Climate of Japan
The climate of Japan is temperate throughout most of the country, but varies significantly at the country’s northern and southern extremities. Japan also has rainy and typhoon seasons, so it is a good idea to have at least a basic grasp of Japan’s climate prior to planning your travels.
Climate of Japan in the Country’s Northern and Southern Regions
Hokkaido, at the northernmost tip of Japan, experiences bitter cold winters with lots of snowfall and cool summers. Okinawa and the Ryukyu islands, at the southern end of the country, have a subtropical climate with warm winters, hot summers, and lots of rainfall. Okinawa enjoys an average year-round temperature of about 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius).
Climate of Japan in the Country’s Eastern and Western Regions
The western region of Japan facing the Sea of Japan experiences heavy snowfall in the winter and scorching summer temperatures. The eastern region facing the Pacific Ocean experiences chilly winters with relatively little snowfall and hot, humid summers.
Overview of Japan’s Four Distinct Seasons
Japanese tend to take great pride in their four distinct seasons, which are a commonly recurring theme in Japanese poetry, painting, and other traditional fine arts. Let’s take a brief look at the climate of Japan during each of Japan’s four seasons.
Climate of Japan in Spring
Mild temperatures and cherry blossoms make spring an ideal time to travel to Japan. Cherry blossoms in full bloom are truly a beautiful sight to behold, particularly near temples and shrines in areas like Kyoto and Nara. On the down side, Japan’s rainy season begins in late spring.
Also, it’s usually a good idea to avoid Japan’s Golden Week (a stretch of holidays from April 29 to May 5), since virtually the entire population of Japan is on vacation during this time, and attractions tend to be crowded, accommodations fully booked, and plane and train fares pricey.
Climate of Japan in Summer
The early summer can be quite wet due to the rainy season. Mid and late summer can be extremely hot and humid. However, if you can stand the heat, summer attractions and events like traditional Japanese festivals and dazzling fireworks displays can make summer a great time to visit Japan.
Climate of Japan in Autumn
The mildly cool fall temperatures make autumn another ideal time to travel to Japan. Like cherry blossoms in the spring, the rainbow of autumn hues beautifully accent the landscape of Japan. Shrines, temples, and parks are particularly beautiful in Japan during autumn.
Climate of Japan in Winter
Winters in Japan are extremely cold, although somewhat milder in the southern part of the country. Winter can be a great time to travel if you’re looking to head to the slopes for some great skiing and snowboarding. Plus, majestic events like the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido and activities like soaking in an outdoor hot spring watching an evening snowfall can make it worth braving even the coldest temperatures.
Japan’s Rainy and Typhoon Seasons
Japan’s rainy season begins in Okinawa in May, and makes its way progressively north, hitting the main island of Honshu during June and July. In the worst years, it can rain virtually every day during this period. In more fortunate years, there can be very little rain. The typhoon season runs from August into October, usually peaking in September.
Be sure to keep these two seasons in mind when planning your travel to Japan.
Best Time to Travel to Japan
So when is the best time to travel to Japan? Well, that ultimately depends on you. If you love nothing more than the stinging chill of biting cold temperatures, then winter could be your time. If torrential rains and howling winds are your thing, go during rainy season. Just make sure to bring a good umbrella or two! If you don’t mind a little sweat, then the summer months of late July and August might be just the right time for you.
However, we recommend traveling to Japan in the spring, especially when cherry blossoms are in full bloom, or in the autumn, when temperatures have cooled down and the fall colors are at their peak. If you do follow our recommendation, just one more word of advice: be sure to bring a camera!