Future travellers to Japan may wonder, when is the best time of year to visit? The answer is not so straightforward as each season has much to offer; it’s just a matter of what your preferences are.
Japan has four distinct seasons, like Australia. Each brings its own gift of natural wonders, experiences and spectacles to witness. As Japan is made up of a long chain of islands, the climate in the south and north can differ considerably.
SPRING (March to May)
Many people wish to visit Japan in spring because of the spectacular and iconic blooming of the sakura (cherry blossoms). Since ancient times, cherry blossoms have captivated the hearts of the Japanese people, and tourists alike. Japan’s famous trees erupt into a canvas of colour. It is a beautiful time to visit, particularly for garden and nature lovers. It is important to remember however, that their presence is fleeting as they are only in full bloom on each tree for several days.
As they flower from the south of Japan to the north, it is possible to chase the cherry blossom if you happen to miss them in one place, with the best time to see them generally being the last week of March until the first week of April. The Japanese tradition of hanami is very popular. Groups of friends and families sit together underneath a blooming cherry blossom tree to enjoy a picnic. It is a quintessential experience if travelling to Japan during spring. In addition to cherry and plum blossoms, there will be an array of flowers, brightening the cities including azaleas, irises, hydrangeas, roses and tulips. During cherry blossom season, each evening on the local news, you will be able to see a ‘cherry blossom report’ (much like a surf report in Australia) to see how the blossoms are progressing in each location.
SUMMER (June to August)
Summer time can be hot, wet and humid, but it is the best season to see spectacular fireworks festivals. Festivals in summer feature lively street fairs with food vendors selling tasty delights such as okonomiyaki (Japanese-style savoury pizza-pancakes), yakisoba (fried noodles), grilled corn, squid and many more mouth-watering options! If you wish to escape the heat and humidity, head to the mountainous regions or to the north island of Hokkaido, which stays cool with low humidity even in the middle of summer. Summer is also a great time for a beach holiday to Japan’s subtropical Okinawa islands.
AUTUMN (September to November)
Autumn evokes images of deep red, orange and yellow foliage. Days are crisp and clear and it is the perfect time for outdoor activities such as hiking and nature walks. Finish off your day with a rejuvenating soak in an onsen (hot spring). The autumn leaf season is generally in October and November. You will find the gardens of Japan’s many temples (Kyoto in particular) to be ablaze of breathtaking colour at this time.
WINTER (December to February)
Australians flock to Japan in winter to visit Japan’s excellent ski resorts. Hokkaido (the northern island) is where it all begins! With premier resorts such as Niseko, Rusutsu and Furano being well-established escapes for powder-lovers. Nagano and Niigata (on the main island) feature world-class resorts like Hakuba, as well as more traditional resorts like Nozawa Onsen and Myoko, all easily accessed from Tokyo. For travellers seeking quality snow without hordes of tourists, the snow resorts in the Tohoku region are highly recommended with a family-friendly resort, Zao Onsen and Hakkoda for the adventurous!
Japan truly is the land of endless discovery, with year-round opportunities for all travellers! Whenever you decide to travel, Japan’s many sights, culture and customs will not disappoint.