As of spring 2023, Japan seems to be experiencing a resurgence as a hugely popular foreigner tourist destination. There seem to be a ton of visitors tooling around, especially in all the usual destinations. (Pros and cons...)
Weather-wise, 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 off-peak times, and try 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, though everything still functions well, there can be many fun things happening, and last minute accommodations are limited but doable.
- For those familiar with the East Coast USA: Tokyo is sort of 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.
- Try to avoid the June/July rainy season (tsuyu) for convenient sightseeing.
- Summer is fun but super muggy. Check on how hot and humid places can get. Think about your personal level of comfort. Almost everywhere will have A/C, but do you want to be running around to touristy sites during hot summer days?
- Plan strategically. Explore the north when it’s hottest. Though friends in Shikoku say it’s actually less humid down there than in, say, Tokyo. Also, with summer travel you can experience August festival season, though everyone travels and things get expensive (even best fireworks seats).
- Typhoon season is roughly May through September. How serious it gets depends on where you are, depending on region or even town, from high winds to days of rain. You can track them, but they’re squirrelly.
- Autumn is lovely to tool around the country: crisp warm days, stunning colours of autumn leaves (moving north), no big travel-heavy holidays.
- Spring is floral and warm and sunny and lovely —but pollen allergies are so bad Japan is planning a national intervention. Around Golden Week (first week of May) can be a busy and relatively expensive time to travel: plan ahead if travelling then.
- Cherry blossom season can be fleeting and it’s very hard to time your trip well for it. A longer trip makes it easier. Leave some flexibility in your domestic schedule, then travel to the right place at the right time.
- For cherry blossom viewing, some smaller spots can make for lovely experiences, e.g. Shinjuku’s park right in Tokyo. Some hanami meccas, even top-rated nationwide, I’ve found not really worth traveling to see.
- 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 around New Year’s, the entire country shuts down, including tourist places. New Year’s is a big deal.