Japan is one of the best year-round tourist destinations in Asia. Whether you're interested in attending a festival, taking part in athletic activities, or doing some power shopping, there's a season for it in Japan. Ultimately, the best time to travel there depends on your own personal preferences. There is no wrong or right time to visit for the most part.
It's important to remember, however, that Japan is made up of several islands and the climate and weather conditions vary significantly depending on which region you visit. If you were to visit the United States in March, for example, it might be snowing in some places, raining in others and mild or warm in southern regions. Make sure to check the weather and average climate of the regions you plan on traveling to.
Japan in Spring
Spring in Japan takes place from March to May, and during this period many flower-related events are held around the country. These festivities include ume matsuri, or the plum blossom festivals, as well as the cherry blossom viewing, which is a major cultural tradition there, dating back thousands of years. In Japanese, cherry blossom viewing is called hanami, and it involves a bunch of public parties in the parks and gardens around Japan.
Springtime also marks a break in classes for Japanese schools, beginning in mid-March and continuing until the school year resumes in the first week of April. Golden Week is another major event that occurs during spring. This week takes place from the end of April to about May 5. It is called Golden Week because several major holidays are observed in Japan for a stretch of 10 days, including a day to honor the Showa emperor.
Because of the festivities (and the gorgeous blooms), spring is top tourist season, so definitely book hotels, transportation, and attractions far in advance to avoid high prices and sold-out accommodations.
Japan in Summer
Japan's summertime typically occurs from June to August. In Okinawa, the rainy season usually begins in early May while in other regions, it runs from early June through roughly mid-July. Although July and August can be extremely hot and humid in most parts of Japan, summer is a lively season with many events. The Obon festival in mid-August is a Buddhist tradition in which the Japanese pay tribute to their ancestors. In addition to festivals, many Japanese people take vacations during the summer and travel to visit their hometowns.
Japan in Fall
Fall is another popular time to visit Japan and it takes place from September to November. Japan's fall foliage season begins in October and extends through early December. Many autumn festivals are held throughout the country to give thanks for the harvest, and tourists flocks to the gardens, mountains, and parks to see the foliage turn red, orange, and yellow. The weather is also much more comfortable after the summer heat burns off.
Japan in Winter
Winter occurs from December to February in Japan. Colorful holiday illuminations can be seen across the country in November. Christmas isn't a national holiday, but it's celebrated in Japanese style. For example, Christmas Eve has become a time for couples to enjoy a romantic evening with each other. Wintertime is a great time to go skiing in Japan as well, and you won't find better slopes than in Hokkaido, the northernmost island. In fact, the powder is so perfect and fluffy here it even has a name: JaPow.
New Year's holidays are important to the Japanese and is a busy time to travel. Transportation is crowded during the last week of December to the first week in January. January 1 is a national holiday, and many businesses and establishments close during this period. However, department stores offer their biggest sales of the year, so it's a great time to shop. Temples and shrines attract millions of visitors, as the Japanese reflect on their lives and spirituality at the start of the new year.