WHEN TO TRAVEL
Visiting Japan can be enjoyable at any time of the year. Due to the country's large north-south extension, weather patterns differ dramatically between regions.
Spring and autumn are perhaps the most beautiful time of year to travel, with the delicate cherry blossom or turning leaves adding a gorgeous hue to the scenery. The cherry blossom begins its journey northward in mid-March, reaching Kyoto and Tokyo by early April, and finally arriving in Sapporo by early May. The autumn leaves reverse the pattern, touching the high peaks of Hokkaido in mid-October and marching steadily south to Kyoto by mid-November.
For hikers and lovers of the outdoors, the summer months offer ideal conditions in the mountains of the Japanese Alps and Hokkaido’s wild national parks. For a very different experience why not visit Japan in the winter, when the people of the snowy north brighten the dark days with a host of colourful festivals and events.
Okinawa can be visited all year round but for the best weather and least chance of typhoons, May and October are ideal. Summer is the peak season for domestic tourism and also sees the highest levels of rain and threat of high winds.
Japan's hanami season
March - April
The cherry blossom season (hanami: hana meaning flower and mi meaning to see) is a national institution in Japanese society. Hanami sees families, friends and work colleagues get together, sit on blue tarpaulin on avenues lined with cherry blossom trees and sing, chat, eat, drink and enjoy the beautiful view.
Japan's Obon Festival
July - August
Obon is an annual event for commemorating one's ancestors. It is believed that each year during obon, the ancestors' spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives. Taking place across Japan, the Obon Festival, also known as the 'festival of lanterns' is a wonderful spectacle of Bon dances, floating lanterns and a huge bonfire. This is lit on the side of Mt Daimonji, Kyoto to help guide the spirits of one's ancestors back to the other world.
Autumn is a glorious time to be in Japan as the countryside blazes with the fiery reds and dazzling oranges of the turning leaves of the indigenous momiji maple tree. The viewing of autumn's colorful leaves (koyo) has been a popular activity in Japan for centuries and today draws large numbers of travelers to famous koyo spots both in the mountains and in the cities.