The Best Time of Year to Visit Japan

Choosing the best time to visit Japan is personal to each traveler’s needs.

A black walkway lined with red banners at Fushimi Inari Shrine

There are certain times of the year where places in Japan are less crowded.

Photo by Anna Mazurek

Japan is a sensory wonderland of sorts, from the glowing skyscrapers of Tokyo to the bubbling onsens in the southernmost part of Kyushu. Visitors are drawn to the country for both its buzzing cosmopolitan streets and relaxing natural wonders.

In general, the best time to visit Japan is between March and May, which offers the most temperate climate and blooming cherry trees—but that also means more crowds. This peak season time may not be ideal for those looking to grab hotel reservations or roam less-crowded streets. Weather and location also play a major role for those planning a trip: The northernmost part of the country, like Hokkaido, has long, snowy winters, while popular inland locations like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka have four seasons.

Read on for an overview of the best time to visit Japan, based on travel interests.

Best time to visit Japan for viewing cherry blossoms

  • Best month(s): March–June

Once the chill of winter leaves most of Japan, the early spring and summer period sees a flurry of people looking to see major sights, including views from Tokyo Tower, the bamboo forests of Kyoto, and the hillside temples of Nikko.

The floral explosion of cherry blossom season in Japan, though, is worth the trip alone. From late March to early April, hillsides, parks, and city streets overflow with the glowing pastel pink of sakuras. In Tokyo, the Nakameguro Sakura Matsuri Festival in April brings with it some 800 trees that form a pink arch over the Meguro River. West of Tokyo and just under an hour’s train ride, Arakurayama Sengen Park blooms with over 600 trees in the springtime—with an added bonus of Mount Fuji as a backdrop.

Where to stay

The intimate, 39-room Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Kyoto, on the banks of Hozu River, gives front-row views of Arashiyama Hills’ kaleidoscopic colors in the springtime.

City street at night, bright neon signs displayed on buildings

Some places in Japan, like Shibuya Crossing, are known for the crowds.

Photo by Jezael Melgoza/Unsplash

Best time to visit Japan for avoiding the crowds

  • Best month(s): May–June, November–December

Often considered the off-season, late May to early June and November through December in Japan are great times to visit most major attractions with fewer crowds. (To see the country in an efficient way, buy a Japan Rail Pass and ride the sleek shinkansen bullet train.) The colder, less-crowded winter months are a time to take advantage of soaking in an onsen in regions like Beppu, which is home to more than a thousand hot springs.

Where to stay

ANA InterContinental Beppu Resort & Spa offers guests an outdoor onsen, set against massive layered stones that cascade down a mountainside.

People walking by Japanese food stands in the snow

The Sapporo Snow Festival is held every February.

Photo by Denny Ryanto/Unsplash

Best time to visit Japan for festivals

  • Best month(s): All year

Although most of Japan is known for festivals year-round, a key celebration to note during the summer months is the Gion Matsuri in July, when over 30 floats and crowds of people take over the streets of Kyoto for a huge party, complete with yukata robe dress, street food, and lots of beer. In the winter, the Sapporo Snow Festival takes place for seven days in February in the capital of Hokkaido. Drawing over 2 million people per year, the winter wonderland includes elaborate snow sculptures that light up at night; family friendly activities during the day include a snow rafting slope.

Where to stay

Located in a secluded valley in Hokkaido, Shiguchi is a luxurious renovated farmhouse consisting of five villas and an open-air onsen.

People walking along the water on Miyakojima island in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

Miyakojima Island is the most populous island of Okinawa Prefecture’s Miyako Islands.

Photo by yuri-ss/Shutterstock

Best time to visit Japan for beach getaways

  • Best month(s): July–August

Because Japan can be so hot and humid in cities like Tokyo and Kyoto in July and August, a coastal getaway is ideal during these months. When the urban hot spots become too hot, head south to the turquoise waters of Okinawa—which is home to over 100 beaches—or Naoshima, a remote island filled with impressive sculptures. For beaches closer to big cities like Tokyo, consider a train ride of one to two hours to Onjuku and Katase Higashihama Beach.

Where to stay

With 360 guest rooms on the main island of Onna, Halekulani Okinawa faces a mile of sparkling turquoise waters steps away from Busena Marine Park—the only underwater observatory tower in Okinawa.

Kristin Braswell is a travel journalist and founder of Crush Global Travel. She has penned pieces for Vogue, CNN, USA Today, Essence, NPR, Architectural Digest, Ebony, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. Her perfect day includes soca music, rum, and the ocean.
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