From a tourist’s perspective, Japan never fails to fascinate as one of the most interesting places to visit in Asia. Rich culture, long history dating over centuries and yet, a modern society in a continual state of rapid flux with fads, fashions and technological advancement.
In fact, most people who have experienced a visit to the country never fail to make the trip there again, only to discover a deeper love for the beautiful land of the rising sun. There are so many different areas to visit and new things to do in different seasons such that you can never be bored of going back there a few times a year. Are you one of those who can never get enough of Japan? If you are constantly looking for new ways to experience Japan, we are sure our year-round guide to visiting Japan will be a great help for you!
Summer in Japan: July – September
Summer in Japan can be extremely hot, making sightseeing uncomfortable, which also means it’s a good season to visit if you are looking for cheaper rates. But Japan offers a varied amount of things to do in all seasons, so you can expect some nice surprises if you choose to visit in Summer.
The months of July and August see a number of traditional Japanese festivals taking place, which can offer the culturally-inclined traveller an interesting experience and insight into Japanese tradition. For instance, the Gion Matsuri held in Kyoto is one of the most famous festivals in Japan. It takes place over the entire month of July with many different events. The highlight of the festival is the processions of impressive-looking floats on display, as well as the myriad of festivities taking place in the Gion district, otherwise known for the frequent sightings of Geishas.
Other equally interesting festivals taking place during summer in Japan include the Awa Odori in Tokushima, Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori and the Sumo Autumn Basho in Tokyo.
Autumn in Japan: October – December
Late October sees the start of Autumn in Japan. Much like hanami, many travellers around the world come to Japan to appreciate the beautiful foliage during this period. There are plenty of sites where you can view beautiful red leaves, but what makes Japan special is the picture of Zen created when these pretty colours surround traditional temples, with some being illuminated for viewing especially during this time.
Since Autumn moves southward in Japan from Hokkaido, timing is important in order to catch this beautiful season in its full glory. We have included some of the most popular places to view autumn in Japan and the best time period to visit:
Mid-September to early October – Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido
Late September to mid-October – Shiretoko National Park, Hokkaido
Late October – Lake Towada, Aomori
Late October to mid-November – Fuji Five Lakes
Late November to early December – Arashiyama, Kyoto
Late November to early December – Kiyomizudera, Kyoto
Other than appreciating the lovely autumn colours, December sees the start of winter season in Japan and you might want to plan some time in for a hot soak in an onsen, or visit the infamous Jigokudani Monkey Park to see the snow monkeys bathing themselves in the natural hot springs.
Winter in Japan: January – March
Being wintery cold from December to March, this is the peak season for those who love snow and ski. Japan is known for its “powder-power” – soft powdery white snow that keeps on bringing in ski-lovers to her beautiful ski mountain resorts.
The different parts of the Japan ski season have their pros and cons. In deciding when or where to ski in Japan, you need to consider your priorities – whether you want to chase the best powder snow, avoid the crowds, budget and accessibility.
The pros of snowboarding and skiing in Japan in January is that there’s a lot of snow and the powder snow quality is at its best. However, the weather will probably be much more enjoyable in March. Additionally, lift tickets and accommodation discounts tend to apply from mid to late March so it’s a better choice for those on a tighter budget.
Of course, if you are not looking to ski or snowboard, there’s always the Yuki Matsuri Sapporo Snow Festival in early February. The Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo Yuki Matsuri) is held during one week every February in Hokkaido’s capital Sapporo and is one of Japan’s most popular winter events. Other than featuring large snow sculptures that are lit up daily, there are also over one hundred smaller snow statues and several concerts and events, many of which use the sculptures as their stage.
Spring in Japan: April – June
Perhaps nothing captures the popularity of Japan more than the obsession over catching the short-lived cherry blossom season – these lovely pink flowers’ brief existence taps into a long-held appreciation of the beauty of the fleeting nature of life while symbolising new beginnings at the same time. Due to their temporal nature, you can imagine that it is peak season for visiting Japan during the season, which translates to high prices for air tickets and hotel stays.
Besides sakura-watching, flower lovers will be happy to know that spring sees a number of different blooms in Japan that are equally breathtaking. The Fuji Shibazakura Festival is one of the most popular occasions nationwide to see Shibazakura (pink moss). The venue of the festival is in the Fuji Five Lakes area, offering breathtaking views of fields of Shibazakura with Mount Fuji in the backdrop. The best time to see the flowers is usually the first three weeks of May.
The Kawachi Wisteria Garden is another place to view spring blooms – Wisteria trees that form enormous roofs of drooping flowers, ranging from white to dark purple in colour. Kawachi Wisteria Garden has grown very popular in recent years and now attracts large numbers of domestic visitors and international travellers during the Wisteria season.
For those who were not able to enjoy Japan in their wintery grandeur, you’ll have another chance in Spring if you visit the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, also known as the “Roof of Japan”. When spring comes, the Alpine Route is literally ‘carved through’ the snow, forming an 18-metre high snow wall and an awesome trekking route to see various scenery and attractions in the Japanese Alps.
With this list of comprehensive itinerary suggestions to visiting Japan the whole year-round, we promise you’ll never get bored even if you return to visit the country every month!
Just remember to stay safe and protect yourself against unforeseen disruption to your travel plans by getting an annual travel insurance plan with DirectAsia. A basic annual plan to Japan costs only $149, while our annual family travel insurance starts at $298, and offers full coverage for up to 4 children. Get a quote now and start planning for your Japan holidays!