October 9th and 10th.
The Shimanami Kaido is a 60-meter toll road that connects Honshu and Shikoku islands. A footbridge that allows cycling runs alongside it and October is the mildest month to cross it. On your way over the Seto Inland Sea, you’ll pass several islands that offer attractions like museums, temples, and campgrounds.
Average Temperatures in Tokyo in October
Click Here for More About October
The maples aren’t the only trees changing colors. In autumn, the hundreds of ginkgos near Meiji Jingu turn to gold. It’s easily the most picturesque time to see the shrine. Annual dates vary according to when they reach their most brilliant colors, but it usually takes place in the second half of November.
Though it isn’t an official holiday, it’s undoubtedly the cutest! In Japanese culture, seven, five, and three are lucky ages. Boys aged three and five and girls aged three and seven wear kimonos and receive blessings at shrines. This event takes place on the weekend closest to November 15th.
Average Temperatures in Tokyo in November
Click Here for More About November
If you’ve ever been traipsing about in Tokyo in midsummer, it might be hard to believe that it can get cold in Japan! Depending on how far north or south you are, winter in Japan is from December to mid-March with average temperatures swinging between 35°F and 53°F (2°C and 12°C) in Tokyo. Bring warm clothes no matter where you go, and consider packing snow boots if you’re headed north.
Cold weather might be a dealbreaker for some, but for others, it’s a magical time to visit Japan. Most places, except for a few winter getaways, get far fewer travelers than they do in warmer months. It’s also the season for delicacies like scallops, tuna, and crab.
Snowfalls are plentiful in the mountains. Hokkaido, the Japan Alps, and the Tohoku region are incredible destinations for skiing and snowboarding on powder snow. Niseko City and Zao offer some of the best lodges and slopes in the country, including ski-in-ski-out accommodations and onsen ryokans.
By the way, nothing warms your bones better than a piping hot onsen bath. Even if you aren’t keen on winter sports, don’t pass up on soaking in the therapeutic waters of a hot spring. Look out for resorts that offer outdoor tubs so that you can take in the winter scenery while you relax.
From late November, many cities put up LED displays. Some are small, with strings of lights hung near busy roads. Others are full-fledged affairs with acres of decorations and music. If you’re near Tokyo, head to Ashikaga Flower Park, where twinkling bulbs take the place of the garden’s seasonal blossoms.
On December 2nd and 3rd, head north of Tokyo to Saitama Prefecture to join in the Chichibu Yomatsuri. This nighttime festival is one of Japan’s top three float festivals, along with Gion and the Takayama Matsuris. On both nights, firework shows begin at 7:30 pm.
If you’re in Japan during the holidays, you might notice a considerable lack of revelers in the downtown area. That's because most Japanese people celebrate New Year at temples and shrines. If you don’t mind crowds, head to one of these places at midnight to pray, receive fortunes, and stay up until sunrise.
Average Temperatures in Tokyo in December
Click Here for More About December
Dipping in a hot spring during the coldest months is a delight, but there’s one way to make it better—monkeys! Wild Japanese macaques live in the mountains near Yudanaka Onsen, and for years they would sneak into the ryokans to warm up in the baths. Jigokudani Monkey Park built private tubs so they could safely bathe, and you can see them from December to March.
These ancient farmhouses don’t have any nails in their constructions, and yet can withstand the heavy snowfalls of Gifu and Toyama Prefecture! Their sturdiness and longevity (some are 250-years-old) are what put them on the list of registered UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Average Temperatures in Tokyo in January
Click Here for More About January
Local and international artists gather in Sapporo every year to create massive snow and ice sculptures. There are three sites across the city, but the main one is in the center of downtown at Odori Park. Annual dates vary, but it generally runs during the first half of February.
Otaru City fights the dreary winter nights by building thousands of lanterns from snow along the canal and streets. It almost always takes place at the same time as the Sapporo Snow Festival, and in comparison, is a tranquil and romantic experience.
Believe it or not, you can see cherry blossoms in winter! Kawazu is a small town near Tokyo where an unusual breed of sakura grows. These trees bloom earlier and at a slower rate than most cherry trees. The height of the festival usually happens around the last week of February and the first week of March.
Average Temperatures in Tokyo in February
Click Here for More About February
Ok, so “the worst” is some pretty strong language to use. We don’t mean to imply that you should skip Japan at all costs on these days, but you might want to plan well in advance. However, we do strongly advise against flying into, out of, and around the country during the following periods.
From April 29th to May 5th, Japan has several national holidays in a row. Most of the days themselves are rather uneventful, but this is the peak time for Japanese people to travel domestically and internationally. You won’t just be competing with international tourists for accommodations and flights, but with the locals as well!
The dates of Obon differ by year and region, but most places celebrate it in mid-August. During this time, Japanese people visit their families and hold joyous dance festivals. Prices on domestic travel skyrocket, but if you stick to one city, it’s a fantastic opportunity to join in local activities. It’s also the least crowded time of year in Tokyo as seemingly half the population goes back to their hometowns.
Like in many parts of the West, many people go back home for the end of the year holidays and domestic rates rise. In Japan, New Year activities start on December 31st, and festivities run until January 3rd. Try to avoid famous temples and shrines because millions of Japanese people attend these places to pray for a good year.
For China and other Eastern countries, the period before, after, and during the Lunar New Year is a peak period for travel. The annual dates generally fall in January or February. Not everyone goes to Japan, but it is a desirable destination because of its proximity. You can join in the fun in Yokohama, Nagasaki, and Kobe’s Chinatowns.
Got a good idea of when you want to go to Japan?