Japan is a country surrounded by oceans and consists of four major islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, and many smaller islands. Because of Japan's unique makeup, the climate in the country varies widely from one region to another. Most parts of the country have four distinct seasons, and the weather is relatively mild for every season.
Japan's seasons take place at the same time as the four seasons in the West do. For example, the spring months are March, April, and May. The summer months are June, July, and August and the fall months are September, October, and November. Winter months take place during December, January, and February.
If you're an American who lives in the South, Midwest, or East Coast, these seasons should be familiar to you. However, if you're a Californian, you might want to think twice about visiting Japan during the colder months unless you're going precisely to take part in winter sports. Japan is known for its "japow" or snowy ski season, especially in Hokkaido, the northernmost island. Springtime is also a favorite time to visit as it's cherry blossom season when the beautiful blooms can be seen across the nation.
According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the average yearly temperature for Central Tokyo is 60 F (16 C), 48 F (9 C) for Sapporo-city in Hokkaido, and 73 F (23 C) for Naha-city in Okinawa.
These weather averages are good indicators of what to expect any month, but if you're wondering what to pack for your next trip, you should study the average temperatures for the region you plan to visit during that month. Explore Japan's weather in more depth by using the monthly mean and total monthly tables by the Japan Meteorological Agency.
Popular Cities in Japan
Tokyo has a humid, subtropical climate with warm summers and cool winters, that can occasionally be very cold. The warmest month is August, when temperatures hover around 80 F (26 C), while the coldest month is January, averaging just 41 F (5 C). The city receives approximately 60 inches of rain per year, with most of it concentrated during the summer months. Snow is irregular but usually does occur at least once per year. The city can occasionally experience typhoons.
Osaka, a city on the southern part of Japan's Honshu Island, has mild winter and hot, humid summers. Like the rest of the country, Osaka experiences monsoon-type conditions, but the city's inland coast location protects it from typhoon and the worst of summer's monsoon conditions. Winter is warm, with temperatures rarely falling below 45 F (7 C), but summers are steamy—high temperatures can exceed 95 F (35 C).
Sapporo is the principal city on Japan's island of Hokkaido. It experiences brutally cold, snowy winters and wet, warm summers. Sapporo is subject to currents from the Siberian Peninsula, so winter temperatures rarely exceed freezing, with snow falling almost every day. The region hosts the Sapporo Snow Festival every February. Summer is mostly pleasant but can experience warm days, with temperatures above 86 F (30 C).
Fukuoka is located on the north coast of Kyushu, the southernmost major island of Japan. Its location lends itself to humid temperatures, with warm winters and even warmers summers. Winter temperatures average around 50 F (10 C), but there are occasionally colder periods. Summers are hot and humid, and temperatures usually top out close to 95 F (35 C). August is the hottest month.
Spring in Japan
Spring in Japan coincides with what most Americans think of as spring, spanning March through May. Temperatures are warm across most of the country, but it isn't yet too hot or too humid. This is, of course, peak tourist season as the famed cherry blossoms are in bloom and festivals are celebrating their arrival across the country.
What to Pack: During spring in Japan, temperatures are still cold. You'll want to dress in layers, as well as carry a light jacket and scarf. In early spring, a heavier coat will still be necessary for some parts of the country.
Summer in Japan
Japan experiences most of its rainfall during the summer months, beginning in June. The country's rainy seasons usually lasts just three or four weeks and is the typical time for rice-planting. Generally, this is a hot and humid time to visit Japan, with temperatures often exceeding 85 F (30 C).
What to Pack: Japan in the summer is beautiful, but it's also hot. You'll be walking a lot, so comfortable shoes are among the most essential items to bring. Leave the flip-flops at home: They're not considered very stylish in Japanese culture. Lightweight, breathable fabrics should make up the bulk of your suitcase.
Fall in Japan
Summer's extreme temperatures start to fade in September, giving way to cooler temperatures and breezy weather. By the end of fall, temperatures typically range from 45 F (8 C) to 50 F (10 C) throughout most the country. Fall is mostly dry. It's also a favorite season for concerts, sporting events, and other exhibitions.
What to Pack: Fall is generally quite pleasant—not too hot, not too cold. While there will still be warmer days, cooler temperatures make it appropriate to wear sweaters, light layers, and pants. Like any time of year, good walking shoes are still crucial.
Winter in Japan
Winter in Japan is dry and sunny, with temperatures that rarely drop below freezing—except for the country's northern reaches of Sapporo and the like. Snowfall occurs the further north you go, with central Japan receiving light dustings as well. Winter in Southern Japan is mild. The last day of the year is called "Omisoka," and "Oshogatsu" is the Japanese New Year.
What to Pack: Japan can have freezing winters, depending on where you visit, which means winter staples like a heavy coat, a scarf, gloves, and hat, are all must-packs. If you're visiting the northern region of the country, where several feet of snow is common, make sure to pack sturdy, waterproof boots or shoes.
Rainy Season in Japan
Japan's rainy season typically begins in early May in Okinawa. In other regions, it usually runs from early June through around mid-July. Also, August to October is the peak typhoon season in Japan. It's important to check the weather often during this season. Please refer to weather warnings and typhoon statistics (Japanese site) by the Japan Meteorological Agency.
According to the agency, there are 108 active volcanoes in Japan. Please be aware of volcanic warnings and restrictions when you visit any volcanic areas in Japan. While Japan is a great country to visit during any time of the year, you should take precautions to stay safe if you plan to visit the country during a time when perilous weather is common.