Kyoto is a fantastic city for people who love history and art and want to experience a food scene steeped in culture. A particularly walkable city, one of the great pleasures of spending time in Kyoto is taking a wander. Walking along the Kamo River and getting lost in the city’s winding streets and narrow alleys is as essential as seeing the Kinkaku-ji. As you’ll want to be outdoors a lot, with so many shrines and temples to explore, it’s worth getting to know the four distinct seasons of Japan.
In general, the best time to visit Japan applies to Kyoto as well, and it’s definitely worth doing your research if you want to catch one of the many seasonal events and festivals that occur throughout the year. From the spring cherry blossom Hanami festivities to the Fall Momiji season when the city turns red and yellow with striking maple and gingko tree. Much of Japan’s natural activities revolve around the changing of the seasons making it a perfect place to get lost in the natural beauty within and around the city.
Kyoto experiences soaring temperatures and high subtropical humidity during the summer so staying cool under the air conditioning and keeping hydrated is essential. summer also lends itself to rain with the monsoon season lasting most of June and July. Although the showers are usually over quickly, it’s worth planning around this if you don’t want your sightseeing to be washed out. Similarly, watch out for typhoon season in the fall when high winds and heavy rain become increasingly common.
Fast Climate Facts
- Hottest Month: August – 75 F (24 C) / 91 F (33 C)
- Coldest Month: January – 34 F (1 C) / 48 F (9 C)
- Wettest Month: July – 9.6 inches
Summer in Kyoto
The first period of the rainy season (known as baiu) hits hardest in June and July though you’ll still find showers carrying on until early August. Temperatures are the most humid during this time, starting off with gentle temperatures in early June but climbing into intense heat come August. It’s stifling weather and the only season where being outdoors can be unpleasant since Kyoto’s winter is generally quite mild. On the flip side, the sun sets at around seven in the evening in July offering plenty of time for sightseeing. Despite the heat, you’ll find plenty of events and festivals happening during the summer and residents go all out despite the heat.
What to pack: The summer is hot and humid, but make sure you bring an umbrella and raincoat for that rainy season, and pack light, breathable clothing like shorts and T-shirts. Sandals can also be handy as they’ll dry quickly and they’re easier to take off at temples or inside. Carrying around a fan is perfectly acceptable (and advisable), but you’ll find air conditioning indoors and on the trains. People generally dress conservatively in Japan, even in the summer, which is worth bearing in mind so avoid low cut tops and particularly short skirts and shorts. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
Average Temperatures by Month:
- June: 66 F (19 C) / 82 F (28 C)
- July: 73 F (23 C) / 90 F (32 C)
- August: 75 F (24 C) / 91 F (33 C)
Fall in Kyoto
One of the most beautiful seasons in Kyoto, the weather gets cooler but the sun is still out and the days are long and dry. The trees also light up the city in luscious shades of red and yellow making the entire city picture perfect and ideal for walks and picnics. The humidity drops in October making this one of the most pleasant months to spend extended periods outside. Between August and September typhoon season hits hardest which could interrupt travel plans, including flights, so it’s worth keeping an eye on the Japan Meteorological Agency website. If you’re caught in a typhoon, follow all the rules for a big storm and stay inside.
What to pack: Bring a lot of light layers as the weather can be changeable, and an umbrella for surprise showers. It gets cooler towards November so a light jacket, scarf, and sweater is a good idea. It’s worth bringing an umbrella and really focus on waterproofs because the early fall showers can be really intense, and there’s a chance they’ll last a while. You don’t want to be caught in heavy rainfall in Kyoto; it really is heavy.
Average Temperatures by Month
- September: 68 F (20 C) / 84 F (29 C)
- October: 57 F (14 C) / 73 F (23 C)
- November: 46 F (8 C) / 63 F (17 C)
Winter in Kyoto
Winters are generally quite mild in Kyoto, with very little snowfall and comparatively more blue skies than other countries. The darkest month occurs in January with about four hours of daylight before things start brightening up in late February. A big pro of traveling to Japan in the Winter is that it’s quiet on the tourist front which makes visiting the notoriously busy Kyoto tourist attractions a lot more comfortable. Additionally, hotels can be cheaper and you can also warm up in the hot springs at the end of the day. Some of the finest onsen in the country are in Kyoto so make sure to take advantage.
What to pack: A warm coat with lots of layers to wear underneath is perfect for the variable Kyoto winters. Japanese homes and hotels can be cold due to lack of insulation, particularly if you’re staying in a traditional ryokan, so some thicker pajamas might be something to consider if you get cold at night. Don’t forget your gloves, scarf, and hat!
Average Temperatures by Month
- December: 37 F (3 C) / 54 F (12 C)
- January: 34 F (1 C) / 48 F (9 C)
- February: 34 F (1 C) / 50 F (10 C)
Spring in Kyoto
One of the most popular times to visit Kyoto, the busy cherry blossom season starts in late March and ends early April. Hanami is one of the most looked forward to events of the year when the trees bloom and the pink sakura themed food and drink start to appear in the cafes and convenience stores. It’s a great time to catch a hanami party in the local parks and take lots of pictures. It’s one of the most pleasant times to walk around Kyoto climate-wise, the weather is warm but not too hot and generally very dry, although showers can occur at any time in Japan. Spring tends to be one of the busiest times in terms of tourism with Hanami and golden week occurring at the end of April which is worth bearing in mind if you’d like a peaceful trip.
What to pack: It gets chilly during the evenings, so light layers are a good idea, plus a lightweight jacket or shawl. Spring really is a great season to visit Japan, and Kyoto especially because of its historic neighborhoods at one with its natural elements. That means packing isn’t much of a concern when you visit Kyoto. Just bring a light jacket or a thick sweater for the evenings, and go casual. It’s not summer sun season yet, but you won’t feel much cold. Temperate clothes for pleasant weather.
Average Temperatures by Month
- March: 39 F (4 C) / 55 F (13 C)
- April: 48 F (9 C) / 68 F (20 C)
- May: 57 F (14 C) / 77 F (25 C)