best-time-to-visit-japan

When Is the Best Time To Visit Japan? Tips for Your Next Trip

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One of my favorite destinations in the world is Japan — a place where the past and future coexist in Zen-like harmony. Where medieval castles and cyberpunk metropolises lie within driving distance of each other. Indeed, The Land of the Rising Sun is one of East Asia’s most fascinating and enchanting countries.

Since I began living in the region, I’ve visited Japan many times. As someone who has seen the country in all of its seasons, I’m well aware of the pros and cons of traveling to Japan during different months. For those of you who are considering making a trip to the country, here’s my take on the best time to visit.

What the Seasons in Japan Are Like

I’m sure most readers will agree with me when I say that Japan is one of the most picturesque and breathtaking island nations in the world. The Japanese archipelago has four large main islands but is home to over 6,000 islands in total! 

This chain of islands, with the Pacific Ocean to the East and the Sea of Japan to the West, lies mainly in the temperate zone, but Japan’s climatic diversity will surprise you! It has conditions ranging from subtropical to subpolar, and they can vary greatly depending on the time of year.

Knowing what kind of weather to expect is handy when picking the best time of the year to visit. Your choice of activities during your Japan travels, from skiing to hiking and even sightseeing, will depend on the timing of your trip. In general, Japan experiences four distinct seasons a year, with different attractions to look forward to during each one.

Summer in Japan

Let me start by saying that if you’re not a fan of rainy weather and high humidity (and who is?), then summer probably isn’t the best time of year to visit. From around early June to mid-September, the arrival of Japanese summers is heralded by weeks of heavy rain. After the downpour, the humidity kicks in. Then there are the typhoons. In Japan, the summers go out with a huff and a puff as fierce storms signal the changing of the seasons.

Fall in Japan

If you ask me, fall is underrated and the best time to visit Japan. The weather starts to improve, getting crisper while losing its stickiness as winter approaches. The countryside as well as all the parks and gardens in Japanese cities burst into flame with the colors of autumn.

Red, gold, and hazel—the warmest shades of fall are displayed in all their glory and become visible during Japan’s koyo season, which stretches from the end of September to the end of November.

Winter in Japan

For the budget-conscious traveler, the only answer to the question “When is the best time to visit Japan?”, is winter. The downright chilly weather in the heart of winter means that the thermostat takes a nosedive like the travel and accommodation prices across the country! From December to February, you can expect cold days and clear skies.

It’s actually ideal sightseeing weather as long as you’re wearing something warm! In the northern parts of the Japanese archipelago, there is abundant snowfall, though the southern regions remain dry.

Here’s my guide to the best places to ski in Japan in the winter; and for those who don’t ski, check out the most beautiful must-visit places in Japan in winter here.

Spring in Japan

Okay, I’ll admit it: I saved the most obvious answer for last. In terms of sheer natural splendor, spring is undoubtedly the best time of the year to visit Japan! The famous sakura blossoms make their appearance for a few brief weeks which makes spring the most popular time for travelers. 

Of course, the hype is justified. The stunning pink cherry blossoms soothe the eyes while the weather remains cool yet sunny, making it the perfect season for basking under the sun.

How To Plan Your Japan Trip According to the Seasons

If you’re trying to decide when the best time to visit Japan is, it’s wise to time your trip around the activities you want to do. Even so, I’ve lost track of the number of disappointed tourists asking me why they can’t see sakura blossoms in the middle of summer or hike up Mount Fuji in the coldest part of winter!

It isn’t just the weather conditions you need to look out for. Japan’s calendar is filled to bursting with festivals, conventions, and events year-round. If you have a specific interest, such as attending an anime con or visiting historic shrines, then research the best time to visit Japan for those activities.

Photo by Casia Charlie: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-taking-picture-near-lake-with-view-of-mount-fuji-2451040/

The Best Activities in Japan in Fall and Winter

Prices vary significantly between fall and winter. Fall is more expensive because of the koyo season and pleasant weather which attract more tourists. This season might actually be the best time of the year to visit Japan for sightseeing as it is less crowded than spring while being considerably cooler and drier than the summer months. However, hiking trails will close as winter and snowfall draw closer.

In winter, most regions of Japan offer lower prices, except for certain ski lodges and resorts in the Japanese Alps. Skiing in Japan is something many skiers dream of as the texture of the powder here is among the finest in the world. This frosty season is also the best time to pay a visit to the famous monkeys at Jigokundani Snow Monkey Park.

The Best Activities in Japan in Spring and Summer

For outdoorsy types, spring and summer are the right times to visit Japan. The sun is (mostly) shining, and outdoor activities like hiking up mountain trails, visiting Japan’s many beaches, and gatherings for open-air festivals, fireworks displays, and food trails are all in the cards. 

And let me remind you, sakura blossoms appear ONLY in spring! So, if you’re looking for that fairytale feeling on your vacation, be prepared to book your tickets and hotels well in advance to beat the tourist rush!

Tips for Your First Trip to Japan

I understand how planning a trip to Japan can be intimidating for some travelers. After all, it’s a faraway nation in the middle of the ocean, and the language barrier scares a lot of people. To help you deal with those fears, I put together some practical travel tips.

1. Check Your Passport and Visas

Japan offers visa-free entries to citizens of select countries, but only for short stays. If you are planning an extended visit to Japan, you will need to apply for a visa. There are multiple types of visas to enter Japan, including tourist visas, working visas, non-working visas, and family-related visas. Of course, to successfully complete your visa application, you will also need a valid passport.

2. Learn a Few Important Japanese Phrases

Apart from big cities like Tokyo, the more rural parts of Japan have fewer people who can communicate in English. So, you’ll need to master a few basic phrases, like “Please help me,” “Where is this location?” and “Sorry, I don’t speak Japanese.” 

I took a couple of language lessons with a Japanese tutor on Preply in preparation for my Japan trip. He taught me how to read hiragana and katakana, as well as the most important travel phrases. Check out available tutors on Preply today.

3. Bring Dollars and Yen

The currency systems of some East Asian countries can be quite confusing for Western travelers. After all, most Americans have never seen a single bill with a denomination of ¥10,000, but the Japanese use this note on a daily basis. If you struggle with conversion, carry dollars to exchange at banks, post offices, international airports, and major hotels.

4. Pack Light (You Will Want To Buy a Lot of Things!)

Shopping in Japan is a non-stop thrill! Whether you’re looking for exquisite Japanese handicrafts or the latest in electronics, you’re bound to find something you wouldn’t back home. So, leave room in your bag for Japanese souvenirs!

5. Rent a Pocket Wi-Fi

Stay connected on your trip with pocket Wi-Fi. It’s essentially a portable Wi-Fi router that lets you access the internet while on the move. You can also get a Japan travel SIM card if you don’t want to carry around an extra device.

6. Get a Prepaid Transportation Card (Icoca, Suica or Pasmo)

In Japan, three primary prepaid transportation cards—Icoca, Suica, and Pasmo—facilitate easy travel and purchases. Icoca, primarily used in Osaka but valid across Japan, is issued by JR West. Suica and Pasmo, Tokyo-based, also function seamlessly in Osaka. While each has its regional origins, all three cards offer similar conveniences for train, subway, and bus travel, as well as shopping at various outlets. Whether you opt for Icoca, Suica, or Pasmo, these cards promise a hassle-free experience navigating Japan’s transportation systems.

If you arrive in Tokyo, you can get your Suica card here via Klook; if you arrive at Kansai airport near Osaka, check Icoca card options here.

6. Download Useful Applications

Your smartphone is your travel assistant in Japan. Having the official Japan National Travel Organization app, a speech translation app like VoiceTra, and niche apps like Ramen Beast (for finding the best ramen spots) will make your trip much smoother.

With these tips, you’re now ready to explore the wonderful islands of Japan!

Conclusion

If reading about the best time to visit Japan has awakened a desire to see more of East Asia, you’re in luck! It’s possible to go to-and-fro between Japan and Korea by ferry. So your adventure doesn’t have to stop with one country!

Did you enjoy reading this post? Explore more handy articles like this on Linda Goes East.

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Linda

Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.

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