When is the Best Time to Travel to Japan?
With such a focus placed on cherry blossom season, it’s easy to assume spring is the only time worth travelling to Japan. However, whilst spring may well be the best season to visit Japan, this doesn’t mean that you can’t, or shouldn’t, visit Japan at other times of the year. As well as having four distinct seasons, each with their own beauty, festivals and cultural importance, Japan also features an incredibly varied climate, which fluctuates greatly between regions. For example, Hiroshima experiences heavy rainfall in May, whilst Tokyo’s rainy season is spread across the year, yet Kyoto always remains temperate, and is pleasant to visit whenever. The significance of this variety is that whatever month you choose to travel to Japan, you’ll be sure to find a region worth visiting.
The Best Seasons to Visit Japan; Spring and Autumn
Spring, aka cherry blossom season, is undoubtedly the most popular time, and arguably the best season, to visit Japan. Although usually commencing in late March and peaking a week following bloom, cherry blossom season does vary considerably per Japanese region, and year. Heading to Japan in the springtime however is a safe bet that you’ll catch the famous cherry blossoms in some state or form. If experiencing the blossoms is top of your Japanese bucket list, make sure to plan your trip accordingly; in cooler regions, such as Sapporo, the blossoms often don’t bloom until May, whereas milder regions, like Nagasaki, experience their blossoms much earlier. If you miss the blossoms in your chosen region, simply leave space in your trip’s itinerary to allow for change, and head where they’re next in bloom.
Late April and early May is a popular time to visit Japan for another reason; the abundance of festivals, in what is known locally as ‘golden week‘. Well worth experiencing, the excitement and fun these festivals bring does come at a price however- both literally and in terms of tourist volume. Prices especially skyrocket in May, with the first week of May being the busiest time of year for Japanese travel. Whilst this might solidify May as the best month to visit Japan, it could also mean spring isn’t the season for you, if crowds and pricing are features you wish to consider.
Cherry blossoms aside, there are plenty more reasons to visit Japan in the spring; weigh all these variables up before deciding whether to plan your trip for peak season!
Whilst autumn is one of the most expensive times to visit Japan due to the spectacular changing foliage (which means autumn is also widely regarded as the best time to travel to Japan), this heftier price-tag isn’t true for all regions. Hiroshima’s peak tourist season, for example, is in July and August, meaning autumn can be a cheaper and quieter time to visit, whilst still allowing you to enjoy the autumn leaves in all their glory.
Meanwhile, if you don’t mind the rain, you can grab yourself an absolute bargain by travelling to areas known for their October rainfall, such as Yudanaka. If money isn’t an issue however, and you’re wanting to experience a true Japanese autumn to the full, we’d recommend these top 10 places to view autumn leaves in Japan.
The Benefits of Visiting Japan Off-Season; Summer and Winter
Whilst spring and autumn may boast a lack of rainfall, mild temperatures and sunny skies in general, by opting to visit in the off-season, you can still unlock the beauty of Japan, whilst seriously avoiding both heightened prices and excessive crowds.
At odds with many destinations, summer is one of the least popular times to visit Japan due to the intense humidity it brings. Some regions do experience lower humidity however, such as Matsumoto, a destination most-crowded during cherry blossom season, which means it can be yours to explore in the summertime.
If you’re wanting to visit Japan in the summer, but avoid the rainfall as best possible, the regions of Takamatsu and Shikoku are for you. Offering high temperatures of 30 degrees, whilst these regions do still possess adequate rainfall (which unfortunately is unavoidable in the Japanese summertime), this remains much lower than other areas, and so Takamatsu and Shikoku prove very popular with tourists throughout the summer.
If you can get past the heat, there are several compelling reasons to visit Japan in the summer, including drastically reduced crowds, ideal hiking conditions in the Japanese Alps and Hokkaido’s wild national parks, and a plethora of Japanese festivals, including Kyoto Matsuri and the Obon festival.
Contrary to popular belief, winter is a great time of the year to visit Japan, particularly in regions such as Takayama and Kanazawa. Offering an unparalleled atmosphere that’d even give the alps a run for their money, these regions turn into the most idyllic winter wonderland. Takayama also boasts renowned ski resorts, whilst the winter illuminations spread across Japan are reason enough alone to visit in the colder months.
There’s another reason why you should consider visiting in winter; the low cost. Due to the aforementioned foliage, prices peak in spring and autumn, making winter one of the cheapest times to travel (just so long as you avoid New Years!). For a warmer winter climate, Nagasaki is a safe bet, whilst the Sapporo Snow Festival makes visiting Japan in February incredibly appealing.
Ultimately, with such a varied climate, whatever time of the year you choose to visit Japan, you’re guaranteed a fantastic and unique experience, with each season offering something special across the region, in terms of both natural beauty and activity.
Whilst spring and autumn are perhaps still the best times to visit Japan, it’s certainly just as worth going off-season, especially if you’re keeping an eye on your budget, or wanting to see something more out of the ordinary, proving the best time to travel to Japan really is anytime! For more inspiration for your trip, including what to experience in Japan, and the most popular Japanese festivals to visit, keep reading our blog. Happy travels!