When is the best time to visit Japan
Yes, it does rain in Japan, but you need it for those moody mists that make the temples look as if they are floating on air.
The best time to visit Japan is between August and January, when there are lots of festivals going on, superb hiking weather, and the magnificent landscapes of autumn. But Japan is definitely a four-season place to holiday. The climate varies from the cooler, mountainous north to the subtropical islands of the south. Cherry blossoms famously take centre stage between March and May, and the less well-known autumn leaf turning is glorious in November, which makes these seasons the most popular times to visit Japan.
When is the best time to visit Japan for the cherry blossoms?Mid-March to April is the best time to see the cherry blossoms in Japan, as they are abundant throughout much of the country including Tokyo and Kyoto. However, the cherry blossom season can begin as early as January in Okinawa, spreading further north as spring continues. Hanami, the traditional act of appreciating the blooms, sees visitors flocking to public parks and gardens to spread out blankets under the trees. Read our guide to seeing the cherry blossoms in Japan for more details
A month by month guide on when to go to Japan
January in Japan
February in Japan
March in Japan
April in Japan
May in Japan
June in Japan
June is traditionally low season because it is rainy, but to watch the rice plants being planted in the paddy fields is absolutely enchanting.
– Jeremy Spencer from our partner OKU Japan
July in Japan
August in Japan
August is great for a Nakasendo Trail walking holiday
September in Japan
September is great for a Japan Golden Route holiday
October in Japan
October is great for joining pilgrims on a Kumano Kodo Trail walking holiday
November in Japan
December in Japan
Our Japan Holidays
Tokyo Weather Chart
If you'd like to chat about Japan or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Best times to visit Japan for festivals & events
Cherry blossom season (January to May)Japan’s famous cherry blossom season begins as early as January in the south of the country and spreads further north as spring goes on, lasting until May. Hanami, the traditional practise of admiring the blooms, sees large crowds of people gather in public gardens and parks, spreading out picnic blankets and posing for photos. It’s a gorgeous natural spectacle, closely rivalled by the autumn leaf-turning.
Sapporo Snow Festival (early February)This week-long winter event sees international teams competing to build huge and intricate sculptures of snow and ice, and has been going on since 1950. Thousands of people come to admire these transient works of art, which are softly illuminated in the evenings, as well as to enjoy the ice-skating rink, snow slides, and Hokkaido delicacies such as crab nabe hotpot from the many stalls.
Kanamara Matsuri (first Sunday of April)The Kanamara Matsuri in Kawasaki is one of Japan’s most unusual festivals. Held at the Kanayama Shrine, the festival attracts devotees praying for good marital relations, successful childbirth, and sexual health. Curious visitors, meanwhile, tend to be there to see the many phallic symbols that are paraded around – don’t miss the penis-shaped sweets. The festival raises funds for HIV research, another reason to check it out.
Golden Week (late April to early May)Golden Week is a grouping of five public holidays that means many cities empty out as Japanese people return to their family homes in small towns and the countryside. Lots of businesses in the cities temporarily draw their shutters, while hotels and public transport tend to be very busy. Silver Week in September is another hectic period that makes travel to Japan inadvisable, but that only takes place sporadically rather than every year.
Inakadate rice paddy art (June to October)This charming festival around the village of Inakadate in northern Honshu began as a way to combat a declining population, as well as to boost much-needed tourism income. Every May, hundreds of volunteers plant rice in intricate patterns and designs. By summer, their efforts burst extravagantly to life in fields and on hillsides. Aerial views from the observatory platform are best and colours are generally at their most rich in July.
Gion Matsuri (July)With 1,000 years of history behind it, the Gion Matsuri is one of Kyoto’s largest and most impressive religious festivals. Portable shrines and huge colourful floats are moved around the city throughout the whole of July, but the best time to be in the city is 14-18 July. That’s when the big float parade takes place, and also when the Yoiyama street food festival gives the evenings a delicious aroma.
Obon Festival (August)The Obon (or Bon) Festival is a Buddhist celebration that commemorates ancestors, family and friends that have passed on. Traditions include laying offerings at graves and carrying lanterns from the grave back to the family home to encourage spirits inside. Public transport and hotels are busy throughout the three-day festival. One of the best places to experience Obon is Kyoto, where the hillside is lit up with huge bonfires in the shape of Chinese letters and symbolic shapes, as a send-off for those returning to the spirit world.
Koyo & Momiji autumn leaves (mid-November to early December)Japan’s autumn is between mid-September and early December, and is heralded by the foliage turning vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange – a process known as koyo (momiji refers specifically to red maple leaves). It’s a spectacle on a par with the cherry blossoms of spring and a blissful time to be walking in forested areas particularly. Nikko National Park and Lake Chuzenji are among our favourite places to admire the trees.
Our travellers also ask…
When is Golden Week in Japan?Golden Week in Japan takes place between late April and early May every year. It’s a cluster of public holidays: Shōwa Day (29 April), Constitution Day (3 May), Greenery Day (4 May) and Children’s Day (5 May) that sees many Japanese people leaving the cities to visit their families. Trains are full, hotel prices rocket, and a lot of restaurants and shops close in the cities. Joining in with the festivities can be a nice experience, but generally speaking Golden Week is not the best time to travel in Japan.
When is the cheapest time to visit Japan?Late autumn to March and high summer (July and August) tend to be the cheapest times to visit Japan. Small group and tailor made trips to Japan don’t fluctuate in price a great deal throughout the year. However, there are certain periods when flights and hotels are likely to be more expensive, such as Golden Week and the Obon Festival. The cherry blossom season in spring and the leaf-turning season in autumn can also be expensive.
Our guide to budget holidays in Japan has more details
How early do I need to book a stay in a Japanese ryokan?If you’re travelling during peak season (usually spring and autumn), then you should book your ryokan stay as early as possible – and at least several months in advance – for the most options. Spending a few nights in one of these traditional inns is a highlight of many stays in Japan, not least because they often have private hot spring baths (onsens) attached. Naturally, that makes them very sought-after, but there are also plenty of public onsens around if you find no room at the inn. Just be sure you’re aware of the rules and customs involved.
Find out about bathing etiquette and rules with our guide to Japanese onsens
When is the best time to see the snow monkeys in Japan?The best time to see the cute snow monkeys of Jigokudani Monkey Park is between December and March, when hundreds of the macaques soak themselves in the natural hot springs against a snowy backdrop. They are there all year round, however, so consider coming in the spring, March or April, or autumn, October or November, when there are likely to be fewer visitors. The park is a conservation area outside the hot spring village of Kanbayashi on Honshu. Unfortunately, the thermal pools are not currently wheelchair accessible, with a steep staircase to negotiate before you reach them.
More about Japan
Our Japan travel guide aims to show you what makes it such a unique country.
When working out where to go in Japan understand there are more islands than Honshu.
Learn when to see Japan's cherry blossom, and where the awesome arrays occur.
Japan's Shinkansen trains provide peace, safety and comfort for passengers.
All of Japan's cities offer a different history, cuisine, style and vibe.
Walking in Japan goes far beyond getting some good exercise in the fresh air.
Japanese food and drink is delicious, healthy, seasonal, and often locally sourced.
Travelling in Japan with kids is wonderful, and so fun it brings out the child in you too.
Much of our useful Japan travel advice revolves around traditions and etiquette.
Japan has a long history of openness and tolerance towards homosexuality.
All of Japan’s cities are fascinating, but Kyoto and Nara are truly special.
Follow the lead of the macaques in Jidokudani Monkey Park and visit a Japanese onsen.
Exploring Tokyo with a local leads you to really unique locations and special activities.
One aspect of responsible tourism in Japan cannot be ignored - the whale.