For many people who live outside of Japan planning a trip is an exciting prospect. Flights and hotels can be expensive, especially if you are coming from far away so you want to make the most out of your trip to Japan. There are many things to take into account when you are planning your trip, budget, location, activities or season. The season that you visit Japan can also make a big difference in the experiences and things you can see or do when you are there. So what is the best season to visit?
Spring in Japan is a spectacular time to visit, as spring matsuri and hanami parties are really enjoyable to experience. It is said that spring is the best season regarding weather for travelling through Japan. Temperatures are rising, but not to uncomfortable levels, and humidity has not peaked yet. This means that you can comfortably travel across the country and experience everything you want to. Although weather can be unpredictable! This year there was snow in April and spring was unseasonably cold. But that did mean that stunning scenes of sakura blossoms in the snow could be seen. Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing parties, are central to the ending of winter in Japan showing the transient nature of beauty and life.
Many who are interested in Japan wish to see the cherry blossom season and spring is the time of year to do so. It can be difficult to plan to see the sakura, as the times of blooming can change each year. If you are flexible with where you are staying you can catch some blossoms from the end of March to the beginning of May depending on what part of Japan you are in. Spring is also the time for Golden Week, a week-long holiday where there are four special days, celebrating the Showa period to celebrating the children of Japan. This is a very busy travel period as internal tourism booms, but you can be a part of that too.
Summer in Japan is hot. Really rather hot. In central Japan temperatures sit above 30 degrees for most of the summer months and humidity is very high, so this makes travelling a bit of a strain if you are not used to the heat. Summer also brings rain, with the rainy season and the presence of Pacific typhoons. This means you can expect to get wet if you visit in summer. Don’t let this put you off, summer can be a truly great time to visit Japan, even if you wilt in the heat. The rains bring some beautiful plants into bloom, the greatest of which is ajisai, the hydrangea. Many temples and gardens have beautiful hydrangea in bloom throughout the rainy season. The rain brings the Japanese countryside alive, the leaves show vibrant greens and the sky is a clear blue. By summer most of the hiking paths are clear from snow so the mountainous beauty of Japan can be enjoyed. Summer matsuri are a must-see across Japan. If the heat is too much for you, travel north to the more bearable climes of Hokkaido, a stunning island easily enjoyed in the summer months. Some of the biggest anime and gaming events occur in the summer, if you enjoy cosplay or gaming a Japanese event is a must! Even if you do not cosplay yourself you can go and see the amazingly intricate costumes that the fans create.
Autumn brings welcome relief from the stifling heat that summer can bring in central Japan. In autumn the temperature and humidity falls and the rainy season ends, bringing clear skies to enjoy the outdoors. Like spring, autumn is a good season to travel around the country. The biggest draw of autumn is the autumn colours. The vibrant green leaves of summer turn to reds, oranges and yellows that seem to glow from the branches. Much like the sakura season the autumn colours bring tourists flocking into the forests of Japan to witness this yearly change. One of the most famous places to go and see the autumn colours is the northern island of Hokkaido. Being further north the climate of Hokkaido is much cooler than the main and southern islands. This means that the leaves turn much sooner than in other areas of Japan. Hokkaido has many untouched and spectacular forests and the autumn colours are one of the largest tourist draws for the whole island. Autumn also brings the harvest matsuri. From ancient times in Japan the worship of the land has been key to prosperity, and the worship of the Kami (God) who protects the harvest is still going on today.
Winter varies across the islands of Japan. Central Japan experiences snow in the mountains and sometimes even in Tokyo. Areas of Hokkaido become completely inaccessible due to sea ice and deep snow, whereas the sun-tropical south islands moderate. So winter in Japan really varies depending on where you visit. Japan has some amazing ski slopes, as 70% of the islands are mountains. Either in Hokkaido or the Japanese Alps you can find deep snow and thrilling ski runs to enjoy. Onsen (hot springs) become a real treat in the winter, especially if you visit an outdoor onsen and can see the cold, crisp weather from the warmth of a natural bath. Winter illuminations are set up across Japan, highlighting the architecture of Japan.
Sapporo holds a snow festival where intricate and gigantic sculptures are made by talented artists. Winter also brings Christmas time in Japan, decorations blanket the cities for the weeks before Christmas and a holiday atmosphere can be enjoyed. The New Year brings traditional celebrations of the coming of age and to welcome the end of a year and the beginning of the new year. Winter foods can be enjoyed all across Japan where rich and hearty meals are shared between family and friends.
The different seasons bring widely different aspects of the Japanese environment and culture. It can really change the experiences that you get when you are visiting. If you are planning your next trip and can choose exactly when you will visit think carefully about what season you are going to enjoy the most!