Best time to visit Japan?
It is no secret that an absolute highlight of the Japanese calendar is the springtime cherry blossom 'sakura' season. Late March to mid April sees these soft pink petals sweep their way from the north to the south of Japan. Full bloom really is a sight to behold and despite generally only lasting a few weeks, it can be seen in northern Japan until the middle of May. The weather in spring is pleasantly mild with some rain but rates increase dramatically due to our Easter school holidays in the early part of April and Japan’s Golden Week at the end, and the sheer demand of foreign visitors from across the world. Two million people pass through Kyoto alone during this time!
Although the cherry blossoms and mild weather make spring a popular season, we consider autumn to be the best time to year to visit Japan as the summer heat and humidity turns to mild and pleasant weather, and the leaves begin their transition to powerful reds and golds. Rainfall decreases considerably in October after the typhoon season, prompting a newfound desire to spend time outdoors. The deep red and orange leaves are to the Japanese autumn what cherry blossoms are to spring, which can be seen in abundance framing temples, castles, gardens and mighty Mount Fuji.
An October trip also presents an opportunity to witness traditional harvest festivities on the island of Shodoshima, along with rice harvesting in some of the only terraced fields in the country. There is also an olive harvest here – the only one in Japan – and a visit combines well with a stay on the art haven of Naoshima island nearby.
The leaves then reach their peak in the lowland viewing spots in November, which is a great time to escape the damp grey British autumn and experience a Japan that is considerably less crowded than in cherry blossom season. By late autumn rainfall drops further, making it arguably the best season to visit Japan as far as scenery and weather is concerned. Seasonal food is at its freshest and most abundant.
It is also of course a good time to fly before the airport chaos of the Christmas season. Excellent deals on flights can often be had in late Autumn as it’s not peak season from the airlines’ point of view. With all this in mind, November the best month to visit Japan in our opinion. The brightness and proliferation of the leaves can only really be matched by those in New England and, while our own autumn has its moments, it pales in comparison!