When is the high and the low season to visit Japan?
As you may know, cherry blossom and autumn foliage seasons are the highest seasons to visit Japan. Accommodation & flights rates would be higher and public transportation & sightseeing spots would be more crowded than other seasons. This page would introduce the high and low travel seasons in Japan so you can consider when is the best timing for you to visit Japan.
Cherry Blossom Season
Cherry blossom season is generally from the end of March to the beginning of April in Tokyo. These dates are also during spring vacation for students. Not only travelers from the world but also many Japanese travel to see cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms only last for a week to 2 weeks so the people concentrate in this specific timing. We definitely recommend booking accommodations far in advance. If you strongly want to avoid crowd, please consider early cherry blossom. If you want to see beautiful cherry blossoms, you should not avoid this timing.
Golden week is a long holiday in Japan from the end of April to the beginning of May. The dates change every year. Most of Japanese companies close their offices as a long holiday so everywhere in Japan gets very crowded that some bullet trains become fully booked easily. Please consider early bookings for this season as well. As the temperature is nice in May, it is surely a recommendable season to come to Japan. Just be careful of the Golden Week.
Obon holiday is a week holiday around August 15th. Schools are also closed in August for summer vacation. Obon is a holiday for family gathering and usually Japanese travel back home. Obon is not as bad as other seasons but public transportation like bullet trains and domestic flights become crowded because many people go back home in the countryside. If you’re interested in enjoying local matsuri (Japanese summer festivals), you should not avoid July and August.
Autumn Leaves Season
Autumn leaves season is generally from late November to early December in Tokyo. School trips are also popular during this season, especially in Kyoto. You can enjoy autumn leaves for about half a month but the end of November is likely to be most crowded in Tokyo and Kyoto. We definitely recommend booking accommodations in advance for this season as well. If you want to see the beautiful autumn leaves, you should not avoid this season.
Christmas Eve and Christmas
The accommodation rates on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day become very high because many Japanese tend to stay at a hotel with their love on those days. Sightseeing spots will not be affected so please just keep in mind about the accommodation prices.
New Year Holiday
New Year Holiday is quite long in Japan which is usually from December 29th to January 3rd. Most companies close their offices so it is also the best time for Japanese to travel around. Sightseeing spots are not as bad as other seasons but the hotel prices are higher. As many Japanese travel inside Japan and also to other countries, many stores, museums, and restaurants etc. could be closed. Please don’t forget to check opening dates when you plan your itinerary. If you would like to soak into Japanese traditional new year holiday, you should not avoid this timing. We highly recommend ‘hatsumode’ which is the first visit of a shrine in the year. Yet, please note that famous shrines can be too crowded as most Japanese usually visit a shrine from January 1st to 3rd to wish a good year. Please check my Kamakura day trip page to see pictures of a shrine during new year holiday.
New Year is also the best time for shopping! If you love shopping, you should consider this timing but again, the shops are likely to be very crowded. Many stores sell products with discounted prices only for the first few days of January. If you’re interested, please check my report of Gotemba outlet during new year holiday.
January and February
After New Year Holiday, January and February are the low seasons. As people use much money during new year holidays, I guess people tend to stay at home on the weekends. There are no long holidays and big events.
May except Golden Week
After Golden week, the long holiday, May is also the low season. The weather is nice in May so it is a recommendable timing.
June and July except Hokkaido and Okinawa
As June and July are the rainy season and are after Golden Week and before summer vacation in August, it is the low season. No long holiday are set in June or July. Hokkaido and Okinawa are the exceptions that June and July are actually the peak season because of their nice weather.
It is always good to know the high and the low travel seasons to plan your stay. Please be careful of the long holiday in Japan. Other than that, high seasons tend to have specific reasons to visit, like people want to see cherry blossoms and autumn leaves. Many places would be crowded but it is surely the best seasons and the crowd may be enjoyable if you’re well prepared and well informed!