When to travel to Japan (weather, etc.)
There’s plenty of general info available on notably poor and good times to visit Japan. Cherry blossoms or something else in bloom, like lavender fields. Festival season in August with loads of impressive fireworks and traditional parades and festivities. Forests and mountains of autumn leaves. A perfect warm spring ski season.
I like to avoid all major domestic tourism weeks (golden week, peak festival time) when Japanese people (100m+) decide to travel at the same exact time, since that’s when work gives people leave.
Weather-wise, though climate change has really thrown a wrench into predictable planning, some notes:
- Summer is fun but very muggy. Check on how hot and humid places can get and think about your personal level of comfort. Generally, head north.
- Just to tool around Japan, I like autumn best. Crisp warm days, stunning colours of autumn leaves (moving north), no big travel-heavy holidays.
- Try to avoid the rainy season (tsuyu) for convenient sightseeing. For the middle part of Honshu (the main island) it’s mostly between June and July.
- There’s also typhoon season, which can run through September in Tokyo. How serious it gets depends on where exactly you are. Different regions experience it much more lightly/seriously, depending on geography.
- Spring is great. Unless you have pollen allergies. It can also be the most expensive time to travel, especially around Golden Week (early May).
- Surprisingly, some smaller spots can have the most lovely cherry blossom experiences, e.g. Shinjuku’s park right in Tokyo. Some of the hanami meccas in the country, the top-rated places, I find not really worth traveling to see.
- That said, cherry blossom season can be fleeting. It seems risky to plan a trip to catch it, given climate variations. But if you have flexibility to plan your in-country travel, you could make it work. Plan your trip with buffer time around the most likely peak dates.
- Do consider winter. Amazing snow for skiing and lots of crazy stuff like ice sculpture competitions. And there’s nothing more relaxing & therapeutic than sitting in an outdoors hot spring bath with snow falling on you! Also, skiing+hot springs = common & amazing combination, whether at lovely rustic resorts or adventurous backcountry getaways.
- But right around New Year’s, the entire country shuts down, including tourist places. New Year’s is a big deal.
- For those familiar with the East Coast USA: Tokyo is like Washington DC, seasons/climate-wise. Going north/south is similar to Maine to Florida. Seasons change mostly the same way, including hot summers, hurricanes/typhoons, and freezing winters.