That is a great question:-
Update Nov 2019
We are often asked 'when is the best time to visit Japan' (or most popular time to visit Japan). Most visitors have a holiday in Japan in Cherry Blossom time (late March - April) and Autumn time (November - December). Winter (January -February) is great too. Summer can be wonderful too.
Make the best choice for you
The best time to go to Japan and enjoy it to its utmost, is mostly about what you like (or dislike). My experience with those who have visited Japan has been an almost universal comment, regardless of when they went they say 'We had the holiday of a lifetime and would like to experience Japan in another season'. So in this post, I want to focus on each of the seasons.
Imagine Japan, it is a long string of islands (6,852 in fact) and the peak of each season varies from North to the South. So can go earlier in the season when it is less crowded if you prefer, and I will cover that off too.
Autumn In Japan - November through Early December
Many people consider that Autumn rivals spring as the best a time to visit Japan. In the fall in Japan, nature puts on a breathtaking show with its vast expanses of autumn colours. Leaves range from pinks to reds, yellows, burgundy and every shade of brown. The colours of the trees are supported by the magic carpet of fallen coloured leaves.
Set all that colour against the wonderful pristine landscapes in Japan or the impeccable Japanese gardens is one dimension. Now add the human intervention with the coloured trees lit-up at night around the spectacular Japanese temples and suddenly it is not hard to see why Autumn is a favourite time to be in Japan.
In planning your tour to see this spectacle, you can to pick the north Japan (Tohoku) to go in October or base your trip more to the south if you aim to travel in December. See our Autumn tours of Japan for some ideas
Don't forget to check out our blog on the best time to visit Japan in Autumn and things to do in Autumn
Spring (Cherry Blossom time) in Japan - late March through April
One of Japan's most famous times is the cherry blossom season in Japan. Everybody in the world loves spring, however the Japanese have made it almost an art form. Most advertising suggests Spring is the best time to visit Japan, it is the peak tourist season too.
To dodge the huge spring crowds there are two options to see the Cherry Blossom.
- Visit Japan in early spring (mid-late February) for the blooms of the outstanding super pink Kawazu species of cherry blossom; or
- Visit Northern Japan (Tohoku and Hokkaido island) in late April and May. This opportunity is Japan's best kept secret.
Although cherry blossom is famous, Japan puts on an extravagant show of flowers in Spring and the natural contrast of the colour displays with the temples and scenery make Japan in Spring a tourist Mecca. Off the beaten track you can share the season the way the locals do.
Plan your trip to avoid the crowds, you can even avoid them in the main tourist centres if you plan well. See our cherry blossom tours of Japan for some ideas.
Winter In Japan - December through Feburary
Most people think Winter in Japan is about Skiing. There is indeed fabulous skiing and the best time to visit Japan for the snow is late December to late February. However there is much more too in Japan in Winter.
Winter in Japan can be a wonderland of white. Definitely one of the best times to visit Japan. Many of the mountain passes are so deep in snow they are closed (even until early April). The white is so intense in some places that the scenery looks like it is just black and white, include a red temple or two and it looks 'Photoshopped'. Winter starts earlier lasts longer in Northern Japan (Tohoku and Hokkaido), as it does in the Japanese Alps.
If you like fashion, winter is a wonderful time to visit. Then again Japanese food is at its absolute best in winter. There are some fascinating festivals in Winter Too. The city's giant department stores that are surprisingly awash with Xmas decorations and music. Its a geat time to see the snow monkeys and much more.
Summer In Japan - July through September
Summer is a great time to visit. This is because it is warm so you need far less clothing (luggage) plus there are longer days (to see more). You can often be warned off Japan in summer, particularly because June is typically the wettest month and August because of the heat and extreme humidity and September is known for typhoons.
However, summer is a great time to 'head for the hills'. The Japanese Alps are spectacular and great time to escape the heat of the lowlands (read big cities) and enjoy the special treats of the mountain areas. The small traditional food stalls on wheels appear in volume. They create an atmosphere of their own on the balmy summer nights as you get amongst the Japanese people.
Dont forget to consider Northern Japan (Tohoku and Hokkaido), there is so much to see plus the spectacular scenery and being north is avoids the heat and humidity.
Check our walking tours of Japan for some ideas too