The Best Time to Visit Tokyo

Sakura blooming at Meguro River, Tokyo
Chinnaphong Mungsiri/Getty Images

Tokyo is Japan’s capital and its largest city. Although there is plenty to do here year-round, it’s important to take fluctuating temperatures, national holidays, and the rainy season into account before putting together your itinerary.

The rules that govern the best time to visit Japan as a whole — early spring when the cherry blossoms are blooming, before late April — apply to Tokyo as well. Golden Week — a weeklong holiday at the end of April — is an immensely busy travel time, especially for tourists from East Asia. If your trip falls around this time, expect to grapple with inflated hotel and transport prices, and prepare to wait in long lines at Tokyo’s more popular attractions.

The Weather in Tokyo

The effects of climate change notwithstanding, the weather in Tokyo tends to be relatively mild most of the year. The summer, however, can bring drastic humidity and high temperatures, sometimes making outdoor sightseeing unpleasant. Although it usually doesn’t get extremely cold, winter temperatures in Tokyo can dip below 37 F (3 C). Snow is relatively infrequent, but definitely a possibility if you’re visiting in December or January.

Expect a wet climate during the rainy season in June, and in August-October, when typhoons tend to hit the coasts. The ideal time to visit Tokyo is definitely spring or fall, when temperatures are the most comfortable. During sakura season’s peak bloom, locals camp out for hours in Ueno Park (even sleeping there overnight), in order to reserve the best spots for cherry blossom viewing.

Red Leaves and Cherry Trees

The few weeks of sakura (cherry blossoms) and momiji (autumn maple leaves) add up to two of the most iconic seasons in Japan. Luckily Japanese meteorologists pay obsessively close attention to the expected arrival times of these climatic changes — it’s common to see the cherry blossom forecasts on the front pages of newspapers and broadcasted on television.

If you’re in Tokyo for sakura season, there are a number of great places to see the blooms, including but not limited to Sumida Park, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Ueno Park, and Yoyogi Park. Highly recommended is the view of Chiforiga-fuchi moat that surrounds Tokyo Imperial Palace.

To see some stunning fall foliage, visit the beautiful Japanese-style landscape gardens Rikugien and Koishikawa Korakuen in northeastern Tokyo. But without a doubt one of the most breathtaking autumn scenes is Icho Namiki, the golden gingko tree-lined pathway at Meiji Jingu Gaien Park.

Spring

During Spring, days are sunnier and temperatures start to rise a bit. One of Japan's busiest travel seasons happens in late April so be sure to book accomodation, train tickets and tickets to attractions well in advance. There are a ton of events during this season but some of the most popular, and most iconic, are the cherry blossom festivals. From mid-March to April expect a lot of excitement about the blossoms and celebrations of hanami (flower-viewing).

Events to check out:

  • The first Sunday in March is the Tokyo Marathon.
  • Japan's annual Anime Festival happens around the end of March.
  • The Kanamara festival (also known as the penis festival) happens the first Sunday in April and all proceeds benefit HIV research.
  • Golden Week starts the end of April and ends early May. It's the biggest travel season, so getting around Japan during this week is especially difficult.
  • Sanja Matsuri happens during the third weekend in May at Senso-ji temple. Geisha, Buddhist priests, and a variety of other important cultural figures are usually in attendance.
  • There is the Kanda Matsuri in mid-May on odd-numbered years.

Summer

Expect a fair amount of rain when visiting in June, and typhoon season begins in July/August. When traveling to Japan in the summer, expect humid, hot days with the potential for rain. Be sure to bring waterproof shoes and an umbrella with you.

Events to check out:

  • The week-long Sanno Matsuri happens in June on even-numbered years.
  • At the end of July is the Kagurazaka Matsuri, an event abundant with food stalls and traditional dancing.
  • Every August Japanese people honor the spirits of their ancestors during the Obon festival. Visit the Toro Nagashi in Asakusa to see a river filled with glowing paper lanterns.

Fall

Typhoon season extends through October so make sure to check forecasts and pack waterproof shoes and an umbrella. Temperatures dip only slightly but humidity levels drop, making for more comfortable weather. During late autumn, the trees change into brilliant colors and there are a host of autumn festivals celebrating the fall foliage.

Events to check out:

Winter

Winter in Tokyo is generally mild with temperatures averaging around 50 F (10 C). Snow doesn't happen often, but it's still a possibility, so be sure to check the forecasts before your trip. The new year, or Shogatsu, is a huge deal in Japan and many businesses are closed from January 1st to 3rd. 

Events to check out:

  • There are incredible winter illuminations during december including the elaborate “Midtown Christmas” display at the Tokyo Midtown complex.
  • On New Year’s Eve temple bells ring 108 times to welcome the next year.  
  • February 3 is Setsubun, the day that once marked the beginning of spring on the traditional lunar calendar. Families drive away evil spirits by scattering roasted soybeans in a ritual called mamemaki. Theres a massive festival in Tokyo’s Asakusa by Senso-ji temple.
  • You can see the plum (ume) blossoms from late February through early March. Yushima Tenmangu shrine hosts a month-long plum blossom festival.
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