Seasons in Japan
Japan fascinates visitors with its old-meets-new culture. From sakura (cherry blossom) festivals and kabuki theater to all-night arcade dance parties, this is a country where ancient traditions coexist alongside cutting-edge trends.
The best way to travel around Japan is with a rail pass; you can also use buses, long-haul ferries and cars. Check out Accessible Japan for more details.
The winter season starts around mid-December and runs through to the middle or end of March. Winter in Japan can get very cold, especially in the mountainous and northern areas of the country. It is also when Japan’s world-class ski resorts are at their most popular.
Many outdoor activities are possible with proper gear and experience. Winter is also the best time to see Japanese ice sculptures. The renowned Sapporo Snow Festival draws millions to the city every February, where elaborate statues take over Odori Park and the Tsudome community dome.
Autumn is another beautiful season, with deciduous trees across the country displaying their deep red hues. Weather tends to be milder than other seasons, and typhoon season is usually over by October. It is an ideal season for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts. You will find that hotels and train tickets are cheaper than other times of the year. The lack of tourists will make you feel like you have Japan all to yourself.
In the mountains and on the beaches, summer is a popular season for hiking, snorkeling, and relaxing. High temperatures and humidity are tempered by cool evenings.
July and August are peak summer, and sights and hotels fill with visitors. Climbers head to Japan’s famous mountain peaks, while festival goers revel in exuberant celebrations across the country.
Summer is also the time of the cicadas, with up to 30 different species that sing their distinctive calls in the forests and countryside. In Kyoto, a more refined affair occurs during the Aoi Matsuri, when hundreds of men and women dressed in Heian-period clothing reenact a procession to the Kamo Shrines.
The weather is also perfect for trying out the chilled versions of some classic Japanese dishes. Zaru soba – thin buckwheat noodles served cold with a light broth – and chilled somen – wheat noodles served with toppings like negi onions, myoga (Japanese ginger), and shiso in a savory dipping sauce – are both popular choices.
Autumn is perhaps the most celebrated season in Japan. The color of the foliage is dazzling, and there are many fall festivals. This is also a good time to try out some of the country’s best regional foods, such as hearty stews and pork cutlets with mushrooms or chestnuts.
A popular autumn activity is momiji-gari, or leaf peeping, which draws crowds to parks and old daimyo (feudal lord) gardens. Maples, wax trees, and rowan turn brilliant red; ginkgoes, linden-leaved maples, Japanese elms, and birches display yellow and gold leaves. In addition, the aki no nanakusa—the seven representative flowers and grasses of autumn—include bush clover, Japanese pampas grass, arrowroot, dianthus, Patrinia scabiosaefolia, and thoroughwort.
Unlike the ephemeral sakura, which peak around mid-April and quickly fade away, fall colors last much longer. They appear first in the northern mountains and Hokkaido, then gradually spread throughout the country through October and November before reaching Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka in late November and early December.
Spring, or sakura (
The temperature in spring is mild, but it’s chilly at the beginning of March and you’ll need a thick coat if you visit places with mountain snow. In April, it gets warmer and by May, you can go without a jacket.
Traditional celebrations during spring include Boys’ Day on the third of March and the Girls’ Festival or Hinamatsuri which involves displaying traditional dolls to pray for healthy growth in girls. The yabusame, or horseback archery, is another popular event in which riders dressed in traditional hunter costumes hit targets adorned with pink and white sakura confetti. Many restaurants and shops release limited food or drink flavours such as sakura mochi or sakura green tea.