Japan Travel Advice on Best Time of year to Visit Japan
Climatic patterns in Japan are diverse ranging from subtropical islands in the south to sub-arctic winter temperatures in northern Hokkaido.
Like neighbouring Korean Peninsula and most of China, Honshu (literally “Main Island” or “Main Province”), the island we travel across, has cool and cold weather in winter (Jan-Mar). June and July is rainy season across Japan except Hokkaido – a popular destination for Japanese to escape summer heat. Autumn (September to mid-December) is usually cool and clear on Honshu. Cherry blossom season from late March to early April and the autumn foliage season (November) see huge influx of international visitors to join the large number of local vacationers on the move.
If you have a choice, you should stay away from Japan during their Golden Week holiday (end of April to early May) when hotels and air flights get incredibly expensive. For the high prices, you’d be rewarded with overcrowding at all the tourist sites – a phenomenon that rivals China’s National Day holiday week (Oct 1-6).
Winter (Jan-Mar) is supposed to be low season for Japan’s tourism industry, not anymore. The rapid rise of middle class throughout Asia and the decline of the Japanese Yen against so many currencies in the past few years ensure Japan is overrun with international visitors all year round. That said, in winter hotels, the single biggest budget item for many, can be had for less than half of the price of high season.
Japan Travel Advice – when is the best time to see cherry blossoms?
People interested in our Japan tours often ask when is the best time for cherry blossom viewing. The popular sakura (cherry blossom) festival is a reason for many to take a trip to Japan.
The answer depends on where one wants to go. Japan is a country with a very diverse climatic pattern ranging from subtropical weather in southern islands to sub-arctic winter temperatures in northern Hokkaido. In general, the milder the climate, the earlier the cherry trees bloom. In subtropical Okinawa you’ll see cherry blossoms opening up as early as January while in Hokkaido you’ll have to wait till May.
Our regular Japan tours visit neither Okinawa nor Hokkaido. Instead, we spend all our time on the main island of Honshu, where we visit the most popular cities which include Tokyo, Kanazawa, Koyto and Osaka. The tours usually start in Tokyo and end in Osaka or Kyoto (Kansai region). In most of these cities, the cherry blossom season lasts from late March to early April for about two weeks. However, in the mountainous areas listed in our trip itineraries such as Mt. Fuji and Hakone outside Tokyo, Shirakawa-go near Kanazawa, and Arashiyama on the western edge of Kyoto, cherry blossoms are still abundant in late April due to cooler climate.
Japan Travel Advice – where are the best spots for cherry blossom viewing?
Naturally, visitors going to Japan during the cherry blossom festival want to know the best spots for cherry blossom viewing. Although cherry blossoms are visible almost everywhere during the season, some particular spots do attract bigger crowds due to the high concentration and large varieties of cherry trees. In case you wonder, there are over one hundred types of cherry trees in Japan. As public service, Japan Weather Association maintains a list of National Top 20 Sakura Viewing Spots. The Top 5 are: