Now, is there really a bad time to visit Japan?!
Chances are, no matter when you go, you will leave Japan with good memories!
It really depends on what you’re looking for, as you could come up with a reason NOT to visit Japan for every month of the year.
So, below are potentially some of the WORST things about traveling in each of the months.
Now this does NOT mean there aren’t good things about each of these months too!
But sometimes, it’s all about managing your expectations.
And, some of these WORST things could actually be why YOU would think it’s the BEST time to go to Japan!
Some of this also has to do with crowds. If you are undeterred by crowds (because you recognize that Japan is popular for a reason!) then some of this may not apply!
The ultimate Japan experience #1: You can read the reviews for watching sumo training!
The ultimate Japan experience #2: You can read the reviews for the samurai lesson at a dojo!
The ultimate Japan experience #3: You can read the reviews for the tea ceremony!
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Traveling around Japan and can't read Japanese? No problem! Just use the camera on the google translate app!
Now, extreme crowds may not be in the immediate future in Japan, but there are still things to keep in mind as it relates to high tourist season! It can relate to WHY certain times of the year are particularly popular!
Speaking in general terms…
Also keep in mind that increased domestic travel and foreign travel can lead to higher prices for flights to Japan and accommodation costs.
This could also lead to more difficulty in finding reasonable accommodation prices the longer you wait to book your hotel or place to stay.
As an example, there was one hostel in Tokyo that I booked a month in advance. It was the night before I was flying out of Narita airport, so that was fixed.
Well, I booked another hostel in Tokyo just a day before I arrived there, and the most reasonable one I could find with very good ratings was nearly double the cost! (Around US$25 vs around US$50.)
And, this was in the same neighborhood of Shinjuku (a popular area in Tokyo), and these stays in Tokyo were 3 days apart.
To be fair, the higher priced one was a Friday night for the weekend, but still!
See more about staying in hostels in Japan.
And when speaking of climate, one more thing to keep in mind is that this is just generally speaking.
Also included below can give you ideas of when to visit Japan based on SEASON!
When should you avoid Japan?
If you don’t like snow or the cold, you should avoid northern Japan in the winter. If you don’t like heat and humidity, you should avoid Japan in the summer.
You should also avoid travel during Golden Week in Japan, because this is among the busiest times for domestic travel. Golden Week is typically late April and/or early May.
Which month is the most popular time for visitors in Japan?
This is when you can see the beautiful colors of Japan!
This means that the spring months of March and April (cherry blossom), and the fall months of October, November, and even into December in Kyoto (fall colors), can be the most crowded months for travel in Japan.
Peak cherry blossom season and peak fall foliage season will vary across Japan.
So you will want to check for the specific destination you’ll be visiting for the best time to go to Japan for cherry blossoms and fall colors!
What is the nicest month in Japan?
All of this also means that the nicest months in Japan are the spring months and fall months if you are after gorgeous colors!
If you are in Japan in March, April, October, November, and early December, then these can be the nicest months to see the beautiful colors of Japan!
The temperatures in the spring and fall months also aren’t unreasonably hot as is the case in the summer which also makes them the nicest months in Japan.
Summer in Japan can get HOT and HUMID, which can be something that can make a lot of people miserable.
The quick list of best places to visit on your first trip to Japan!
Here are the best places to visit in Japan…or places to highly consider visiting!
Well, Tokyo is the most famous city in Japan. It is kind of a mandatory visit, I guess. 😜
One of the most famous things to do in Japan in the summer is to climb Mount Fuji. It’s very reasonable to climb Mount Fuji on your own without a guide. Because of the massive elevation change (you are literally hiking up to the highest point in Japan!), it’s better to do this over 2 days with a stay at a Mount Fuji mountain hut to break up your hike. Although many people do climb Mount Fuji in one day, and that’s called a Mount Fuji bullet climb.
For the famous view of Mount Fuji in the background and the pagoda up front (above!), then you can make it a trip to see Mount Fuji by going from Tokyo to the Chureito Pagoda by train.
Kyoto is the best city to visit in Japan no matter the time of year if you are interested in Japanese history and culture. It is an ancient capital of Japan, and there are tons of UNESCO world heritage sites in Kyoto. This means that there are tons of temples, shrines, and Japanese gardens for you to visit in Japan.
Tokyo or Kyoto for first trip to Japan?
It is a matter of preference, but if you must choose between the 2 famous cities in Japan, Tokyo and Kyoto, personally I would go with Kyoto because of the history and culture. But, Tokyo is popular for plenty of reasons, so it really depends on your interests!
Osaka is another city in Japan to visit for a glimpse of Japanese history. You can have a walk around Osaka Castle to see what a Japanese castle is like. For another Japanese castle, you can make it a day trip from Osaka to go to Himeji Castle… and see the Japanese gardens in Himeji as another activity in Himeji!
Hiroshima is a must-visit for Americans. A visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is how you can see the result of WWII destruction that came from American actions in response to the action of the Japanese at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Be sure to go to the museum too. It can be an emotionally powerful experience.
Miyajima is a popular day trip from Hiroshima, and it’s popular to spend one day in Miyajiama. It’s where you can see one of the famous Japanese shrines. For the best experience, see the Miyajima shrine at high tide and low tide! You can see deer here too.
Okinawa isn’t typically on the itinerary of a first trip to Japan, mostly probably because it’s kind of way out of the way compared to the rest of the classic Japan route.
What months might you NOT want to travel to Japan?!
This is generally speaking when conditions are normal!
January, February, March
In some places it’s COLD, there could be snow, and both of these things can also lead to an increased risk for travel delays.
And since it’s cold, there’s a lack of greenery in many places.
With the cold also comes the necessity of having to pack cold weather clothes. That means more luggage. (And if you live in warm weather climate year-round, it might mean having to shop for winter clothing!)
And if you’re planning your trip to Japan based on times that might see less crowds, you’ll want to think about Japan’s major holidays.
But it’s not just Japanese holidays you need to think about!
A big part of Japan’s foreign tourists come from China. (Although this is not currently the case due to China’s strict travel policies in 2022.)
With China being a short flight from Japan, this means that Chinese holidays can also lead to a few extra people on the golden route of Japan.
One of the biggest holidays in China is the Chinese New Year and there’s vacation time to go along with it.
The date of the Chinese New Year varies each year, and it can be any time from the middle of January to the middle of February.
The end of the school year for Japan is March, and beginning of the school year is April.
This could lead to domestic travel being on the rise and a few more crowds with school being out nationwide.
This is also around the time of cherry blossom season and it seems that everyone, domestic and international travelers, wants to see the cherry blossoms in the famous places.
This could also lead to an increase in crowds. Increase in crowds can mean increased prices.
(Who says that cherry blossom season is the worst time to visit?! Well, if you don’t like crowds… See some pictures here of cherry blossom season crowds.)
End of April and beginning of May is Golden Week in Japan.
This is basically a time of several national holidays.
Exact dates of Golden Week can vary each year based on whether certain holidays fall over the weekend or during the week.
The 3 main holidays are on April 29, May 3, and May 5.
This can lead to a big increase in domestic travel in Japan around these dates.
In 2023, Golden Week is early May.
See more public holidays in Japan.
This is generally considered rainy season.
August is usually the hottest month of the year.
And, it’s not just hot. It’s hot and humid.
There’s a good chance you’ll be doing a lot of walking when you’re in Japan, and you might consider heat and humidity to be a miserable combination.
On an August day in 2019 that I was writing part of this post, it was reported to get to a high of 39C (102F) in Kyoto.
It’s also summer vacation in Japan.
There’s also a major holiday in Japan in August, called Obon.
Obon is in the middle of August, and if you’re looking for dates to avoid, it could be good to avoid travel the weekends before and after these dates, as well as during the week.
Among other things, that can mean that train travel can get crowded. This includes the super fast shinkansen bullet train in Japan.
In 2019, Obon was August 13-15. On August 10 of that year, it was reported by the national news program in Japan (NHK) that reserved seats for these bullet trains were at capacity. (All booked up!)
And the non-reserved seats (which also exist on most bullet trains) were reported to be at 160% capacity! (aka standing-room only and crowded!!)
I don’t remember if they were talking about Tokyo only, but it’s safe to say you can expect crowds over most, if not all, of Japan!
August and September are said to be the peak of typhoon season, although the official meteorological typhoon season is June to November.
So what makes this the worst time to go to Japan?
This means that there could be an increased risk for travel delays and complete cancellations of public transportation services, and possibly flights.
October, November, December
The temperatures start getting cooler, so if you’re not a fan of traveling in cold weather and again having to pack a bunch of cold weather clothes leading to more (heavy) luggage you have to carry around… well, you might consider this to be a bad time to visit Japan.
And, if you come after the changing of the leaves, that could mean less pretty landscape… a lot more leaf-less trees and brown scenery. Just saying. 😉
On the FLIP side of the worst months to travel in Japan…
You can also find reasons that you might think these months are the BEST time to go to Japan!
January, February, March
Winter means SNOW! (In some places.)
If you are into winter sports, winter could be a prime time for your trip to Japan!
Nagano was home to the 1998 winter Olympics – have a look at Hakuba for a ski destination in Nagano.
It’s possible that these places can be worth visiting even through March. (Meaning they could still have snow then.)
Even if you’re not into skiing or snowboarding, Nagano and Hokkaido could still be worth visiting for the winter wonderland and snow landscape.
See a sample 10 day winter itinerary with the Japan Alps, and also see a sample 7 day winter itinerary in Hokkaido.
Cherry blossom season!
Spring means PINK!
Well, if you’re a fan of cherry blossoms, this might be the ONLY time you’ll want to go on your first trip to Japan!
Each year, the earliest cherry blossom predictions come in January, and you really have only a narrow amount of time to see them in each city, maybe a couple of weeks.
See the 2019 predictions for the blooming of cherry blossoms with first bloom and full bloom.
June, July, August
Greenery for mountain destinations!
Summer means GREEN!
With all the mountains around, Japan can be a prime hiking destination in the summer, and there are many places you can go that will have hiking trails suitable as day hikes.
You can also find day hikes with nice views when you’re staying in Tokyo and Kyoto too. Japan is made up of mountains so you won’t be too far from a hiking trail!
There are many hikes in Japan that you could call somewhat of a “culture hike” too, as there are trails that you can visit temples or shrines along the way, and/or there are traditional Japanese-style structures along the way. One such trail in Kyoto is the Kurama to Kibune hike where you can hike from temple to shrine.
And if you don’t consider yourself to be much of a hiker, Japan is also full of ropeways or cable cars.
This means that you’ll often find a lift to that stunning scenery.
You may be able to find trails and ropeways year-round in some places, but summer can mean a prettier landscape, at least compared to leafless trees… if you’re superficial like that. 😉
And if you go to more of a mountain destination, you won’t even really need to make an effort for that nice landscape – you’ll be surrounded by it!
Summer also means that you can climb Mount Fuji and stand on the top of Japan!
There’s a climbing season for Mt Fuji, and that also changes each year, but typically it will be from early July to early September.
Even climbing Mt Fuji in summer means that you need to pack for cold weather though – it gets colder the higher you go!
Fall foliage with changing of leaves!
Fall means RED!
Just like there is a cherry blossom season in spring that’s a big deal, there’s also an autumn changing of leaves season that’s a big deal in Japan!
And just like with cherry blossom season, the dates of the fall colors will vary each year based on weather, and they will be different across the country. And yes, this can include December!
To get an idea of possible dates for the changing of leaves, here’s a fall foliage map from a past year.
See what fall colors in Japan can look like too.
So then really…
What time of year should you go to Japan?!?!
This REALLY depends on what you’re looking for and what kinds of risks you’re willing to take!
My vote is for summer!
It can be hot, and there’s a chance of rain and typhoons impacting travel (I was stuck in Japan for a few extra days because of a natural disaster), but I really like the scenery that comes with summer hiking and summer travel!
But again, you will probably have a GREAT time no matter when you choose to go!
You can find all 4 seasons in Japan – winter, spring, summer, fall – and there are places to visit where you can enjoy each season!
Can you really go wrong with a trip to Japan?!
No, no you probably can’t. 😉
HAPPY PLANNING YOUR VISIT TO JAPAN!
Here are ideas for your Kyoto itinerary!
- Day 1: Top tourist spots with one day bus pass
- Day 2: Fushimi Inari Shrine hike through 1,000 torii gates
- Day 3: Philosopher's Path walk
- Day 4: Arashiyama and Sagano
- Day 5: Kurama Kibune Ohara with one day pass
And the JR pass makes it time-efficient to travel around Japan by train and is a popular option among international travelers! See how to figure out if the JR pass will be worth it for you!
🍵 Read the reviews of these highly rated tours:
Is a JR pass worth it?!
- Google maps can make it easy to figure out whether or not you should get a JR pass!
- In google maps, type in your departure and arrival city, and choose the transit icon. The route will come up, and so will the estimated cost at the bottom!
- Here is an example of a train route with cost on google maps.
- So do that for all of your long distance routes to figure out how much it might cost.
- Next, go here to see how much a JR pass costs from an official JR pass vendor (and partner of this website).
- And compare!
- Not all forms of public transportation are JR, but long distance shinkansen bullet trains are, and that's where the most cost savings will come.
Best of Kyoto (and Japan!)
👇 Explore the best places to visit in Japan!
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