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Cherry Blossom Sakura Temple Pagoda Japan
Credit: Frank Lukasseck/Getty Images

A snowy getaway in Hokkaido, a beach vacation in Okinawa, or a photography trip to capture cherry blossoms in Tokyo — the best time to visit Japan depends entirely on what you want to do when you arrive.

As a country with a seemingly endless amount of activities and festivals on offer throughout the year, there really isn't a bad time to visit. But if it's shrine-hopping in Kyoto that brings you, or the pink hues of cherry blossoms, you'll want to plan to make sure you don't end up visiting during the rainy season, or after all the cherry petals have already dropped.

Use this guide to find the perfect time for your dream trip to Japan.

The Best Times to Visit Japan

Aerial view of Tokyo skylines with tokyo tower and tokyo city in sunset, Landmark of Japan
Credit: Getty Images

Japan, while not especially large, is surprisingly vast. Frigid winters at the northernmost tip of Hokkaido make the subtropical islands of southern Okinawa seem worlds away. If you aren't hitting the ski slopes, the months from March to May and September to November are generally considered the best times to visit the country.

That's when travelers can find vivid autumnal leaves or, on the other hand, the iconic cherry blossoms that seem straight out of a postcard. Plus, during these seasons, rainfall is at a low, skies are clear, and temperatures are rather mild.

For those who are not adverse to heat and humidity, summer brings a different tempo to Japan. It's a time of year that's perfect for exploring nature — ideally somewhere cool up a mountain or as far north as possible. The lusciously cooler climes of Hokkaido are heaven in the summer, with rainbow-bright flower fields and countless outdoor activities, from hiking to horseback riding.

Summer is also peak festival season (think: outdoor beer gardens and fireworks). Meanwhile, winter in Japan is a time for snow sports and onsen visits. The northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido is undeniably the best place to hit the slopes, but areas outside of Tokyo such as Niigata are only a Shinkansen ride away and boast a number of great ski resorts. Those who prefer the warmth would do best to fly south to Okinawa during the winter for a more subtropical climate.

The Best Time to Visit Tokyo Disneyland

View of Disneyland Tokyo's castle
Credit: Fuà Guido/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

For attractions such as Tokyo Disneyland, spring and autumn are generally the best, most temperate times of year to visit. It's worth avoiding national holidays — particularly Golden Week, which is one of the busiest periods of the year.

The Best Time to Visit Japan for Cherry Blossoms 

A train passing through cherry blossom trees in spring, shot in Kyoto, Japan
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For travelers determined to visit Japan during cherry blossom season, the bloom dates depend on the weather conditions each year. The cherry blossom front — meticulously studied and broadcasted across the country — edges its way up, starting at the southernmost tip of Japan as early as January. The best times for cherry blossoms in Kyoto and Tokyo and the surrounding regions are often from the last week of March to the first week of April. And for more northerly cities such as Sapporo? Don't expect to see any pink at least until May. 

The Worst Times to Visit Japan 

Since weather significantly depends on which region you visit, bad weather in one area could mean clear skies in another. Rainy season typically runs from early June to mid-July throughout most of the country — Tokyo included — except in Okinawa where showers begin in early May. Meanwhile, in Hokkaido, summertime brings mild temperatures and blue skies.

The rainy season tends to precede extremely hot and humid summer temperatures. Cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto are often uncomfortably hot and best avoided during the peak summer months of July and August.

Because travelers all over the world admire Japan's cherry blossoms, it should come as no surprise that sakura season marks the busiest time for tourism. Domestic travelers also take advantage of Golden Week (a national holiday in Japan), from the end of April to about mid-May. It's a good time to avoid visiting at this time, unless meticulously planned ahead, since trains, hotels, and popular sightseeing spots can often be overcrowded or booked out entirely.

The Cheapest Times to Visit Japan 

Japan is traditionally a pricier destination, but with a surge of new hotels opening after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, there's now a wider range of good quality, good value properties.

Meanwhile, the country generally sees the least number of visitors from mid-January through March, meaning more deals are on offer for airfare, hotel rooms, and activities.

The Best Times to Visit Japan for Food Lovers

Japan is a great destination for food lovers year-round — but it's also seasonal. So, if you have a favorite Japanese cuisine or ingredient, it's worth finding out when to visit to avoid missing out completely. Summertime treats include light, cool sōmen noodles, kakigōri shaved ice, and delicious unagi eel; autumn is heaven for matsutake mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and sanma Pacific saury; winter is all about warming nabe hot pots, citrus fruits, and kaki persimmon; and spring goes hand in hand with sea bream, takenoko bamboo shoots, and sakura mochi rice cakes.

By Danielle Demetriou and Veronica Inveen