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When is the best time to visit Japan?

Tea ceremonies, geishas, meido (maid) cafes, Gundam and cherry blossoms – these are just some of the innumerable reasons why you’d want to visit Japan. If you’re starting to devise your travel plans, knowing exactly when to visit could make your experience more worthwhile.

When is the best time to visit Japan? This depends on where you want to go. Japan is an archipelago that has four main islands, as well as four distinct seasons. At any given time of the year, the weather in Japan differs greatly in various parts of the country.

For your benefit, we’ve organised our recommendations on when to visit Japan based on the eight regions of the country. This includes Hokkaido in the north, Okinawa in the south and also the urbanized Kanto region, where Tokyo is located.

The best time to visit Japan, broken down by regions

RegionPoint of entryBest time to visit
HokkaidoSapporoDecember to March;
June to August
TohokuSendaiAugust to November
KantoTokyoApril to June
KansaiOsakaApril to May;
October to November
ChugokuHiroshimaApril to June
ChubuNagoyaApril to May;
September to November
ShikokuTakamatsuApril to May
Kyushu Fukuoka;OkinawaApril to May;
October to November;
December to March (Okinawa)

1. Hokkaido: Sapporo, Niseko, Hakodate, Otaru

Hokkaido is one of Japan’s four main islands and it’s located furthest north.

With an average temperature of -4°C in January, Hokkaido is generally a lot colder than other parts of Japan. Even so, winter’s the most popular time to visit Hokkaido, particularly during the famous Sapporo Snow Festival. During this period, you can indulge in winter activities like skiing and snowboarding.

Visit Niseko, a town with plenty of world-class ski resorts. Another nearby point of interest is Kiroro where you can find lots of powdered snow. If you would like to experience hot springs in winter, head to Noboribetsu and Jozenkai.

Outside of winter, Hokkaido still has a lot to offer, especially in terms of nature. That’s why Hokkaido is often labelled as a year-round destination. With pleasant summer temperatures hovering at 20°C, Hokkaido makes a fantastic summer destination for those who are not a fan of the sweltering heat. During summer, the flower fields of Hokkaido teem with breathtaking floral displays of lavenders, sunflowers and more.

The best time to visit Hokkaido, Japan: Winter, which runs from December to March and summer, from June to August.

What to wear: Hokkaido’s winter temperatures drop below zero. To be comfortable outdoors, put on a hard-shell winter jacket and several warm layers in between. It would also be good to drop by the local konbini (convenience store) to grab some heat packs to warm your feet and hands. Additionally, don’t forget some thick socks, gloves, winter boots and a hat. In summer, t-shirts and dresses would work well.

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2. Tohoku: Sendai, Fukushima  

The Tohoku region is brimming with scenic natural attractions such as lakes, mountains, hot springs and rice fields. The best time to visit the Tohoku region would be from late summer to autumn.

In early August, you can catch the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri which features hand-crafted floats that traverse the Aomori River. Sendai, one of the biggest cities in the Tohoku region, is known for its Tanabata Festival. Also held annually in early August, this festival features bon odori (Obon dances), artistic lanterns, folded paper crane displays and fireworks. In October, Sendai is host to the Yosakoi Dance Festival, one of the largest dance festivals in Japan featuring groups of traditional dancers. It is also during this time that the breathtaking autumn foliage appears in its full glory.

The best time to visit Tohoku, Japan: Late summer to autumn, from August to November.

What to wear: Autumn weather in Tohoku averages between 7 to 15 degrees Celsius, so a light coat, jacket or sweater will do. There is no need for your thick winter jacket, but do prepare at least two layers of clothing if your trip precedes the winter months.

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3. Kanto: Tokyo, Yokohama, Hakone

The most densely populated area of Japan, Kanto is home to the country’s capital city, Tokyo. It’s a favourite spot for first-timers visitors, as well as those who are fans of Japanese visual art and entertainment. The mecca of anime and gaming is here, congregating in places like Akihabara, the Gundam Museum and the Ghibli Museum.

Outside of Tokyo, there’s Yokohama where you can visit Japan’s largest Chinatown, and Hakone where you can get stunning views of Mount Fuji. You can also head to the Gunma Prefecture where there are many onsen resort towns like Shima, Kusatsu and Manza.

If you visit the Kanto region during the sakura season, you can enjoy views of cherry blossoms at the many public parks in the region. This is the peak travel season hence there will be crowds, but the sceneries will surely be worth it.

The best time to visit Kanto, Japan: Spring, from April to June.

What to wear: Temperatures during these months range between 12°C to 20°C. A regular jacket, coat or sweater will suffice. Feel free to layer up fashionably like the Japanese youths would.

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4. Kansai: Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe

Similar to Kanto, the Kansai region used to house several former capital cities. In the Nara period, Osaka was the capital and later on, Kyoto took that role. The remnants of past glory are still apparent particularly in Kyoto where you can glimpse into grandeur at Sento Palace and the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

The city is also home to Japan’s geiko and maiko culture; you can see these elegant hostesses in their resplendent kimonos around the Gion and Pontocho districts. Around April and May each year, there are special dance performances by the geiko and maiko of Kyoto. These dances include the Miyako Odori, Kitano Odori and Kamogawa Odori, and they add on to the charm of visiting Kansai in spring.

Apart from those months, November is also a great time to visit Kansai for viewing the colourful autumn leaves.

Best time to visit Kansai, Japan: Spring, from April to May, as well as autumn, from October to November.

What to wear: In spring and autumn, the temperatures are pleasant and not too cold, with a high of 17-25°C. Bring along a lightweight jacket to keep you warm in the evenings.

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5. Chugoku: Hiroshima, Okayama, Tottori, Yamaguchi, Shimane

The Chugoku region is home to the Hiroshima prefecture which is often remembered for its tragic history during World War II. Today, it’s a city dedicated to peace and the eradication of nuclear weapons. Do visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Atomic Bomb Dome. Apart from Hiroshima, the canal town of Kurashiki is in this region too. Kurashiki used to be a major rice distribution centre and nowadays, you can book yourself a ride on a boat that was once used for rice transportation.

The months of April to June are most pleasant for outdoor activities as daytime temperatures can go to a high of 20 to 26 degrees Celsius. In April, you have the chance to catch sight of the elusive cherry blossoms. The landscapes will be lush and green as summer approaches.

Best time to visit Chugoku, Japan: From April to June.

What to wear: In April and May, put on a long-sleeved shirt in the daytime, and an additional layer in the evenings. In June, however, you can wear short sleeves. Bring along a waterproof jacket in case it rains.

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6. Chubu: Kanagawa, Nagoya, Shizuoka, Nagano

The centrepiece of Chubu, the central region of Japan, is the famous Mount Fuji. This picturesque icon of Japan is covered in snow all year round, and you can get up close with it by visiting the nature park called Fujigoko (or Fuji Five Lakes). Chubu also has some great towns like Nagoya and Inuyama where you can visit ancient castles, among other attractions. Let’s not forget Yamanouchi, home of the cute monkeys that come to bathe in hot springs.

The peak of summer in Chubu is warm and humid, with temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius. It also rains the most in summer. The best time to visit Chubu would be April and May, as well as between September and November.

Best time to visit Chubu, Japan: April and May and from September to November.

What to wear: A lightweight parka or windbreaker for daytime, and a thicker jacket for nighttime will be ideal for spring and autumn.

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7. Shikoku: Naruto, Matsuyama, Takamatsu

Shikoku is an island to the south of Chugoku. It’s known for its temples, mountain parks, ryokans, onsens, and traditional crafts such as the Otani-style clay pottery. You’ll want to visit Naruto, a city famous for its whirlpools (which gave its name to the popular anime character). Matsuyama, Marugame and Ozu are smaller cities or towns known for their historical castles and villas.

You may want to avoid visiting Shikoku in June and July, which is when the region gets the most rain, as well as in August and September, which is the peak typhoon season. Within the months beyond that, spring – particularly in April to May – would be the best time to visit Shikoku especially if you’re planning to go hiking or spend time outdoors.

Best time to visit Shikoku, Japan: From April to May.

What to wear: If you’re going in spring, bomber jackets, trench coats, or light puffer jackets will be a great choice for the cool evenings. Bring along an anorak in case it rains.

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8. Kyushu: Fukuoka, Okinawa, Kumamoto, Miyazaki

Kyushu is the southernmost region of Japan. It has a moderate winter, with temperatures dipping to about 9°C at its coldest. The spring and autumn months are the best time to visit Kyushu as they come with pleasant weather and fewer crowds compared to the summer months.  

Enjoy the urban delights in the capital Fukuoka, like the Canal City Mall and the Yatai food stalls. Visit Nagasaki, where there’s a Peace Park with historical value. If you like history, you can head to Dazaifu with its many ancient temples and shrines.

Kyushu is also home to the Okinawan islands, which are so far south that its weather is considered subtropical. It’s a famous spot for summer activities like island-hopping and hanging out at the beach. Okinawa has some of the best diving and snorkelling spots that teem with coral reefs and marine life.

Best time to visit Kyushu, Japan: April, May, October to November. Okinawa makes a great destination during the winter months as temperatures are comfortable, at about 15-20°C.

What to wear: Pack a jacket during the spring and autumn months in Kyushu as the weather can be chilly at night. During the daytime, you may get away with shorts and sundresses.

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Find the most affordable flights, hotels and car rentals for your upcoming trip to Japan. No matter which region you choose to stay in, Skyscanner is able to help you find cheap flights and the best hotel deals. It can even recommend the best dates for you to travel within your chosen month. Planning your Japan trip will be a lot more about experiencing fun times, rather than fussing over details.

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