Japan Destination Guide

Best time to visit Japan: Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November)

Japan has four distinct seasons and experiences different climate zones in all its regions. The islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu have extratropical climates, Hokkaido has subarctic climates and the southern islands such as Okinawa have subtropical climates. The rainy season begins from early June and cyclones over the Pacific Ocean intensify and sometimes pass near Japan from July to October with August and September being the two critical months. During the winter months of December to February, the temperature rarely drops below 0°C in the plains along the Pacific coast and is also quite dry and very often sunny. March to May heralds the arrival of Spring. Cherry blossom is at its best in the Tokyo area between the end of March and the beginning of April. The Japanese summer begins in June with a three to four week rainy season. The weather is at its most humid and hot from July onwards and also the time when festivals are held throughout the country. September to November sees the beginning of Autumn and is the best time to see the glorious colours in the parks and gardens.

Visiting Japan in January
New Year is one of Japan’s major travel season with heavy domestic and international visitors. Many tourist and sightseeing attractions and restaurants are closed between December 29 and January 4. Most Museums are closed for several days over the holiday period. Temples and shrines do not close over New Year. If you are visiting Japan at this time, be sure to visit the inner grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace on January 2.
The weather in January is dry and sunny and sightseeing sites are much less crowded. In northern Japan and the Sea of Japan coast, there is heavy snowfall making conditions good for winter sports.
Days are short and sunset is around 5 pm.

Visiting Japan in February
Days in February are cool, dry, and sunny. February is also the peak of the winter sports season in Northern Japan. The Sapporo Snow Festival is held in February at the Odori Park. February is also the best month to visit Hokkaido to view the drift ice and the snow-covered farm houses of Shirakawago.

Visiting Japan in March
Early flowering plum trees heralds the arrival of spring and the weather starts to get warmer. Towards the end of March the cherry blossom trees start to blossom in the south, the practice of Hanami (flower viewing) is very popular with the Japanese. Picnics are held to view the cherry blossoms. The Japanese school holidays starts in the second half of March making this a busy season. Winter sports continues to be possible in the North.
In Nara, The Omizutori service is held annually from March 1 to 14 at Todaiji Temple. The most spectacular among its many ceremonies is the nightly burning of torches on the balcony of the wooden temple hall.

Visiting Japan in April
April is arguably the best time to visit Japan with the cherry blossoms in full bloom throughout most of the country and the weather is pleasant. It is a very busy period and hotels rates are at their peak.
Expect long queues and crowds at sightseeing sites in late April due to the start of the Golden Week.
The Takayama Matsuri is held in charming Takayama and large and elaborately decorated floats are pulled through the old town.

Visiting Japan in May
The end of April and the first week of May is Golden Week, a national holiday and one of Japan’s busiest travel season for domestic travellers. It is best to avoid this week altogether as hotel rates escalate and availability is poor. For the remainder of the month, May is warm and dry and pleasant. The rainy season in Okinawa begins in May and last till mid-June.
The Sanja Matsuri or Sanja Festival held on the third weekend of May is one of the three great Shinto festivals in Tokyo and held in honour of Hinokuma Hamanari, Hinokuma Takenari and Hajino Nakatomo, the three men who established and founded Senso-Ji. Over the course of 3 days, traditional musicians, and dancers in Edo period costumes parade between Sensoji Temple and Asakusa Shrine.

Visiting Japan in June
June sees the arrival of overcast skies and the rainy season in Japan with the exception of the North. Despite the rain, the weather remains hot and humid and Japan’s gardens are particularly beautiful at this time.

Visiting Japan in July
It is hot and humid in most of Japan with the end of the rains in the first half of July.
July is the festival time in Japan. The Kyoto festival of Gion Matsuri ranked as one of Japan's most famous festival is in full swing for the whole month with the highlight of the festival on July 17 featuring 20-metre-high floats.
On 24 and 25 July, The Tenjin Festival of Osaka ranked as one of Japan's top three festivals is celebrated with a land and river with fireworks. Early July to mid-September is the official climbing season for Mt Fuji when the trails and mountain facilities are open.

Visiting Japan in August
August is hot and humid in most of Japan. Domestic travel continues to be high due to the summer holidays. Festivals and Fireworks are held throughout the month. The Obon week in mid-August is one of Japan's three major holiday seasons and hotel rates escalate. Obon is an annual Buddhist event for commemorating one's ancestors. It is believed that each year during Obon, the ancestors' spirits return to this world to visit their relatives. Lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors' spirits, Obon dances are performed, graves are visited and food offerings are made at house altars and temples
The most famous of the Obon festivities is the Awa Odori held in Tokushima.

Visiting Japan in September
The typhoon season reaches its peak in late August and early September. The weather in September continues to be hot and humid but skies are clear. Northern Japan sees the arrival of autumn and leaves starts to change colours.

Visiting Japan in October
October is one of the most pleasant months to visit Japan as the weather remains warm, but is not hot and humid. Mainland Japan welcomes the arrival of autumn and the changing of colours in the trees is magical.

Visiting Japan in November
Apart from April, November is one of the best times to visit Japan to see the changing colours on the trees. The weather is still mild and dry.

Visiting Japan in December
The weather is cool and dry in December and domestic travel is low. Temperatures are chilly and days are short. This is the best time to experience the hot springs of Northern Japan and the onsen of Hakone/Mt Fuji.
The Chichibu Night Festival held on the 3rd Dec is considered one of Japan's top three festivals to feature ornately decorated floats with lanterns, tapestries and gilded wood carvings and are accompanied by drum and flute music.

 

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Best time to go

Tokyo

Winters in Tokyo are incredibly mild and summers are hottest in August. Low humidity in this region allows for the dramatic drop in temperature from day to night. Nikko receives slightly cooler summers and cold winters.

April is considered to be a perfect month to visit Tokyo, with pleasant dry days and average temperatures of 15°C and cool evenings. Cherry blossoms hit their peaks at the beginning of the month in Tokyo with ‘hanami’ parties celebrated under blossoming trees.

The Sanja Matsuri or Sanja Festival held on the third weekend of May is one of the three great Shinto festivals in Tokyo and held in honour of Hinokuma Hamanari, Hinokuma Takenari and Hajino Nakatomo, the three men who established and founded Senso-Ji. Over the course of 3 days, traditional musicians and dancers in Edo period costumes parade between Sensoji Temple and Asakusa Shrine. For those who wish to include a visit to see Japan's Sumo wrestlers, the Sumo Summer Basho takes place in Tokyo in May.

The rainy season begins in June and continues until mid-July with cloudy skies and scattered showers. August days are hot and humid leading to the wettest month of September with the arrival of the typhoon season. Tokyo explodes in autumn colours during November, making it an ideal time to admire the changing colours.

New Year is one of Japan’s major travel season. Most museums are closed for several days although temples and shrines do not close over New Year. If you are visiting Japan at this time, be sure to visit the inner grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace on January 2.

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
2℃ 2℃ 5℃ 10℃ 14℃ 18℃ 22℃ 23℃ 20℃ 15℃ 9℃ 4℃
 Average maximum temperature
8℃ 9℃ 12℃ 17℃ 21℃ 24℃ 28℃ 29℃ 26℃ 20℃ 15℃ 11℃
 Average hours of sunshine
6 6 6 5 6 4 5 6 4 4 5 6
 Average rainfall in mm
43 58 94 119 132 181 128 147 181 158 85 40

Hakone & Mt Fuji

The clear skies and dry days of January and February offer superb views of Mount Fuji and an opportunity to enjoy the snowy peaks from a steaming hot spring bath (onsen) with a glass of sake. Generally, the best times to view Mt Fuji is from November to May. The most popular area for viewing is around the Fuji Five Lakes / Hakone region, an ideal base for climbing, hiking, fishing and camping and a must for those who are visiting Japan during the cherry blossom season in spring.
July to mid-September is climbing season in Mount Fuji, with large crowds and busy trails, especially over the weekend.
From early October, The Fuji Five Lake region offers some of the best views of the iconic mountain in combination with the changing colours of autumn. The best spots are on the northern shores of Lake Kawaguchiko

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
-3℃ -2℃ 1℃ 7℃ 11℃ 16℃ 20℃ 21℃ 17℃ 11℃ 6℃ 0℃
 Average maximum temperature
8℃ 8℃ 11℃ 17℃ 21℃ 23℃ 27℃ 28℃ 24℃ 19℃ 15℃ 11℃
 Average hours of sunshine
6 6 6 5 6 4 5 6 4 4 5 6
 Average rainfall in mm
53 73 128 145 165 240 179 228 228 183 96 48

Hiroshima, Miyajima

The best time to visit Hiroshima is in the spring months of March and April when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
The Hiroshima Flower Festival is one of the biggest annual events held in Hiroshima. The festival takes place along Hiroshima Peace Boulevard over a three-day period during the "Golden Week" long holiday each May.
During Summer from June to September, temperatures range between 19°C and 35°C with very high levels of humidity. In winter (December to January) temperatures range between 0°C and 12°C with some snowfall. Rains can be expected throughout the year with the rainiest months being June and July and tropical storms during the September typhoon season.

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
0℃ 1℃ 3℃ 9℃ 13℃ 18℃ 22℃ 23℃ 19℃ 13℃ 7℃ 3℃
 Average maximum temperature
8℃ 9℃ 12℃ 18℃ 22℃ 25℃ 29℃ 31℃ 27℃ 22℃ 16℃ 11℃
 Average hours of sunshine
4 4 5 6 7 5 6 7 5 6 5 4
 Average rainfall in mm
58 69 111 161 154 267 249 125 186 105 76 47

Hokkaido

Hokkaido is a year round destination offering a variety of activities and attractions and is Japan’s top destination for winter sports. The most northernmost island in Japan enjoys a continental climate with cold winters and warm summers. Due to its mountainous ranges and surrounding seas, the weather can change dramatically in different regions. Days are short and sunset is around 5 pm.
In the winter months from December to February, Hokkaido attracts tourists to its powder white ski slopes, hot springs and drifting ice floes on the Sea of Okhotsk. The coldest months of the year in Hokkaido are January and February, with average temperatures -4°C. The Sapporo Snow Festival is held in February at the Odori Park.
May and June are the best months to see the amazing cherry blossoms in full bloom. The days are dry and sunny and humidity is low. August and July are the hottest and wettest months of the year and September is the best month to visit Hokkaido’s beaches.
Autumn foliage peaks in October and is one of the best times to visit Hokkaido to see the changing colours on the trees.

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
0℃ 0℃ 5℃ 11℃ 16℃ 20℃ 23℃ 26℃ 22℃ 16℃ 9℃ 3℃
 Average maximum temperature
-7℃ -7℃ -3℃ 3℃ 7℃ 12℃ 16℃ 18℃ 14℃ 7℃ 1℃ -4℃
 Average hours of sunshine
3 4 5 6 7 6 5 5 5 5 3 2
 Average rainfall in mm
80 63 64 79 74 84 117 156 171 101 106 86

Kanazawa

Kanazawa enjoys a temperate but rainy climate. Average temperatures are similar to those of Tokyo, but slightly cooler. The city is relatively wet, with an average humidity of 73% and 178 rainy days in an average year. Most rain falls in the autumn and winter especially in the months from November to January.

 

 

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
0℃ 0℃ 2℃ 8℃ 13℃ 17℃ 22℃ 23℃ 19℃ 13℃ 7℃ 3℃
 Average maximum temperature
6℃ 7℃ 11℃ 19℃ 22℃ 25℃ 30℃ 31℃ 27℃ 21℃ 15℃ 10℃
 Average hours of sunshine
2 3 4 6 7 5 5 7 5 5 3 2
 Average rainfall in mm
293 194 153 145 147 203 242 166 244 193 252 302

Kyoto

Kyoto enjoys a subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. The best time to visit is in spring (March and April) and autumn (October and November) when days are dry and crisp and the humidity is low. Spring is a popular time when the beautiful cherry blossoms are at its peak. Between December and February, winter days are cold with freezing temperatures and snow.
The summer season from June to August is hot and humid with an average temperature of 26°C. The rainy season usually begins in the middle of June and lasts till the end of July.
Three major festivals are held in Kyoto during the summer: The Aoi-matsuri Festival in early summer, the month-long Gion-Matsuri Festival in July with the Yamaboko Junko float parade as a finale and the Daimonji-yaki, held on the night of Urabon (August 16th). During this festival, numerous torches are ignited on the five mountains surrounding Kyoto, with the flames laid out to form a letter or figure. September is the wettest month as Kyoto is affected by typhoons which hit Japan in September and October. In November, Kyoto is very popular to view the colourful autumn foliage in its temples and gardens.

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
4℃ 5℃ 7℃ 14℃ 19℃ 22℃ 27℃ 28℃ 23℃ 17℃ 11℃ 6℃
 Average maximum temperature
8℃ 9℃ 13℃ 20℃ 24℃ 27℃ 31℃ 33℃ 29℃ 22℃ 17℃ 12℃
 Average hours of sunshine
5 5 6 6 6 5 6 7 6 5 5 4
 Average rainfall in mm
51 66 110 152 154 247 235 142 203 112 70 40

Osaka

Osaka has a mild subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. From cherry blossom picnics to summer festivals, autumn’s changing colours and crisp winter days, there is plenty to do.
Winters from December to February are mild and dry with little or no rain. January is the coldest month in Osaka with temperatures averaging 6°C.
April is a good time to visit Osaka, days are dry and the weather is pleasant and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
The rainy season in Osaka begins in June with overcast skies and constant rain. The wettest month is in June followed by September during the typhoon season. Summers from June to August are hot and humid. The hottest month in Osaka is August with an average temperature of 29°C
On 24 and 25 July, The Tenjin Festival of Osaka ranked as one of Japan's top three festivals is celebrated with processions of drummers, ceremonial floats and fireworks. The Sumo event is held in Osaka in the months of September and March.

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
2℃ 2℃ 5℃ 10℃ 15℃ 20℃ 23℃ 24℃ 21℃ 15℃ 9℃ 4℃
 Average maximum temperature
9℃ 9℃ 13℃ 19℃ 24℃ 27℃ 31℃ 33℃ 29℃ 23℃ 17℃ 12℃
 Average hours of sunshine
5 5 6 6 7 6 7 8 6 5 5 5
 Average rainfall in mm
46 61 102 134 140 207 157 95 172 107 65 35

Okinawa

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
13℃ 13℃ 15℃ 18℃ 20℃ 24℃ 26℃ 25℃ 24℃ 21℃ 18℃ 18℃
 Average maximum temperature
13℃ 13℃ 15℃ 18℃ 20℃ 24℃ 26℃ 25℃ 24℃ 21℃ 18℃ 15℃
 Average hours of sunshine
3 3 4 5 5 6 8 7 7 6 4 3
 Average rainfall in mm
110 130 140 160 200 233 209 222 222 174 150 114

General travel tips

Japan is situated in north-eastern Asia between the North Pacific and the Sea of Japan and consists of four major islands, surrounded by more than 4,000 smaller islands.

LANGUAGE
Japanese is the official language spoken in Japan. However English is spoken especially among the younger generation.

POPULATION
Japan's population is over 127 million. Most Japanese reside in densely populated urban areas.

TIME DIFFERENCE
Japan is in the same time zone, 9 hours ahead of GMT

CURRENCY

The unit of Japanese currency is yen. Coins are available in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 yen and bank notes in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 yen.

CREDIT CARDS

International credit cards such as American Express, VISA, Diners Club and MasterCard are acceptable at major establishments. However, credit card transactions are not always convenient outside big cities so obtaining cash beforehand is recommended when you travel to the countryside.

ELECTRICITY
The voltage used throughout Japan is uniformly 100 volts, A.C. There are two kinds of frequencies in use; 50 Hertz in eastern Japan and 60 Hertz in western Japan (including Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka).
There are no columnar-shaped plugs or 3-pin plugs used in Japan but 2-flat-pin plugs are used instead. It is therefore advised to purchase a plug adapter beforehand.

DRINKING WATER
Tap water is safe to drink anywhere in Japan. Mineral water including major imported brands can be easily obtained from super markets, convenience stores and other similar places.

LUGGAGE FORWARDING
It is common and an affordable practice to send your bags onwards to a hotel or an airport. Your hotel bell desk can make these arrangements through one of the many companies offering a forwarding service. A large suitcase will cost approximately 1,850 yen to forward anywhere in the country.

INOCULATIONS
There are no inoculations required for entering Japan from anywhere around the world.

MEDICATION

You can bring any prescription medicine into Japan without any special procedures on the condition that: (1) you bring it only for your own use
(2) It is not a prohibited drug such as methamphetamines
(3) It is not an illegal narcotic
(4) It is only a one month supply
To bring more than a one month supply of prescription medication with you to Japan, you will need to acquire a form know as a "Yakkan Shoumei". The procedure for acquiring this form can take a couple of weeks, so please do take care to do this well in advance of your trip.

TIPPING
Tipping is not expected in Japan and nobody expects it. You may however wish to do so when you have received exceptional service. Never hand a cash tip to anyone in Japan as this is considered rather bad manners. The money should always be hidden from view in an envelope.

MANNERS AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

BOWING
Bowing to adults is the customary greeting when saying hello, goodbye, thank you or sorry.
The suffix "san" is often used when you refer to someone else as a sign of respect.

SHOES
Shoes must be removed when entering a Ryokan, temples and certain restaurants.
When you take off your shoes, you’ll usually be given the option of a pair of slippers for walking around inside. These are fine on wooden flooring, but you should never wear slippers in a tatami room: remove them before stepping on tatami.

EATING
Do not wave your chopsticks around as you talk or point at things with your chopsticks.
Do not stick your chopsticks vertically into your bowl of rice as this is symbolic of an offering to the dead at a family altar.
It is considered bad manners to walk and eat in public.
It’s customary to pour drinks for others and allow someone else to pour yours for you.
Do not blow your nose at the table –it is considered bad manners.

HOT SPRINGS BATH
Do wash yourself with soap and water at the shower area before getting into the bath.
Do not get into the bath until you rinse all the soap off your body.

GREETINGS
“Ohayo gozaimasu” in the morning until 11:00 am.
“Konnichiwa” from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm.
“Konbanwa” after it starts to get dark.
“Sayonara” when you part with someone for the day.
“Oyasumi nasai” when you part with people at night.