Best Time to Visit Japan
The best time to travel to Japan is during Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November).
Spring in Japan
Spring in Japan is a captivating season known for its cherry blossoms, or “sakura,” which typically bloom from late March to early April. The country transforms into a breathtaking landscape of pink and white flowers. The weather is pleasantly mild, making it perfect for outdoor activities and sightseeing. Various festivals and hanami (flower viewing) gatherings take place, celebrating the beauty of cherry blossoms.
Autumn in Japan
Autumn, also known as the fall season, is another ideal time to visit Japan. The months of September to November bring cooler temperatures and vibrant foliage. The changing colors of the leaves, known as “koyo,” create stunning landscapes across the country. This season is perfect for hiking, exploring gardens, and enjoying the stunning natural beauty. Festivals like the Jidai Matsuri and Shichi-Go-San are celebrated during this time.
January in Japan
January is winter in Japan, and the weather is typically cold and dry. The temperatures vary across the country, with northern areas experiencing colder temperatures and snowfall, while southern regions are milder. Average temperatures range from around 2°C (36°F) in Tokyo to -2°C (28°F) in Sapporo.
- New Year’s Day (Shogatsu): January 1st is a significant holiday in Japan, marking the beginning of the New Year. Many people visit shrines and temples for hatsumode, the first shrine or temple visit of the year, to pray for good fortune.
- Coming of Age Day (Seijin no Hi): Held on the second Monday of January, this day celebrates young people who have turned 20, marking their entry into adulthood. Ceremonies and events take place throughout the country.
- Tokyo International Gift Show: This event usually occurs in early January and is one of the largest gift and lifestyle product exhibitions in Japan. It showcases a wide range of products, from traditional crafts to modern designs.
- Sapporo Snow Festival: Starting in late January, this iconic festival takes place in Sapporo and features incredible snow and ice sculptures. Visitors from all over the world come to admire the stunning creations.
- Japanese New Year Sale (Fukubukuro): Many stores hold “lucky bag” sales in early January, offering mystery bags of items at discounted prices. Shoppers line up for a chance to get surprise goodies.
Japan in February
Japan in February marks the transition from winter to spring. The weather is generally cool and crisp, with temperatures ranging from around 0°C to 10°C (32°F to 50°F) in most regions. Northern areas like Hokkaido experience colder temperatures and snowfall, while southern regions like Okinawa enjoy milder conditions.
- Setsubun: Held on February 3rd, Setsubun is a traditional bean-throwing ceremony to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck for the coming year. People throw roasted soybeans while shouting “Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi!” (Out with demons, in with fortune!).
- Sapporo Snow Festival: Taking place in Sapporo, Hokkaido, this internationally renowned festival features massive snow and ice sculptures. Held in early February, the festival attracts visitors from around the world who come to admire the intricate artworks.
- Valentine’s Day: Similar to Western traditions, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Japan on February 14th. However, it’s customary for women to give chocolates to men, with different types of chocolates carrying various meanings.
- Plum Blossom Festivals: As a precursor to the cherry blossoms, plum blossoms start to bloom in February. Various plum blossom festivals are held across Japan, with notable ones at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto and Kairakuen Garden in Mito.
- Bean-Throwing Festival (Mamemaki): On the same day as Setsubun, many shrines and temples host Mamemaki events where visitors throw beans to drive away evil spirits and invite good fortune. It’s a lively and family-friendly tradition.
Japan in March
In March, Japan experiences the transition from winter to spring. The weather starts to get milder, with temperatures gradually rising. On average, temperatures range from 5°C to 15°C (41°F to 59°F), making it a pleasant time to visit. However, it can still be a bit chilly, especially in the early part of the month.
- Hinamatsuri (Doll’s Festival): Celebrated on March 3rd, Hinamatsuri is a traditional festival also known as the Doll’s Festival or Girls’ Day. Families display ornamental dolls representing the imperial court and hold special ceremonies to pray for the health and happiness of young girls.
- Hanami (Cherry Blossom Viewing): As March progresses, cherry blossoms (sakura) start to bloom across the country. Hanami is a popular tradition where people gather in parks to appreciate the beauty of cherry blossoms, have picnics, and enjoy the outdoors with friends and family.
- White Day: Celebrated on March 14th, White Day is a follow-up to Valentine’s Day. On this day, men give gifts to women who gave them chocolates on Valentine’s Day. It’s a day to reciprocate feelings and express gratitude.
- Shunbun no Hi (Vernal Equinox Day): Around March 20th or 21st, Japan observes the Vernal Equinox, a national holiday. It’s a day to celebrate the arrival of spring and pay respects to ancestors. Many people visit cemeteries and perform rituals during this time.
- Tokyo Marathon: The Tokyo Marathon usually takes place in early March. It’s one of the major marathon events in the world, attracting participants from various countries. Runners get the chance to experience the sights of Tokyo while competing in this challenging race.
Japan in April
Japan in April marks the transition from winter to spring. The weather during this month is generally mild and pleasant. Cherry blossoms (sakura) are in full bloom, and the average temperature ranges from around 10 to 15 degrees Celsius (50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit). However, weather can vary across different regions of Japan.
- Cherry Blossom Festivals: April is synonymous with cherry blossoms in Japan. The cherry blossom season, known as “hanami,” is celebrated with numerous festivals, picnics, and gatherings under blooming cherry trees. Some famous spots for cherry blossom viewing include Tokyo’s Ueno Park, Kyoto’s Maruyama Park, and Osaka Castle Park.
- Golden Week: Golden Week is a series of national holidays that usually takes place from late April to early May. It includes Showa Day (April 29), Constitution Memorial Day (May 3), Greenery Day (May 4), and Children’s Day (May 5). Many people take advantage of the consecutive holidays to travel or engage in leisure activities.
- Yabusame Festival: Yabusame is a traditional Japanese archery event that takes place at various shrines across the country in April. Mounted archers dressed in traditional attire shoot arrows at wooden targets while riding on horseback. One of the most famous Yabusame festivals is held at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura.
- Takayama Festival: Held in the historic town of Takayama in the Gifu Prefecture, this festival is known for its elaborate floats, traditional music, and performances. The Takayama Festival takes place on April 14 and 15 (spring festival) and October 9 and 10 (autumn festival), attracting both locals and tourists.
- Kanamara Matsuri: Also known as the “Festival of the Steel Phallus,” this unique and slightly eccentric festival is held in Kawasaki on the first Sunday of April. It celebrates fertility and includes processions of phallic-shaped floats. The event aims to raise awareness and funds for HIV research and prevention.
Japan in May
May is a wonderful time to visit Japan as spring is in full swing. The weather is generally mild and pleasant across the country. Average temperatures range from around 15°C to 23°C (59°F to 73°F). It’s a great time to enjoy the blooming cherry blossoms and other colorful flowers in various parks and gardens.
- Golden Week: Golden Week is a series of national holidays that usually takes place from late April to early May. It includes Showa Day (April 29), Constitution Memorial Day (May 3), Greenery Day (May 4), and Children’s Day (May 5). Many Japanese people take advantage of the consecutive holidays to travel or spend time with their families.
- Kanda Matsuri: This grand festival is held during odd-numbered years in Tokyo’s Kanda area. It features vibrant processions of mikoshi (portable shrines), music, and traditional performances. It’s one of Tokyo’s three major festivals and showcases the rich cultural heritage of the city.
- Aoi Matsuri: Taking place in Kyoto on May 15, the Aoi Matsuri, or “Hollyhock Festival,” is one of the city’s most famous festivals. Participants dress in historical costumes from the Heian period and parade through the streets, reenacting an ancient imperial procession.
- Sanja Matsuri: Held on the third weekend of May at the Asakusa Shrine in Tokyo, the Sanja Matsuri is a lively Shinto festival known for its energetic atmosphere. It involves impressive mikoshi parades, traditional performances, and a vibrant street fair.
- Wisteria Festivals: May is a time when wisteria flowers are in full bloom. Various wisteria festivals take place throughout Japan, such as the Ashikaga Flower Park Wisteria Festival and the Kameido Tenjin Wisteria Festival in Tokyo. These festivals showcase the stunning beauty of these cascading flowers.
Japan in June
June is a transitional month in Japan, transitioning from spring to summer. The weather becomes warmer and more humid as the month progresses. Average temperatures range from around 20°C (68°F) in the northern regions to 25°C (77°F) in the southern areas. Rainfall increases during June, especially in the early part of the month, making it one of the wettest months of the year.
It’s advisable to pack both light clothing for the warmer days and some rain gear for the occasional showers.
- Tsuyu (Rainy Season): June marks the beginning of the rainy season, known as “Tsuyu.” It usually lasts for a few weeks and brings frequent rain showers to the country. The landscape becomes lush and green during this time.
- Hakata Gion Yamakasa: This traditional festival takes place in Fukuoka during the first half of July. However, preparations and events leading up to the main festival happen in June. Participants carry massive floats through the streets, showcasing the city’s rich cultural heritage.
- Sanno Matsuri: Held in Tokyo in mid-June, the Sanno Matsuri is one of Tokyo’s three major festivals. It features elaborate processions, including portable shrines and traditional performances, celebrating the protective deities of the city.
- Hiwatari Shinji: Taking place on June 6th at Kyoto’s Kurama Temple, this fire-walking ceremony is a unique Shugendo ritual. Monks and participants walk over hot coals to purify their bodies and minds.
- Yosakoi Soran Festival: This modern dance festival is held in Sapporo, Hokkaido. Teams perform energetic dances to traditional and contemporary music. The festival typically starts in June and lasts for several days.
July in Japan
Japan in Julyis characterized by warm and humid weather. Average temperatures range between 25°C to 30°C (77°F to 86°F), with higher temperatures in urban areas. Humidity levels are relatively high, making it feel warmer than the actual temperature. Rainfall is common during this month, with the tsuyu (rainy season) usually occurring in June and extending into early July in many regions.
- Tanabata Festival: Celebrated on July 7th, the Tanabata Festival, also known as the “Star Festival,” is based on a Japanese legend about two stars, Orihime and Hikoboshi, who are allowed to meet only once a year. People write wishes on colorful strips of paper and hang them on bamboo branches, along with decorations. Festivals featuring parades, traditional performances, and fireworks are held across Japan.
- Gion Matsuri: The Gion Matsuri is one of Kyoto’s most famous festivals, held throughout July. It culminates in a grand procession known as the Yamaboko Junko, where elaborately decorated floats are paraded through the streets. The festival has a history dating back over a thousand years and is a celebration of Kyoto’s culture and history.
- Urabon (Obon) Festival: Urabon, also known as Obon, is a Buddhist festival held in mid-July, although the date can vary by region. It’s a time to honor deceased ancestors’ spirits. People light lanterns and participate in traditional Bon dances. The festival’s customs vary across Japan, but it’s generally a time of remembrance and spiritual reflection.
- Sumida River Fireworks Festival: Held on the last Saturday of July, the Sumida River Fireworks Festival in Tokyo is one of the largest and most spectacular fireworks displays in Japan. Over 20,000 fireworks are launched from boats on the Sumida River, illuminating the night sky and drawing massive crowds along the riverbanks.
- Shinjuku Eisa Festival: Taking place in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, the Shinjuku Eisa Festival usually occurs at the end of July. Eisa is a traditional dance from Okinawa, and this festival showcases energetic performances by various dance groups. The festival’s vibrant atmosphere, dynamic choreography, and drumming make it a must-see event.
Japan in August
August is generally a warm and humid month in Japan, characterized by hot temperatures and occasional rainfall. Average temperatures range from 25°C to 30°C (77°F to 86°F) in most regions. The humidity can make the heat feel more intense, especially in urban areas.
- Obon Festival: Obon, also known as the Festival of Souls, is a traditional Japanese event that takes place in mid-August. It’s a time to honor and remember deceased ancestors’ spirits. Families clean and decorate graves, light lanterns, and participate in Bon Odori dances.
- Firework Festivals: August is a prime month for spectacular fireworks displays across Japan. These festivals, known as “hanabi taikai,” draw large crowds to enjoy the colorful pyrotechnics lighting up the night sky. One notable event is the Sumida River Fireworks Festival in Tokyo.
- Awa Odori Festival: Held in Tokushima Prefecture, the Awa Odori is one of Japan’s largest dance festivals. Participants, including locals and visitors, dance through the streets to traditional music, wearing distinctive outfits. The festival has a lively and festive atmosphere.
- Comiket (Comic Market): Comiket is one of the world’s largest self-published comic book fairs, focusing on manga, anime, and fan-made creations. It takes place at Tokyo Big Sight and attracts thousands of attendees, cosplayers, and artists from around the country.
- Kyoto Kiyomizu-dera Gion Light Up: The iconic Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto holds a special evening event in August where the temple and its surroundings are illuminated by lanterns. This creates a magical atmosphere, and visitors can enjoy the temple in a unique way.
Japan in September
September marks the transition from summer to autumn in Japan. The weather gradually cools down, and the humidity levels decrease. Average temperatures range from 20°C to 28°C (68°F to 82°F), making it a pleasant time to explore the country.
- Respect for the Aged Day: On the third Monday of September (September 19th in 2023), Japan celebrates Respect for the Aged Day. It’s a national holiday dedicated to honoring and showing appreciation for the elderly population. Families often gather and give gifts to their older relatives.
- Tokyo Game Show: Held annually in September, the Tokyo Game Show is a major event for the gaming industry. It showcases upcoming video games, gaming technology, and trends. Gamers, developers, and enthusiasts from around the world attend this event to experience the latest in gaming culture.
- Japanese Moon Viewing Festival (Tsukimi): Also known as Otsukimi, this traditional event takes place in September when the full moon is particularly beautiful. People gather to appreciate the moon’s beauty, make offerings of rice dumplings, and celebrate the harvest season.
- Osaka Auto Messe: Car enthusiasts gather in Osaka for the annual Osaka Auto Messe. This event showcases customized cars, aftermarket parts, and automotive accessories. It’s a hub for car lovers to explore the latest trends in automotive design and modification.
- Kyoto International Manga Anime Fair: Manga and anime fans should not miss the Kyoto International Manga Anime Fair in September. This event celebrates Japanese pop culture with exhibitions, workshops, and cosplay events. It’s a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the world of manga and anime.
Japan in October
October is a delightful time to visit Japan, as the weather transitions from the warm days of summer to the cooler temperatures of autumn. The average temperature in October ranges from around 15°C to 22°C (59°F to 72°F), depending on the region. The humidity starts to decrease, and you can experience pleasant and comfortable weather suitable for outdoor activities.
- Fall Foliage Viewing (Momijigari): October is known for its stunning autumn foliage, and many parks and gardens across Japan transform into vibrant shades of red, orange, and gold. Places like Kyoto’s Arashiyama, Nikko, and the Japanese Alps offer breathtaking views of the fall colors.
- Tokyo International Film Festival: Film enthusiasts gather in Tokyo to enjoy a diverse selection of both Japanese and international films. The festival features screenings, workshops, and discussions with filmmakers, making it a significant event in the cinematic calendar.
- Shichi-Go-San Festival: Celebrated on November 15th, this traditional festival is often observed in October. It’s a rite of passage for children aged three, five, and seven, where they dress in kimono and visit shrines to receive blessings for their growth and well-being.
- Okunchi Festival, Nagasaki: Taking place in Nagasaki, this festival blends Japanese and Chinese cultural elements. It features vibrant parades, traditional performances, and dragon dances, making it a unique and captivating experience.
- Sapporo International Half Marathon: Held in the northern city of Sapporo, this event attracts runners from around the world. The course takes participants through the city’s scenic spots and offers a glimpse of Sapporo’s beauty.
Japan in November
In November, Japan experiences cooler temperatures as autumn transitions into winter. Northern regions like Hokkaido may experience temperatures around 5°C (41°F), while more southern areas like Tokyo can expect temperatures around 12°C (54°F). It’s generally a dry month with minimal rainfall.
Shichi-Go-San, meaning “Seven-Five-Three,” is a traditional rite of passage for children of specific ages (7, 5, and 3) held on November 15th. Families dress up their children in traditional clothing and visit shrines to pray for their well-being and growth.
Culture Day (Bunka no Hi)
Culture Day, observed on November 3rd, celebrates Japanese culture and the arts. Various cultural events, exhibitions, and performances are held across the country. It’s a national holiday, allowing people to immerse themselves in Japan’s rich cultural heritage.
Beaujolais Nouveau Release
On the third Thursday of November, Japan eagerly joins the global celebration of the release of Beaujolais Nouveau, a young red wine from France. Festivals, parties, and events are organized, and wine enthusiasts gather to sample the new vintage.
Autumn Foliage Viewing
November is a fantastic month for appreciating the vibrant autumn foliage (koyo) in Japan. Popular spots like Kyoto, Nikko, and Nara offer breathtaking landscapes as the leaves change colors, creating a picturesque setting for both locals and tourists.
Torinoichi are traditional markets held at various shrines in November. These markets offer ornamental rakes (kumade), considered as lucky charms for business prosperity. People visit the markets to buy these rakes and pray for good fortune.
Japan in December
December is a winter month in Japan, characterized by cold temperatures and occasional snowfall. Northern regions such as Hokkaido experience sub-zero temperatures, while central areas like Tokyo and Kyoto have milder but still chilly weather. Southern regions like Okinawa have relatively milder temperatures.
Date: December 23
The Emperor’s Birthday is a national holiday in Japan, celebrated to honor the reigning Emperor’s birthday. It’s a day of reflection and festivities, with special events and well-wishing ceremonies taking place across the country.
Japan is known for its elaborate and enchanting Christmas illuminations. Cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Sapporo light up with stunning displays of colorful lights and decorations, turning the streets into a magical winter wonderland.
Hatsumode (New Year’s Shrine Visit)
Late December to early January
As December draws to a close, many Japanese people prepare for the New Year by visiting shrines and temples for Hatsumode. This traditional practice involves making wishes and praying for good fortune in the upcoming year.
Kouhaku Uta Gassen
Date: December 31
This annual music show is a staple of Japanese New Year’s Eve celebrations. It features popular musical artists and groups competing in a singing contest divided into red (female) and white (male) teams. The show has been a cultural phenomenon since the 1950s.
Throughout December and New Year
Osechi Ryori is a traditional Japanese New Year’s cuisine consisting of various symbolic dishes served in lacquered boxes. These dishes have auspicious meanings and are carefully prepared to celebrate the start of the new year with good fortune.