|This simple 'Japan Guide' section has been brought over from the previous version of SnowJapan with some simple edits and updates. In the near future we will be re-writing and updating the section and plan to provide more comprehensive information to help people visiting Japan. If you would like to help us by sharing useful information and travel tips for Japan, please do contact us. Feedback is always welcome.
Planning when to go to Japan
Perhaps no other country celebrates and scrutinizes the changing of the seasons like Japan. Spring and autumn are the most popular times to travel and the best if you are planning on fitting some outdoor activities into your schedule. If you're coming for skiing or snowboarding, of course winter is when you will want to be here. And highly recommended it is too!.
Japan has literally hundreds of ski & snowboard resorts dotted around the country, and recently Japan is starting to be noticed more by winter sports enthusiasts from around the world. And so it should be - there is some world class skiing and snowboarding on offer and some of the best powder snow you will find. More on that later...
Summer generally isn't a great time to visit because of the stifling humidity and heat. Unless you like hot and humid, it is probably best to stay away. Having said that, northern parts of Honshu and Hokkaido are cooler than the rest of the country and offer many choices for outdoor recreation and sightseeing.
When traveling in Japan you must keep in mind of the main national holidays which are the biggest holiday periods and the peak traveling season.
Golden Week: late April to early May
Obon Week: mid-August
New Year's, from around December 27th to January 3rd are also usually busy - especially on the ski slopes - and accommodation around that period can be very difficult (and expensive) to find.
You’ve probably heard that Japan is an expensive country to travel in. If you are travelling on the (Shinkansen) bullet trains, it is expensive. There are cheaper ways to get around though, even if they do take longer. If you are coming from overseas and plan to travel around, get hold of the JR Rail Pass which allows you to travel around freely.
Japan’s trustworthy rail system and public transportation network make traveling quick and easy - you really can set your watch by train times. They are very rarely late and almost always on time.... to the minute!
Many people who visit Japan arrive in Tokyo and travel on to Kyoto. This is a good route if it is your first time to the country or if you only have a week or less to look around. Depending on what you want to see and experience, each region of Japan has special offerings to attract different kinds of people. If you’re a nature buff, you may want to head toward the Tohoku region or Hokkaido. If you enjoy cultural attractions such as temples and shrines, you may want to explore the Kansai area and Western Honshu. Regardless of what you hope to see, if you do a bit of research and plan ahead you are guaranteed a time you will never forget. Here's a quick look at the seasons and when is the best time to visit Japan.
From December to March (and beyond), much of Japan is covered in snow, especially the mountainous areas in Honshu and Hokkaido. The Japan Sea side of Honshu can get particularly cold with vast amounts of snow arriving from China and Russia. Surprisingly to many people, there are more ski resorts per capita in Japan than any other country in the world. Many of those resorts are tiny ski hills with one or two lifts, but there are perhaps a few hundred decent sized resorts and some truly world-class skiing & snowboarding on offer.
Hot spring resorts are very popular all year but perhaps most popular in winter. They are a great way to warm yourself up, and if you decide to go skiing or snowboarding you'll soon realize that nothing goes better with a day on the mountain than a post-ski soak in an onsen. Tokyo, southern Japan and Kyushu don't usually see much snow, but if you're traveling anywhere else, it's a good idea pack some warm clothing and be prepared.
Cherry blossoms. Other than Mt. Fuji, perhaps nothing is more representative of Japan then it's famous cherry blossoms. In April and May the country is awash in whites and pinks as the plum and cherry trees are in bloom. The prime time to see the flowers is early to late April, but keep in mind that the further south you are, the earlier they will bloom.
Spring is a great time to be in Japan, but be aware that during the peak season, certain famous viewing areas can be packed and popular tourist destinations will be extremely congested. The main time to avoid is during the Golden Week holiday from late April until early May.
Summer is generally not a good time to visit Japan unless you are planning to go to Hokkaido, or if you don’t mind hot steamy weather. Summer begins in June and has a rainy season ("tsuyu") that usually lasts from mid-June to mid-July. It won't rain everyday, but it does most, so an umbrella is a necessity unless you don’t mind getting wet. If you are traveling in the city it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your umbrella, as they are one of the few things that seem to disappear in Japan if you’re not too careful! Evenings can be cool but when the rain stops it gets hot and extremely humid, so pack accordingly.
From the end of August through September is typhoon season and though most storms run their course before they hit the mainland, you can count on one or two a year biggies every year. Typhoons can wreak havoc on one’s travel plans so you may want to keep an eye on the weather before you go. Obon Week is the second week in August and although there are many festival and events, it is a very busy time to travel as most people are returning to their hometowns to be with their families.
Fall in Japan is very pleasant and a great time to visit. A trip to the countryside and mountains in the autumn is highly recommended. There are many local festivals that coincide with the autumn harvest and you will see people busy working in their rice fields. Days are cool and clear, and the radiant fall colors can be seen everywhere. This is especially nice for visiting temples and shrines as the famous Japanese maples are crimson red and often lit up for visitors to enjoy.
The other great thing about fall is that WINTER COMES NEXT!
Japan General Information
Please note: We will be updating this section in the near future. If you would like to help us do this, please do contact us. Thank you.