The Best Time to Visit Japan – A Trip Planning Guide

Wondering what the best time to visit Japan is? While Japan is a great city to visit any time of the year, we’ve put together a detailed guide for the best time to go to Japan depending on your interests, events and weather conditions.

Overall, we think that for most people the best seasons to visit Japan are spring and late autumn.  Not only is the weather more pleasant (not too hot or too cold) but you can enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms or autumn leaves.  Depending on your interests, you might prefer to visit Japan another time. Hopefully this guide will help you pick the best time to visit for you.

Best Time to Visit Japan by Interests

Cherry Blossom Viewing (Sakura) – The best time to visit Japan for cherry blossoms varies by location and from year to year. The flowers bloom from the south to the north of Japan – starting as early as January in Okinawa and as late as early to mid May in Hokkaido. The cherry blossoms usually reach full bloom at the end of March or early April in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Read More: Tips for Cherry Blossom Viewing in Japan for when and where to see cherry blossoms in Japan.

Watching a Professional Sumo Wrestling Tournament – Professional sumo tournaments are held in Japan six times per year as follows: Tokyo (January, May and September), Osaka (March), Nagoya (July) and Fukuoka (November).  Each tournament lasts for 15 days and the exact dates each year can be found on the Japan Sumo Association official websiteRead more: Tips for Watching Sumo Wrestling in Japan for how and where to buy sumo wrestling tickets.

Watching a Professional Baseball Game –  Baseball is the most popular sport in Japan. Regular season games are held from late March to October. You can learn more and buy baseball tickets here.

Autumn Leaves – The beautiful autumn leaves can be seen in Tokyo for two weeks in late fall.  The timing of the autumn leaves varies from year to year but the best time to see the autumn leaves in Tokyo is usually sometime from mid November to early December.

Good Weather –  The months with the best weather in Japan are typically late March, April, November and early December.  While winter can be cold, it is not too cold to explore Japan if you dress warmly.  Summer is our least favorite season in terms of weather and it can be very hot and humid with a rainy season from mid June to late July.  Also watch out for the typhoon season (from May to October with August and September being the peak of the typhoon season). You can see the average weather in Japan by month checking specific cities at weatherbase.com.

Avoiding Crowds – Japan is more crowded during cherry blossom season.  Also be aware when visiting Japan during national holidays (including Golden Week in the spring and Ubon in the summer) – transportation and accommodation tends to be booked during these times as the Japanese are traveling. See a list of national holidays here. In addition to the usual busy travel periods, Japan will be especially busy this fall during the 2019 Rugby World Cup (September 20 – November 2, 2019) and the summer of 2020 for the Summer Olympics (July 24 – August 9, 2020).

Best Season to Visit Japan

Visiting Japan in the Winter 

 A picture of a Japanese snow monkey in Nagano taken while visiting Japan in the winter

We have visited Japan twice in the winter and loved it.  Winter in Tokyo is cold but not too cold – the temperature is rarely  below freezing and it is rare to find snow on the ground.  If you visit Tokyo in the winter you need to bundle up so make sure to pack a winter coat, scarf, globes, hat, and dress in layers.

If you visit Tokyo in the first week of December, you might still be able to see the beautiful autumn leaves.

You can catch a professional sumo tournament in Tokyo for two weeks in January (January 12-26, 2020).

The Sapporo Snow festival takes place in the winter (the dates are January 31 to February 11 in 2020).

You can also go skiing or visit the famous snow monkeys at Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park which are best seen in the winter.

Visiting Japan in the Spring 

Seeing the beautiful cherry blossoms is a reason spring is the best time of the year to visit Japan

Most people consider the spring the best season to go to Japan. Our first trip to Japan was in the spring because we wanted to see the beautiful cherry blossoms which we did.  However, many visitors also have the same idea so accommodation gets booked early and hotel prices will be higher during the cherry blossom season.

The best time to visit Japan for cherry blossoms varies by location and from year to year. The cherry blossoms usually reach full bloom at the end of March or early April in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka and as late as early to mid May in Hokkaido. See related post: Tips for Cherry Blossom Viewing in Japan for when and where to see cherry blossoms in Japan.

You can catch a professional sumo wresting tournament in Osaka in in mid-March (March 8 – 22, 2020) and in Tokyo in mid-May (May 10 – 24, 2020).

You might want to avoid travel in Japan during Golden Week.  The Golden Week consists of four national holidays within seven days and is one of Japan’s busiest holiday seasons. Trains, airports and tourist attractions get very crowded during Golden Week, and accommodation in can get booked out well in advance. (The dates of Golden Week in 2020 are April 29 – May 5, 2020.)

Temperature wise the weather in spring is great for walking around and exploring or hanging out at the park. You will probably need a light coat or a trench coat especially in early spring.

Visiting Japan in the Summer

Japan in the summer is our least favorite time to visit Japan mostly because of the weather.  Summers in Japan can be hot and humid making it difficult to walk around and explore. Tokyo’s rainy season is from mid-June to late July. While it does not rain all day every day, you will need to bring an umbrella.

Since students in the Northern Hemisphere are on vacation in the summer, tourist attractions are more likely to be crowded with more families.

However, many of the best festivals in Japan take place in the summer including Gion Matsuri which takes place In Kyoto in July. See a list of Japan festivals here.

One reason to visit Japan in the summer is if you want to climb Mt. Fuji – the official climbing season is usually from early July to mid September.

In mid-July, you can catch a professional sumo wresting tournament in Nagoya (July 7- 21, 2019).

If you visit Japan in the summer, you might want to avoid Obon, which is a holiday during which the Japanese return to ancestral family places. The dates of Obon are August 13-15, 2019 with the peak of the Obon travel season expected to take place between August 10-18, 2019.

Visiting Japan in Autumn 

Early fall is still hot and rainy (September is the peak of the typhoon season) but late autumn in Japan is a great time to visit in terms of great weather.

In mid September, you can catch a professional sumo wresting tournament in Tokyo in mid-May (September 8 – 22, 2019).

November is one of the best months to go to Japan.  You can enjoy the autumns leaves in mid or late November. Late fall is chillier so you will probably need a light coat or a trench coat.

Please note that this fall will be more crowded than usual because Japan will be hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup (September 20 – November 2, 2019).

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