Spring in Japan
Photo Credit: Ine@flickr
“What a strange thing! to be alive beneath cherry blossoms.” ― Kobayashi Issa
In general spring in Japan starts in March and finishes in May, though it arrives first on the island of Kyushu and then spreads north across Japan, reaching Hokkaido a few weeks later. The weather during spring is pleasant and cool and is generally thought to be the best time to visit the country.
For the Kanto area, the average spring temperature is 14°C (57°F) while it’s normal to go as high as 21°C (70°F) on some days. In Kyushu, Japan’s southern most island, the temperature is a bit higher, with an average of 19°C (65°F) with the hottest day likely being around 25°C (76°F). The northern Island of Hokkaido has the latest Spring start as well as the coldest. The average temperature for Sapporo being a chilly 7°C (45°F) with the hottest day reaching 12°C (54°F) in May.
Spring in Japan is beautiful and is the only opportunity to see the Japanese cherry blossoms bloom for two weeks in April. However, if you’re planning to visit in spring be careful to plan your trip around Golden week, a full week of national holidays where most people take time off to relax and is the busiest week on the Japanese calendar.
Summer in Japan
Photo Credit: Luca Mascaro@flickr
“I clap my hands and to the echo day dawns the summer moon.” – Bashō
Summer runs from May to August, it is very hot and humid in many areas. For most of Japan, the rainy season starts in June and usually lasts four weeks, during this time the weather remains warm and very humid.
In Kanto, once the rainy season has ended the temperature jumps up to around 27°C (82°F) and regularly goes up as high as 36°C (97°F). Combining this with extremely harsh humidity (usually around 90% or higher) can make the Tokyo’s summer very toiling. In Kyushu it’s more of the same, with hot and humid months after the rainy season has finished. Kyushu is just a bit warmer than Honshu, the main island of Japan, and average temperatures here are around 32°C (90°F). The north of Japan (Hokkaido and Tohoku regions) is a sweet refuge from the constant heat across Japan’s southern prefectures. The average temperature stays around 20°C (68°F) and is less humid than Honshu and Kyushu. The result is a nice, warm summer with plenty of sunny days. For those looking to cool off, a trip to Hakodate or Sapporo could be just what’s needed.
While the heat might be a challenge, summer is a great time to visit Japan. There are many local and national festivals held in this season and it is a great chance to experience an important part of Japanese culture. Probably the most famous event is Tanabata, meaning “the evening of seven”. It is celebrated on the 7th day of July, and is the perfect chance to experience a Japanese festival with many parades, carnivals and traditional music performance. If you do come visit during summer, just remember to pack lots of light clothes and pack a spare shirt when you go out.
Autumn in Japan
“A great waterfall its steady roar joined by autumn’s voices.” – Shinoda Teijirō
From the start of September to the end of November Japan cools off into a beautiful and bright autumn. Most parts of Japan stay warm but are accompanied by a cool breeze or occasional light showers. The start of autumn marks the period with the highest chance of a typhoon hitting Japan, so the season often starts off with rain and wind which quickly pushes away the leftover swelter and leaves behind a much more comfortable climate. This season is the most volatile and the temperatures can change dramatically overnight.
For Kanto, the average autumn temperature is a nice 18°C (64°F). Occasionally, there may be a day that gets up as high as 26°C as well as dip below 10°C, especially in November. For the western areas near Kyushu, the weather stays a little warmer with an average of 21°C (70°F) but may, on occasion, fall to just 10°C in November. As the pattern continues, a trip up north to Hokkaido will see a significant drop; the average temperature is around 11°C (52°F) and can get down to a chilling 1°C in November.
Mirroring the beauty of spring’s cherry blossoms, autumn in Japan hosts wonderful, red and golden leaves, which are best enjoyed walking around a Japanese temple. Those in Tokyo can make the short trip down to Kamakura and enjoy the autumn leaves in a myriad of quiet Buddhist temples, while Kyoto is a popular destination for those in the Kansai region.
Winter in Japan
“Moonlight’s bright for love, So quilt, come hold me closer — Passionate shivers.” – Sampu
Japanese winter begins in December and continues until the end of February. In winter, there’s a big difference in temperatures between the north and south of Japan and snowfall is common in prefectures along Japan’s northwestern coast.
In Honshu and Kyushu the winter is cold but not too extreme. The average temperature is around 6°C (43°F) and can get as low as -2°C (25°F) in places. Hokkaido, home to the Sapporo snow festival, not-surprisingly sees the lowest temperatures in the country, sometimes as low as -7°C (19°F) with an average temperature of -2°C (25°F) during the winter months. The Island also receives the most snow in Japan making it famous for Ski resorts and for having beautiful winter scenery.
Winter in Japan is a snow-sports lovers dream, with many prefectures along the northern coast receiving plenty of snow. There are many ski and snowboarding resorts all around Japan. While the best quality snow is thought to be in Hokkaido, those visiting Tokyo can still be on the slopes in just a few hours (Ibaraki and Gunma are just a two hour train ride from Tokyo and offer many skiing and snowboarding resorts).