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Best time to visit Japan: plan your dream escape year-round

Japanese streets

Let’s face it, Japan is a beauty all year-round, so you really can’t go wrong. But maybe there’s something specific you’re wanting to see and do: cherry blossom season, summer festivals, hitting the slopes.

Welcome to your guide on the best time to visit Japan depending on what you’re looking to get out of your Japanese experience, and how to make the most of it no matter what time of year you travel! 

Festivals in Japan

Matsuri is the Japanese word for festival or holiday, but Japan doesn’t really have national holidays as such. Matsuri days are typically held by local shrines and temples, though they don’t have to have religious affiliations, and the dates of these vary from area to area. 

That being said, Matsuri days generally cluster around traditional holidays, and almost every prefecture and locale within has at least one festival in the late summer or early autumn to celebrate the harvest.

As such, Matsuri days are held at all times of year, so while travelling to Japan you can be sure to catch at least one! We’ll detail specific festivals happening in each of the sections below so you can be as prepared as possible when making your choice.

Japan in January

Average Temperature: 10 degrees with sunny and dry weather, snowfall in certain regions

Main events: Shōgatsu (New Year), Wakakusa Yamayaki

If you’re a fan of shimmering winter wonderlands then January will be the best time to visit Japan. Travel to the northern region of Hokkaido for thick snowfall and a chance encounter with the red-crowned cranes often depicted in Japanese art, or enjoy the bustling cities with less crowds.

Unlike many other Asian countries, Japan celebrates their New Year at the start of January, between the 1st and the 3rd, so you can head over then to catch magical firework shows and participate in the festivities. Make note that many businesses may be closed during this time, though.

Japan in February

Average temperature: 11 degrees with sunny and dry weather, snowfall in certain regions 

Main events: Sapporo Snow Festival, snow sports season, Setsubun, Hadaka

February is the perfect time of year to book Japan for the snow sports season! Skiing and snowboarding in Japan is just as amazing as it sounds, and lucky for you there are ski resorts dotted around most of the country. You can even ski down Mt. Fuji – iconic, right?

Of all the ski resorts, however, Sapporo is the perfect place to go because of the Sapporo Snow Festival! This week-long celebration brings crowds from far and wide to witness beautiful large ice sculptures and hundreds of smaller snow ones. There’s concerts and other events which bring fun and joy to the snowy mountain-side city.

bamboo grove in Kyoto, Japan

Image source:Contiki

Japan in March

Average temperature: 14 degrees with mild weather

Main events: Hōnen, start of cherry blossom season, Omihachiman Sagicho Fire Festival

It’s starting to get a little warmer in Japan’s southern regions, but the north is still keeping nice and cold for those you want to shred the slopes a little later. March is also when tourism starts to pick up. Why? Because the cherry blossoms are starting to peak out, finally – but if you want to get there early then this is the best time to visit Japan for chilled cherry blossom viewing.

March is also the time of year that Japan celebrates Hōnen Matsuri, which is a festival all about fertility and penises! We’ll keep as much of this a surprise, but just have your camera ready for the 2 metre wooden phallus…

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Japan in April

Average temperature: 17 degrees with mild weather

Main events: Cherry Blossom Season, Golden Week

April is one of the best times to visit Japan, but also one of the busiest. Early April is when you’ll get the best and pinkest views of the cherry blossoms which grace the entire country. Participate in some of the festivities like taking a picnic to the local park and watching the petals float down. Mind the crowds though.

If you stick around ‘til the end of the month you’ll be able to tour Japan during Golden Week which is a cracking week filled with 4 national Matsuris! The week spans over April and May, and you’ll be treated to Showa Day, Constitution Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day which sees cities decorated with colourful fish banners.

cherry blossom seasons in Japan

Image source:Contiki

Japan in May

Average temperature: 20 degrees with warmer weather and the start of the rainy season

Main events: Golden Week, Aoi, Kanda, Dontaku, Sanja

May is when Japan’s lush greenery comes into bloom and this is the best time to stroll through the country’s plentiful botanical and zen gardens. Why not pay the distinguished deer of Nara a visit?

Cultural festivals are happening in Kyoto, Fukuoka, and Tokyo held by local temples. Kanda and Sanja, held in Tokyo, will be the biggest of the celebrations happening in Tokyo, and you can expect gilded parades and plenty of cheer. May is also when the rainy season starts in Okinawa so remember to keep dry!

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Japan in June

Average temperature: 24 degrees with overcast weather, this is the peak of the rainy season

Main events: Yotaka, Sannō, Astuta

June is officially the start of the summer months in Japan, but it brings a rather rainy welcome. The whole month marks the peak of the rainy season, also called tsuyu, so sightseeing and city-hopping may not be on the cards.

However, if you’re a mindful and spiritual traveller, June is the best time to visit Japan. To keep out of the wet you can indulge in stays at hot spring resorts, like in Hakone, for some total relaxation, or take a trip to mystical Mount Koya and all its mini wooden temples. Alternatively, Okinawa’s rainy season will have passed, so you can get some sun there.

Japan in July

Average temperature: 29 degrees with hot and humid weather, end of rainy season

Main events: Hakata Gion Yamakasa, Kumagaya Uchiwa Festival, Tenjin

July and August is when it all kicks off! The weather is hot and sunny (though fairly humid) and school’s out so domestic travel is at a high. But don’t let the crowds stop you because July is filled to the brim with fun things to do.

If you’re of the adventurous sort, Mt. Fuji is open for climbing, and if you’re more of the relaxing sort, July is perfect for beaching it in Okinawa. There are also so many local festivals being held from mid-July with one firework display after another. 

Japan in August

Average temperature: 31 degrees with hot and humid weather

Main events: Obon, Awa Odori Festival, Aomori Nebuta Festival

More fireworks and more festivals, but the star of August in Japan is Obon. This is a traditional celebration which fuses ancient beliefs and Buddhist practices for a day of honouring the spirits of one’s ancestors. 

As part of Obon, the city of Shikoku becomes home to the country’s largest dance festival! Awa Odori, or Awa Dance Festival, is a truly spectacular sight to behold as flocks of men and women parade and dance down the street in intricate and beautiful costumes. If you want something unique, this is THE best time to visit Japan.

Japan in September

Average temperature: 26 degrees with hot and humid weather, as well as tycoons that hit certain regions

Main events: Kishiwada Danjiri

As you catch the last rays of summer, September is a beautiful time to visit Japan. We’re entering the off-season now, and it’s still warm enough for you to enjoy the beaches and cities but with fewer crowds. In the mood for a show? Stick around Tokyo in mid-September for the Grand Sumo Tournament which takes place at the impressive Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo stadium.

In terms of festivals, you can head to Osaka for the spectacular celebration of Kishiwada Danjiri. This celebration sees massive wooden shrine floats being pulled through the streets at high speeds. The celebration began in 1703 as a harvest tradition, in which worshippers prayed to Inari, the shinto god of rice.

Japan in October

Average temperature: 20 degrees with warm weather

Main events: Miki Autumn Harvest Festival, Nada No Kenka

October is when the country bursts into splendid colours. If April is characterised by soft baby pinks, then October is characterised by vibrant reds and yellows and golds. The autumn foliage in Japan is like none other, so if you’re a fellow leaf-peeper, this is the best time to visit Japan!

Japan in November

Average temperature: 15 degrees with dry and mild weather

Main events: Nabana No Sato Winter Illumination, Karatsu Kunchi

The fall foliage continues to be at its peak, and November hails in cooler weather across Japan. Prepare for brisk walks and reddened cheeks, but lots and lots of soups and red-bean cakes to warm you up.

Stick around Tokyo for some dreamy viewing spots at the Meiji Jingu Gaien – a walk-way that lights up in brilliant autumn colours. Japan is home to Gingko trees, which drop pale yellow leaves in the shape of small fans. You can see these lining the path to the Nikko Toshogu Shrine. It’s like walking on fields of gold!

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Japan in December

Average temperature: 13 degrees with dry weather and sunsets at 4:30pm

Main events: ski season, New Years, many light shows

As is typical of December, you’ll find twinkly lights everywhere. Japan does celebrate Christmas, although it’s not like the celebrations known in the West, so don’t expect Christmas trees and gift giving – but you will be dazzled by the many, many, light shows. The Sendai Pageant of Starlight and the Ashikaga Flower Fantasy are two you won’t want to miss.

December is also when northern regions will be getting their first snowfall, so the winter sports begin. It’s the best time of year to visit Japan for some active celebration away from home.

What is the cheapest month to go to Japan?

The low seasons will be your cheapest months, and that’s typically between January and March, in June because it’s the rainy season, and between September and November. If you’re visiting in the winter for snow sports, keep in mind that prices at ski resorts may still be high – but other areas of the country will become cheaper and have the benefit of less crowds.

January is your best time to book flights and you can generally get quite good deals on prices as well!

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When is the best time to visit Japan for cherry blossoms?

For cherry blossom season, you’ll want to visit Japan between late March and April. This is when the blossoms are at their peak and related festivities are fully underway. This is one of Japan’s most popular tourist attractions, so cherry blossom season can end up being an expensive and busy time – but it’s so worth it. 

When is the best time to visit Tokyo?

It depends what you’re wanting to see, specifically, but generally between March and May, and September and November is the best time. This is because the weather is nicest, avoiding the humidity of peak summer, but still being warm and sunny. This will make exploring the city all the more pleasant.

Ready to plan your trip?

The best time to visit Japan is ALWAYS when you’re travelling with Contiki! Check out all our Japan trips and make your bucket list dreams come true in 2024.

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