So you want to visit Japan but you’re not sure when to? Japan is famous for its distinctive four seasons and what they have to offer. Here’s a general guide of what Japan is like in each season as well as big events to look out for.
Table of Contents
- Fall / Autumn
Spring in Japan is considered April to June in the fiscal year, but seasonally, it is March to May.
The biggest draw of Spring is the cherry blossoms. The fleeting beautiful pink flowers attract people from around the world. Cherry blossom season starts as early as mid to end of February (January in Okinawa!), depending on the type of cherry blossom tree and location. It’s often said that the warmer the winter, the earlier the cherry blossoms will begin to bloom. Peak season is mid to end of March to early April. However, you can catch the cherry blossoms in April in Northern Japan as they bloom later thanks to the colder climates.
You can enjoy hanami (cherry blossom viewing) across the country.
In the beginning of May, there’s a national cluster of holidays called Golden Week. They are 憲法記念日 (Kenpou Kinenbi - Constitution Day), みどりの日 (Midori no Hi - Greenery Day), and こどもの日 (Kodomo no Hi - Children’s Day). People get about a week off, using the weekends, the three holidays and sometimes by using personal days. Since these are national holidays, many people often take this extended break to go traveling. It is a quite busy and expensive. Since this is one of three extended holidays in the year, many people book their destinations months in advance. So while there’s a lot going on, you may want to postpone your trip to Japan until after Golden Week. Actually the period after Golden Week to the end of July is a great time to visit because the weather isn’t so hot yet and there are no Japanese holidays so it’s quite affordable to travel around the country and not quite as busy.
Things to be aware of
It may not affect travelers much, but spring is the season of 花粉症 - pollen allergies (hay fever).
Tsuyu is rainy season in June to July, just around the transition between spring and summer. You may be caught in a time when it rains every day. It’s not necessarily heavy rain, but constant enough that there are ads everywhere about how to best hang your laundry indoors
Summer is considered to be the period between July and September in the fiscal year but June to August seasonally. Japan is quite humid during the summer (places up north like Hokkaido have milder summers). You may hear the sound of cicadas - a sound Japanese people consider to be a symbol of summer.
Summer Festivals (natsu matsuri) are the biggest events in the summer. People often head to their local temple or shrine wearing Yukata (traditional summer wear) to play games and eat festival food like yakisoba and cotton candy. Some of the biggest summer festivals in Japan are Gion Festival in Kyoto, Tanabata Festival in Sendai and Awa Odori Festival in Tokushima.
Fireworks Festivals (hanabi taikai) are also huge events. Japan has amazing fireworks industry that create spectacular shows across the country. Among the most notable are Biwako Fireworks Festival in Shiga, Nagaoka Fireworks Festival in Niigata and Sumidagawa Fireworks in Tokyo.
Mt. Fuji can be climbed during the summer. Many people head to Mt. Fuji to try their hand at climbing the national symbol of Japan. There is a bus that goes partway up the mountain, making it a little easier for those planning to head to the summit to see the sunrise.
Koushien Stadium hosts the high school national baseball tournament. It’s held in spring and summer but the summer one tends to get more attention because people are free to watch the games on TV as well as head to Koshien Stadium in Hyogo to support their prefecture’s team. One team from each prefecture makes it to the national tournament after defeating the other teams in their region. It’s an event where people get fired up rooting for their home prefecture team or the underdog that makes it to the end of the tournament against all odds.
Things to be aware of
熱中症 (necchushou - heat stroke) - The humidity and heat cause a lot of people to get dehydrated quickly and feel faint. People are encouraged to drink lots of water and stay in the shade as much as possible.
Depending on the location, mosquitoes can be quite rampant. Carrying bug spray as well as itch relief medication is common.
Fall / Autumn
Fall is considered to be October to December in the fiscal year and September to November seasonally. Fall tends to be mild, cooling down from the heat of summer but still very comfortable.
Fall is considered to be a time to be active in Japanese culture. Here are a few popular sayings about what fall in Japan is all about
- 食欲の秋 (shokuyoku no aki ) - Autumn for appetities
- It is said that autumn is when people’s appetites grow so it’s a great time to try a variety of foods
- スポーツの秋 (supoutsu no aki) - Autumn for sports
- Many people go hiking or take up new sports in fall and many Sports Days are held at schools in this season
- 読書の秋 (dokusho no aki) - Autumn for reading
- Since the weather is cooler and people spend more time at home after school or work, people are encouraged to read
And the biggest reason why people visit Japan in fall is because of the autumn foliage, 紅葉 (kouyou). The beautiful red, orange and yellow leaves as the weather cools down brings crowds both domestic and international. Japanese maple, 紅葉 (momiji - written exactly the same as kouyou) are especially popular.
Kyoto is an extremely popular destination to see the autumn leaves. Mountainous areas with lots of trees are also very popular. In Kanto, Nikko in Tochigi, Okutama in Tokyo and Suwa Kougen in Ibaraki are popular.
Things to be aware of
Don’t eat too much since it’s autumn for appetites
There’s typhoons in September, so pack an umbrella and don’t be caught off guard
Winter is considered to be January to March in the fiscal year but December to February seasonally. Japan gets quite cold during this time of year, with some areas getting lots of snow. Skiing and snowboarding is very popular and many people head to Niigata, Akita and Hokkaido in search of snow. Sapporo also has its famous Sapporo Snow Festival with huge snow sculptures. Shirakawa-go is also popular in winter due to the beautiful view of the snow-covered thatched roofs of the traditional village houses.
Hot springs are also a popular destination in winter especially. Popular locations include Arima Onsen in Kobe, Beppu in Oita, Kusatsu in Gunma and Hakone in Kanagawa.
End of the year & New Year sales are huge bargains for shoppers. Grab your lucky bags from famous retailers and see what gifts are inside for an amazing price! Also, since New Year's is a much bigger holiday in Japan than Christmas is, make sure you eat some New Year's food and visit a shrine to pray for good luck for the new year!
Illumination events are held in many places in the month of December leading up to Christmas. While Christmas isn’t a national holiday, Christmas Eve is considered to be a romantic day for couples. Famous illumination events include Kobe Luminarie in Kobe, Shibuya Blue Cave in Tokyo, and Nabana no Sato in Mie.
Things to be aware of:
Be aware of how much snowfall there might be. Pack clothes accordingly
Staying too long in the hot springs may make you dizzy.
Japan has wonderful things every season, and this barely scratches the surface. Find something you love about Japan in every season! There is an abundance of things to choose from.
Recommendations for readers of this article
The 4 Seasons of Japan | G'Day Japan!
You can learn more about the four seasons in Japan at this site!
If you want to know more about seasonal events, please check out this site too!
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