Planning Your Japan Adventure? Pros and Cons for Each Travel Month in Japan

Cover.jpg 701.38 KB

As you look to plan your trip to Japan, one of the key considerations is when to travel.  I would like to offer you a few pros and cons for each travel month in Japan.  Certainly, this is a general list and not necessarily applicable to every prefecture in the country, but it's a quick-reference guide for you as you plan your travels here.  Here we go...

January


Pros: New Year's can be a wonderful time to travel to see the traditions at shrines and temples.  Also, New Year's Day means "Lucky Bags," which is where stores offer discounted goods inside of sealed bags.  You won't know exactly what you're getting until you've purchased it, but sometimes you can get really lucky and find merchandise that is priced above the cost of the bag.
Cons: Most smaller businesses are shut down over the New Year's Holiday and usually don't pick back up until between 3-7 January.  Weather in January is typically cold but consistent.

February


Pros: You will never have clearer weather in Japan than in February.  Most days are sunny and clear.  This is a great time of year to see Mt. Fuji.  It is also when the Plum Blossoms bloom.  Personally, I believe the Plum Blossoms are much more beautiful than Cherry Blossoms, and they are far more resilient, lasting for weeks rather than days.  All the stores will be geared up for Valentine's Day, so chocolate lovers will have extra reason to rejoice.

Cons: February is often the coldest month of the year in Japan!

March


Pros:  Spring tends to get to a slow start in Japan, not really hitting its stride until the cherry blossoms start blooming at the end of the month, so crowds tend to be at a lull until then. 
Cons: Temperature wise, it's a weird in-between month--not quite Winter, not quite Spring--so the weather tends to fluctuate.  It just means that you should bring both warm and cold weather options with you.

April


Pros: Ah, Hanami season is in full swing in early April, meaning Cherry Blossoms and beautiful weather.   The interim weeks between hanami and the Golden Week holidays tend to be the calm before the storm, meaning less crowds to fight while you enjoy the beautiful weather!

Cons: Spring in Japan means kafunsho (allergies).  If you are like me and are sensitive to hay fever or pollen, be sure to bring extra allergy medication.  If possible, be sure to avoid Golden Week because of the crowds, but if you can't, check out this page for some tips.

May

Pros:  Once Golden Week is through, May can be one of the best months for travel in Japan weather-wise.  You have not quite hit rainy season in Japan until the end of May, and it will be warm throughout most places in Japan (the exceptions being up North, which is still relatively cold, and Okinawa which will already be scorching).
Cons: Like the end of April, the beginning of May can be a madhouse.  You will also want to be flexible with potential rainy weather towards the end of the month in case rainy season decides to come early.
 

June


Pros: If you're comfortable with a little rain, you can avoid a lot of crowds.  June is rainy season in most parts of Japan, which means that nearly every day will have at least a little bit of rainfall.  Still, the trade off is that certain iconic locations will have less crowds, making for some excellent photo opportunities.

Cons: Rainy season can be REALLY rainy. 

July


Pros:  In July, you will be in between rainy season and the dog days of summer.  It will still be hot in most places in Japan, but not the oppressive heat that you find in August.  Also, July is when Festival Season begins.

Cons: The summer vacation travel crowds tend to peak in July, meaning that you will have to contend with a large number of other foreign tourists.  Also, the weather can fluctuate from warm to hot, so extra clothing options may need to be considered.

 

August

Pros:  August is the time for O-Bon, when the Japanese pay homage to the spirits of their ancestors.  As such, it is the peak time for festivals and being able to see long-standing cultural traditions all throughout Japan, including places that are otherwise pretty quiet.
Cons:  The summer heat in August can be exceedingly oppressive for folks not used to hot, muggy weather.  If you are heading out to regional areas of Japan (i.e. not Tokyo or the other major cities in Japan), there will be more crowds and traffic as Japanese travel for ohaka mairi (ritual visits to ancestral grave sites).

September


Pros: The weather starts to turn in September, offering travelers a reprieve from the challenging Japanese summer. 
Cons:  September is typhoon season in Japan.  Okinawa gets hit the hardest, but few places in Japan are spared from the heavy rainfall and strong winds of passing typhoons.  Occasionally there will be a direct hit, which can halt your travels pretty quickly.  Aside from typhoons, September can have pretty up-and-down weather as Japan transitions from the summer.

October


Pros: Once typhoon season is through (usually within the first week or so of the month), October becomes one of the best months for travel in Japan.  The weather is pleasant and suitable for travel.  Towards the end of the month the leaves will start to change in colder parts Japan.  The autumn harvest brings in a multitude of delicious foods to enjoy.  Finally, Halloween in Tokyo is a sight to see for anyone who enjoys cosplay (costume wearing)!
Cons:  While October weather will be pleasant, it can fluctuate from t-shirt to jacket weather.  Just pack accordingly!

November

Pros: The weather starts to get wintry in November, but bring appropriate clothing and this will be one of the best months for travel.  Japan in autumn is gorgeous and all of the best destinations will be enhanced by the reds, oranges, and yellows of the changing leaves.
Cons: The changing leaves can be like cherry blossoms in that they can be somewhat fleeting.  Just check ahead to make sure that you are timing your trip right for each area of Japan since the peak leaf viewing times will vary by a week or two depending on the area.

December

IMG_4971.JPG 1.21 MB

Pros: Christmas in Japan!  Personally, I think early December is the best time of year to visit places like DisneySea and other major theme parks because the Christmas Decorations are out of this world!  Further, it seems like every major commercial area in the big cities are featuring "Illumination," which is another way of saying lots and lots of Christmas lights!  Finally, like other places, Japan ramps up its shopping for Christmas.
Cons: The only two negatives I can cite for Christmas in Japan are the colder temperature and the travel congestion between Christmas and New Year's.  New Year's is a time when the Japanese head back to their hometowns to spend the holiday with family.
So there you have it: Pros and Cons for each travel month in Japan.  If you have any additional insights, please add them in the comments section below!

Mike B