When it comes to choosing the best time to visit Japan, it's hard to go wrong as there's an array of natural events, active experiences and cultural goings on that take place throughout the year.
Travellers planning a once-in-a-lifetime holiday to Japan, however, will want to choose the right month to tick off that all-important bucket list experience you've always dreamed about.
If you wish to visit the Asian hotspot but haven't decided on the best time of year to visit Japan, our guide to the season's top delights will help you decide. Here's where to go and the best time to visit Japan...
How many days is enough to visit Japan?
When you’re thinking about how many days is enough to explore Japan properly, it’s worth remembering that it takes around 14 hours to fly non-stop from London to Tokyo. You might want to factor in a day or two to acclimatise and recover at the start of your trip and adjust to the new time zone — Japan is nine hours ahead of the UK.
Japan is an incredible country to explore, and if you’re only planning on visiting once, you’ll want to make the most of your time there and factor in plenty of time to see the highlights. That will include Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka as an absolute minimum for most people. To make exploring simple, a Japan cruise can be an excellent way to travel effortlessly around the country, but be sure to choose an itinerary that allows you to experience a ride on a bullet train and catch the view from Mount Fuji.
The exact number of days you’ll need in Japan depends on what you want to do and see. We recommend around 10 days to ensure you have enough time to explore Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Mount Fuji, and some of the other fascinating sights in between.
When is the best time to visit Japan for cherry blossom season?
The most popular areas for cherry blossom viewing experience the bloom in March and April. If you travel around this time of year, you should have a good chance of seeing the powder-pink display, particularly if your itinerary takes you to different parts of Japan. The cherry blossom usually emerges in the south of the country first at the end of March and spreads north over the following weeks.
Cherry blossoms only bloom for around a week or two, appearing at slightly different times in different locations. Add to the equation that there are different varieties of sakura, and you can see why the exact dates are tricky to pin down. To add to the complexity of viewing the blossom in full bloom, a scientific study found that human-induced climate change is bringing the flowering forwards.
By 2100, researchers from the Met Office and Osaka Metropolitan University expect the date of peak blossom will be a full 17 days earlier. For now, visit in March or April for the best chance of seeing this unforgettable floral spectacle.
When is the cheapest month to visit Japan?
The cherry blossom season is one of the most popular times to visit Japan and the prices of holidays over this time tend to reflect this demand. With Japan closing its borders to tourists for longer than other nations post-Covid, it’s expected that there may be some pent-up demand to visit, which could nudge prices up, too.
If cherry blossom viewing isn’t top of your Japan wish list, then you might want to consider visiting Japan at a cheaper time of the year. Except for New Year, the off-peak season in Japan is late autumn to early spring. It’s cooler, drier, and quieter, which can suit some travellers better.
Visiting Japan in spring (March to May)
With its mild weather and blossoming trees, spring is a wonderful time of year to explore Japan in bloom. It's the most popular season among visitors who travel far and wide to witness the Japanese cherry blossom. Celebrated everywhere, from Tokyo to Hiroshima, it's when you can see nature's fleeting beauty and visit various locations for hanami (cherry blossom viewing).
Try Kyoto's Botanical Garden, Philosopher's Path and Maruyama Park. Meanwhile in Tokyo, Yoyogi Park, the Nakameguro neighbourhood, Shinjuku Gyoen, the Meguro River and Chidorigafuchi Moat make for terrific cherry blossom viewing.
Elsewhere, Mount Yoshino in the Nara Prefecture is the most famous sakura (cherry blossom) site and has around 30,000 cherry trees covering the mountain. Spring is also an excellent time to see the magical wisteria tunnel at Kawachi Fuji Gardens in Fukuoka.
Visiting Japan in summer (June to August)
Summer brings hot and humid conditions to Japan, making it the perfect time to escape to the mountains. If you're looking to get active, July to mid-September is Mount Fuji's climbing season. You'll find many people hiking up and down the volcano in the summer months, but if you wish to get away from the crowds you might want to head to the north of Japan to the main island of Hokkaido.
Known for its natural hot springs and national parks, Hokkaido offers mild summer weather. It's during this season that you can enjoy the bright carpet of flowers covering the hills and mountains. Some of the flower types are only found in Hokkaido thanks to its peculiar climate and you'll also witness rows upon rows of tulips, lavender and sunflowers in a beautiful display.
Visiting Japan in autumn (September to November)
Autumn in Japan offers the opportunity to experience leaf peeping at its very best. Vibrant red and orange leaves fall from the trees and it's a chance to get out and about to see nature's beauty. Kyoto is a popular place for autumn holidays, with Nanzen-ji Temple, the mountain village of Takao and Imperial Palace Park known as some of the picturesque spots to see the changing colours of the leaves.
Other leaf peeping highlights around Japan include Tokyo's Rikugien Garden and Jingu Gaien Ginkgo Avenue, where the gingko trees turn bright yellow in autumn. Hiroshima's maple trees also put on a magnificent display, and in Kagawa, the Ritsurin Garden Autumn Illumination is a three-day light event showing the autumn colours at night.
Visiting Japan in winter (December to March)
This is the time to get active and head for the ski slopes in Japan. The winter ski season runs from the end of November to the end of March and you'll find top-quality snow in the resorts of Appi Kogen, Niseko, Furano and Hakuba. Wildlife lovers will also love the winter months as they're when you can spot snow monkeys at the Jigokudani Monkey Park (December to March), whooper swans in Hokkaido (October to March) and Steller's sea eagles in Hokkaido (first two weeks of February).
If you prefer hotter climes, you can bask in the winter sun of Okinawa, located between mainland Japan and Taiwan. The island offers a tropical climate, white sand beaches and the bluest of waters, with highs of 21 degrees in December.
The best time to visit Tokyo
Planning a city break and want to head straight for Tokyo? The best time to visit is between March and April or September and November, while avoiding the capital during the height of summer. During spring and autumn, the weather is milder and less humid, plus there's little rainfall, so weather-wise it's a dream.
For the most beautiful scenes, March and April are your best bet if you want to marvel at Tokyo's cherry blossom displays and even though it's popular among visitors, you'll avoid the school holiday crowds.
Want to experience Japan during the cherry blossom season? Read about our 13-day cruise holiday in 2024 and book a space on the dream escape.
Looking for inspiration for your next holiday? Grab a cuppa and browse our brochure packed with unique escapes.
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