When to go?
As Japan stretches a great distance from north to south the climate can vary greatly throughout the country. Summer varies with Hokkaido and northern Honshu experiencing dry, pleasantly warm weather, while lower Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu have hot and humid summers. The sub-tropical Okinawa Islands have their peak-season during the hot summer months of July-September. Winter again varies from mild in the south and on the coast, to frequent snowfall in the Japan Alps, northern Honshu and Hokkaido providing great snow for all winter sports.
Spring and autumn are the most popular seasons to visit Japan. The weather is mild and warm and each of the seasons are highly celebrated for the fleeting cherry blossom bloom passing through the country in late March-mid-April, and the vibrant autumn leaves in late October-November, especially spectacular in the national parks such as Nikko and Hakone.
Japan celebrates the past with a number of festivals, full of ceremony, dancing and colour throughout the country during the year. Visit the Japan National Tourism Organisation website to see what festivals might be on while you are in Japan. Kyoto’s festivals are particularly popular making accommodation availability tight. Public holidays, ‘Golden Week’ (early May) and ‘Obon’ (mid August) are very busy times to visit Japan. Hotels and English-guided tours often will not take bookings, and the Japanese usually leave the big cities to go sightseeing Japan causing transport networks to be very crowded.
|SAPPORO||2 – 11c||16 – 25c||6 – 16c||-9 – -1c|
|TOKYO||10 – 18c||22 – 29c||14 – 21c||1 – 10c|
|KYOTO||9 – 20c||23 – 31c||13 – 23c||0 – 9c|
|FUKUOKA||10 – 19c||24 – 31c||13 – 23c||2 – 9c|
Where to go
|Hakone & Mt. Fuji|
|With views of Mt. Fuji and some of Japan’s finest scenery, Hakone National Park has become popular. It can be explored in a day trip from Tokyo. Alternatively, an overnight stay provides an opportunity to sample a traditional Ryokan stay and the famous onsen (hot springs). Back to Map|
|Hiroshima & Miyajima|
|Hiroshima, well known as the first atomic bomb target, attracts visitors from all over the world to the Peace Park & Museum. Nearby Miyajima Island’s Itsukushima Shrine, famous for its floating torii (gate), is arguably one of the most picturesque sites in Japan. The journey between the two destinations takes about one hour. Back to Map|
|Hokkaido is known for wildlife, grand mountain scenery and hot springs, where open roads make for comfortable driving. Enjoy outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking or bird watching. Sapporo, the fifth largest city in Japan, is host to the internationally acclaimed Snow Festival in early February, during which giant snow sculptures dominate Odori Park. Back to Map|
|The Inland Sea & Shikoku|
|A series of bridges across the Inland Sea have shortened the journey to Japan’s smallest main island, while leaving just enough time to absorb the striking sea views. Visitors can enjoy the beauty of Takamatsu’s Ritsurin Park or experience the region’s history at Matsuyama Castle, Matsuyama. Back to Map|
|Visit Kanazawa’s stunning Kenrokuen, renowned as one of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens. Traditional architecture is also well preserved here in the former samurai and geisha districts. Back to Map|
|The first temple was founded on Mt. Koya over 1000 years ago. Today, staying at one of the temple lodgings offers a unique opportunity for tourists to experience Japanese religious life. The journey from Osaka by train and cable car also affords stunning mountain views. Back to Map|
|Kurashiki & Okayama|
|Kurashiki (“storehouse town” in Japanese) is famous for a small quarter of picturesque black and white warehouses along the canal, dating from the 16th century. Okayama’s Korakuen, overlooked by Okayama Castle, is considered one of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens. Each city can be visited as a day trip from the other. Back to Map|
|As the capital city and centre of Japanese civilisation for over 1000 years, Kyoto is a “must see” for any visitor. With beautiful gardens, and over 2000 temples and shrines, Kyoto has enough to keep most people enthralled for their holiday. The city is known for its pursuit of culture in the forms of art, craft, theatre and architecture. Back to Map|
|The southernmost of the four main islands, Kyushu was an important entry-point for foreign influence, historically through Nagasaki, also the 2nd site of the atomic bomb strike in WWII. More recently, Fukuoka has grown to become the island’s biggest city. Kumamoto is home to one Japan’s finest reconstructed castles. Kyushu also has many onsen (hot springs). The beautiful onsen resort town of Ibusuki on the south coast of Kagoshima offers various hot springs, including volcanic sand spas. Back to Map|
|Matsumoto, gateway to the Japan Alps, has a wonder atmosphere with a strong Samurai & merchant history. Famous for Matsumoto Castle, one of four castles declared a National Treasure, this castle dates back to 1595. Enjoy strolling along the narrow streets of Nakamachi, a former merchant district, now filled with galleries, craft shops and cafes. Back to Map|
|Nagoya, the fourth largest city is a major centre for the manufacturing industry, notably Toyota Motors. Nagoya is also the birthplace of Japan’s most famous Samurai family, the Tokugawa. The family legacy can still be seen at Nagoya Castle and Tokugawa Museum. Back to Map|
|Japan’s first real capital, from as early as the 8th century has several UNESCO World Heritage listed sites, including Todaiji Temple and its hall of the Great Buddha. The protected deer in Nara Park enliven this historic destination, which is only a short train ride from Kyoto. Back to Map|
|Nikko is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site teeming with bright temples and shrines set amongst beautiful mountains and scenery. Nikko boasts a number of must-see sights including T?sh?-g? Shrine, the Shinkyo Bridge and the Rinno-ji Temple. Back to Map|
|Okinawa, a string of islands to the southwest of Japan, is a 2½-hour flight from Tokyo or Osaka. The tropical weather and sandy beaches make it popular for marine sports such as scuba diving and snorkelling. Once the independent kingdom of the Ryukyu, Okinawa offers a unique cultural experience, contrasting mainland Japan. Back to Map|
|On the Pacific Ocean coast and the largest city in Northern Honshu, Sendai is vibrant with an interesting feudal history. Having been rebuilt after WWII, the city has airy wide streets and boulevards and is easily explored on foot. The summer brings thousands for the Tanabata Matsuri (Star Festival), and the Street Jazz festival. Back to Map|
|Takayama & Shirakawago|
|Takayama, nicknamed “Little Kyoto”, retains much of the atmosphere of old Japan with its rows of temples, traditional shops and wooden houses. Shirakawago and Gokayama, both listed by UNESCO World Heritage, are famous for hands-in-prayer style architecture called “Gassho-Zukuri”. Back to Map|
|Tokyo, Japan’s capital and home to almost 12 million people. This is a city of contrast, from a dynamic and energetic metropolis with soaring skyscrapers and bright neon lights, to a traditional environment, which includes ancient shrines, Kabuki theatre and the morning fish market. Tokyo is perfectly located for exploring the rest of the country. Back to Map|
|Tsumago, Kiso Valley|
|Tsumago is a fascinating village that has a protected status to preserve the traditional culture. TV aerials and electricity poles are hidden and strolling along the pedestrian-only main street will surely be like you have walked back in history hundreds of years. Back to Map|
- Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) UK: Where to find everything you need to know about Japan
- Japan National Tourism Organisation (Japan English): Japan tourism information including ‘Plan, Check & Go’ journey planner for travel distances and fares throughout Japan
- Hyperdia: Japan journey planner with timetables and fares
- Japan Airlines (UK)
Japan Airlines Travel Information: Including Japan map and weather information
- Foreign Commonwealth Office: Travel advice and tips for British travellers on staying safe abroad and what help the FCO can provide if something goes wrong.
FCO’s Japan information