Many destinations only attract seasonal travellers, but that isn’t the case for Japan. The country offers visitors an array of adventures around the country all throughout the year.
Add to that, the fact the country is so vast and with different climates in various pockets. This means you can still have a wintery holiday, skiing or snowboarding in the mountainous areas far north, well into spring. Meanwhile, the tropical southern islands allow for beach time and warm weather wandering at the same time of year.
So, when’s the best time for you to visit Japan, and what can you expect when you’re there? Ahead, a guide to the country’s four seasons.
Winter in Japan means cosy ramen houses and icy mountain peaks. And if you’re a ski or snowboard enthusiast, it also means endless slopes covered in top-quality. Even the big cities in Japan look good in winter, and during this time, you can admire sites dusted with a light layer of snow.
Where to go: Hokkaido is Japan’s icy northernmost island is known for its world-class powder snow, delicious seafood and natural hot springs. Much of Hokkaido is wild and unspoiled, with volcanic lakes and fascinating Indigenous culture. Before or after exploring that, hit the slopes of Niseko and Rusutsu. Alternatively, scour local markets for fresh sushi, sashimi and other seafood delights.
Get off the beaten path: Starting from Sapporo Station, take a short train or bus ride to the site of the 1972 Winter Olympic Games. Sapporo Teine Ski Resort has reasonable prices and trails that are suitable for beginners and seasoned pros alike.
Travelling in summer in Japan allows you the opportunity to experience things many outside the country have never even heard of. In the summer, you can find authentic local street festivals, taste unique seasonal food and catch firework displays almost everywhere you go around the country. The summer months are also great conditions for hikers and general lovers of the outdoors. You’ll get the chance to experience another side of the country’s popular winter destinations.
Where to go: Okinawa is a web of islands 400 miles south of mainland Japan. It’s an ideal summertime destination with its white-sand beaches. Subtropical Okinawa is ringed by sapphire waters and lush landscapes. Getting there is an easy hop from Tokyo or Osaka, so it makes sense that it’s a favourite for locals.
Get off the beaten path: A 55-minute ferry ride from Okinawa Island, Futamigaura Beach features breathtaking views of Gusuku Mountain’s towering rock formations and Yanaha Island. On Irabu Island just southwest of the mainland, Iraph Sui is a lavish beach retreat with suites, fine dining and a full-service spa.
Crimson leaves and cool days in Japan make autumn a prime time for travel here. During this time, the country is also known for its autumn harvest – fresh apples and grapes ready to be picked in idyllic orchards, fields of mature buckwheat that’ll soon be turned into aromatic soba noodles, and chestnuts you’ll see baked into delicious Japanese desserts.
Where to go: Nagano’s highlands and mountainous areas are made for momiji-gari, which translates to autumn leaf viewing. The many ropeways made for winter sports make it easy to see golden alpine scenery and hike around the Japanese Alps. Ancient trails and towns, mostly untouched, remain nestled in Nagano’s mountains.
Get off the beaten path: Kurobe Gorge Railway offers stunning views as it runs through 20kms of mountain terrain. In October, bold swathes of yellow and return turn the hillsides into a giant tapestry of autumn colours. There’s plenty to see and do along the way, in the form of hot spring baths, hiking routes and observation points.
Spring is arguably one of the most popular times to visit Japan, with the country’s famous cherry blossoms blooming from the southern tip of Kyushu in late March and gradually extending north through Honshu and Hokkaido into April. A deluge of pink and white descends across cities, towns, parks, and mountains. Locals gather at parks to celebrate with beer and food.
Where to go: Tokyo’s cherry blossoms bloom across parks like Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and Ueno Park, but you’ll also find some epic views of it on the Meguro River in Nakameguro and in Chidori-ga-fuchi Moat, near the Imperial Palace. Really, though, no matter where you are in Japan, the cherry blossom season here is spectacular to see.
Get off the beaten path: Though Japan is best known for its cherry blossoms, the country is also home to many other flowers, thanks to centuries of botany and traditional arts like ikebana. Among the many other springtime botanical attractions in the country are the annual wisteria blooms in Tochigi’s Ashikaga Flower Park and Fukuoka’s Kawachi Wisteria Garden rank among the best.