Hokkaido is a mountainous land of sparse towns separated by miles of picturesque wilderness. Snowy peaks dot the horizon and, in the summer, endless oceans of lavender bloom in the heart of the island. In the winter months, it’s not uncommon for the high-altitude areas of Hokkaido to be buried under three feet of snow, and the fact that the capital city of Sapporo hosts one of the world’s most famous ice sculpture festivals in February paints a clear picture of Hokkaido’s climate. It’s an island of extremes, with the greenest summers and the whitest winters.
Overall, the best time to visit Japan applies to Hokkaido as well; although it is at least a few degrees cooler than the mainland throughout the year and largely escapes typhoon season. Make sure to catch one of the many seasonal events and festivals that occur throughout the year. From the spring cherry blossom Hanami festivities to the famous ice and snow festivals that draw millions of visitors to the north. 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 of the island.
Fast Climate Facts
- Hottest Month: August (65 F to 78 F / 18 C to 26 C)
- Coldest Month: January (11 F to 24 F / -12 C to -4 C)
- Wettest Month: September (6.7 inches of rain)
Summer in Hokkaido
Summer is one of the most pleasant times to visit Hokkaido and it’s very popular for people who live on the mainland in Japan to come north for monsoon-free, cooler vacations. Temperatures rarely go over 80 degrees F (27 degrees C) and there’s little humidity so if you prefer pleasant summer temperatures, Hokkaido is ideal. One of the big draws to Hokkaido in the summer are the lavender fields in Furano which are a sea of color between June to August. Make sure to keep an eye out for local flavored treats like lavender soft-serve ice cream which is a must-try.
Wandering the vineyards of Furano is also a pleasure in the summer particularly when followed with a cold white wine. For more gorgeous blooms, make sure to pay a visit to the nearby town of Biei where you’ll be able to see expansive fields of patchwork flower rows as well as other natural wonders like the Shirogane Blue Pond. As summer is the season of festivals in Japan, catch one of the local firework festivals or larger festivals like the Otaru Tide Festival and The Sapporo Summer Festival.
What to pack: The weather is pleasant throughout the summer so shorts, T-shirts, hats, and sunscreen will be ideal. It’s worth bringing something to cover up with during the evening as it can get chilly once the sun goes down.
Average Temperatures by Month:
- June: 57 F / 72 F (14 C / 22 C)
- July: 64 F / 77 F (18 C / 25 C)
- August: 65 F / 78 F (18 C / 26 C)
Fall in Hokkaido
The fall season in Hokkaido is a lot cooler than on the mainland and you can expect torrential rain through September. Planning around the weather in this season is important, especially if you’re planning lots of nature and hiking adventures. Despite the weather, there are so many reasons to visit Hokkaido during the fall months and one of the major reasons is leaf-peeping.
The colors across the island during this season are mindblowing and well worth taking a road trip to catch as many hotspots as possible. While most of the leaves look their best in October and early November, you can start planning with foliage in mind from late August onwards. Some of the best spots to visit include Daisetsuzan National Park where you can get amazing views of the leaves from Mount Kurodake and the onsen town of Jozankei where you can bathe surrounded by color.
What to pack: If you’re traveling earlier in the season then bringing an extra layer for cooler temperatures plus rain gear will be ideal. If you’re arriving late October onwards, it’s best to bring some thicker clothes suitable for winter, a good coat, and a scarf because it gets cold quickly.
Average Temperatures by Month
- September: 55 F / 70 F (13 C / 21 C)
- October: 42 F / 57 F (6 C / 14 C)
- November: 30 F / 42 F (-1 C / 6 C)
Winter in Hokkaido
Hokkaido’s winter season is incredibly exciting, particularly if you love world-class winter sports. Rusutsu and Niseko Village are two of the most famous ski resorts in Japan and provide slopes for all levels as well as relaxing hot springs, drinking, and dining options. With regular snowfall, the island is a winter wonderland so it’s no wonder that this is the location of the country’s largest snow festival. Sapporo lights up in February with a selection of giant illuminated ice sculptures such as castles, stormtroopers, temples, and cartoon characters. Getting out into nature you’ll see everything from drift ice, to diamond dust, and sun pillars so wrap up and go explore the national parks.
What to pack: It gets very cold during the Hokkaido winters so make sure you bring a good coat with you. Also pack some shoes with a good grip and extra thermal base layers plus your scarf, hat, and gloves.
Average Temperatures by Month
- December: 18 F (-8 C) / 29 F (-2 C)
- January: 11 F (-12 C) / 24 F (-4 C)
- February: 12 F (-11 C) / 26 F (-3 C)
Spring in Hokkaido
While the spring takes a while to warm up in Hokkaido, the cherry blossom season is still the big spring event and the Hanami parties are not to be missed. Those chasing the cherry blossoms through Japan will find this their last stop with the blossoms blooming as late as May and it’s particularly convenient for late visitors to Japan who don’t want to miss out on the fun. Some of the top sakura viewing spots include Nijukken Road which is a 4.3-mile (7-kilometer) strip lined with over three thousand cherry blossom trees, and Seiryuji Temple where you can see the rarer Chishima cherry trees which change color during the blooming stages. Spring is perfect for exploring Hokkaido’s many national parks with long days of blue skies and spectacular flora blooming across the island.
What to pack: Bring lots of layers for the spring in Hokkaido as it’s still quite chilly but gets warm in the sunshine.
Average Temperatures by Month
- March: 25 F / 32 F (-4 C / 0 C)
- April: 36 F / 49 F (2 C / 9 C)
- May: 47 F / 63 F (8 C / 17 C)
Average Monthly Temperature, Rainfall, and Daylight Hours
|Avg. Temp.||Rainfall||Daylight Hours|
|January||17 F / -8 C||4.8 inches||9 hours|
|February||19 F / -7 C||4.2 inches||9 hours|
|March||28 F / -2 C||3.5 inches||10 hours|
|April||42 F / 6 C||2.0 inches||12 hours|
|May||55 F / 13 C||1.9 inches||14 hours|
|June||64 F / 18 C||1.8 inches||15 hours|
|July||70 F / 21 C||3.1 inches||15 hours|
|August||71 F / 22 C||4.5 inches||14 hours|
|September||62 F / 17 C||5.9 inches||13 hours|
|October||49 F / 9 C||4.9 inches||11 hours|
|November||36 F / 2 C||4.7 inches||10 hours|
|December||23 F / -5 C||4.9 inches||9 hours|
Time and Date. "Climate & Weather Averages in Hokkaido, Japan." November 2020.
- Japan Airlines. "Shizunai Nijukken Road Cherry Blossom Trees". November 2020.