Irasshaimase fellow travelers, today we explore the land of Japan. From the bustling Tokyo to the zen-full Kyoto and peaceful Okinawa with the snowy Hokkaido in between, Japan is a land filled with high-tech innovations and futuristic buildings next to traditional wooden temples and houses, colorful streets and all the cultural politeness and respect.
It’s the land of amazing national parks and zen gardens, shrines and majestic temples that tell the story of a rich historic culture. Their food, minimalistic and clean yet never simple, reflects this country as a whole making Japan a place that will awaken all your senses.
When to Visit Japan
With so much to offer throughout the four seasons, when is truly the best time to visit Japan, you may ask? There’s really no easy answer, but in this article, we will try to bring each season as close to you as possible, so based on your personal interests and preferences you can decide the date for those plane tickets.
Everything starts and grows in spring, so why not this guide too? This is probably the most popular period of the year when all hotels in Tokyo, Japan are booked and the streets filled with tourists and locals but that does not make the other seasons less valuable. It simply offers nature’s best.
Namely, starting March to May the weather is ideal and you can enjoy the majestic sakura or cherry blossoms all over the country. In March the weather is still slightly cold so those wanting to experience the wintery side of Japan can still ski in some resorts, while in Tokyo and all across the country, shrines and temples hold the colorful festival of the Hinamatsuri girls. It starts on the 3rd, heralding the start of spring properly.
Another popular culprit of Japan you can catch in spring is the two-week March Grand Sumo Tournament in Edion Arena in Osaka. We advise booking tickets in advance here since as a major attraction, you may not find any on the day of the happening.
In April all of the national parks are opening, so in April through May, many rural hot spring excursions are organized as well as trips covering popular destinations like Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima for people who want to see the countryside too.
While the sun shines and temperatures rise making the cities steamy hot, Japan in summer offers an array of local festivals that give you the chance to fully immerse in the culture. The great thing about summer trips is that tourists aren’t as many at the time and it is the only period where you can climb Mount Fuji with or without a local guide.
All the way, June to September, you have gorgeous beaches to swim at, some surrounding the Tokyo area, some around other cities offering six hundred meters of Pacific Paradise. Depending on where you are, we definitely recommend booking an organized trip or traveling solo to spend at least a day on one.
Speaking of the aforementioned local festivals and events July and August hold massive fireworks you can see only in Japan. Out of all these dazzling shows, we would emphasize on the one in Nagaoka Matsuri in Niigata Prefecture. In the first week of August, this spectacle lasts for 2 days and features 20,000+ different types of fireworks.
Also, if you’re nearby we recommend visiting some of the following festivals:
- Nebuta Matsuri – happening from August 2 to 7 in the northern prefecture of Aomori, this festival shows you the procession of enchanting illuminated floats that run on the streets.
- Sendai Tanabata Matsuri – happening from August 6 to 8 in the city of Sendai it turns the place into a true wonderland.
- Yamagata Hanagasa Festival is held August 5 to 7 when dancers in kimonos move to the sound of the taiko drums transporting you to a whole other era of Japan.
- Tenjin Festival in Osaka
- Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo
- Gion Matsuri in Kyoto
Autumn is another scenic period where avid crowds gather to see the crimson leafs fall or Koyo and enjoy the remaining warm days in Japan. If you’ve missed the Matsuri festival season come September you have the chance to see the Owara Kaze no Bon Festival that is held in Toyama City for 3 days. Other festivities include:
- Kishiwada Danjiri Festival in Osaka
- Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Reitaisai
- Byakko Matsuri held in Fukushima
For those eager to explore nature, early autumn is the perfect period for hiking in Hokkaido. Take a trip to the Daisetsuzan National Park and start your hike there. You can also catch the Formula 1 with a tradition dating back to 1963 at the Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture.
If you’re interested in visiting some of Japan’s islands, we recommend opting for Kyushu to see the Saga International Balloon Fiesta where 100 hot air balloons are launched into the sky.
Winter is no less magical in Japan but the one thing many adventurers find appealing is the smaller crowds and great accommodation deals not only in the cities but in the countryside too. You can ski or snowboard during the day while relaxing in a hot spring (onsen) enjoying the scenic snow-capped Mount Fuji in the afternoon.
If you’re in for an active vacation here are the best skiing resorts:
- In Nagano, you can find Ski resorts Happo One and Hakuba as the ones most popular and closest to Tokyo.
- Niseko and Rusutsu located in Hokkaido, have vast open spaces with rolling mountain terrain.
- Those around Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, or Kobe can enjoy the scenic views upon Lake Biwa while offered with 51 lifts and ski terrains for all levels of experience.
Let’s not forget the mesmerizing New Year celebrations held in the traditional shrines all across Japan. You can take a trip to the Heian-Jingu Shrine where NY is celebrated all night but the official celebration is at 6 a.m. on January 1st – what an after-party.
If you’re in for a calmer celebration, head to Fushimi Inari Taisha where you can walk through thousands of orange torii gates with the locals who pray for success in the upcoming year.
For those in Tokyo, the top destination is the Meiji-Jingu Shrine, while in Osaka you can welcome the New Year in Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine.
All in all, regardless of the season you visit Japan in, you will still stumble across a plethora of beautiful sights and events in all the major cities. From cherry blossoms and hiking to skiing, and swimming on the beautiful beaches to relaxing in hot springs, Japan is the land of contrasts and everyone can find their zen.