The 4 Seasons in Japan: What to Expect

Aug 7, 2019


Planning on living in Japan? Looking to know what the weather is like? Wanting to plan out when to travel to different regions? Keep reading for a comprehensive guide to the weather of Japan.

When I first arrived in Japan for the first time it was in the middle of summer. I had expected sunshine and cool breeze. Instead, as I stepped off the plane, I instantly started sweating due to the humidity. During my first couple weeks in Tokyo, it rained almost every day. So, where was this sun I was imagining? That’s when I first realized that I did not know much about what to expect when it came to Japanese weather.

Japan’s climate has four very distinct seasons. However, depending on where you are in country, how those seasons present themselves will vary drastically. Japan is a very long country. It stretches from the edge of Siberia down into the tropics. This results in the various regions of Japan to have very different climates.

To help simplify the geography, we will separate Japan into 5 different regions consisting of the 4 main islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku as well as the Okinawa islands. Using these regions as general guidelines, we can now explore the weather of Japan.

Hokkaido

Hokkaido is most well-known for its snowy winters. The prefecture has world class ski resorts and top-notch skiing.

Winter in Hokkaido begins around November. At this time temperatures fall below freezing and some snow will begin to accumulate. By December it will be snowing almost every day. The temperature will rarely go above freezing. Anticipate roads and walkways to be covered in snow or ice. January in Hokkaido is the heart of winter. Temperatures are very cold and there is snow everywhere. This continues through February.

In March it starts to warm up. Temperatures go above freezing and snow begins to melt. Temperatures continue to rise into April and most the snow will be melted away. In mid to late April the sakura flowers begin to bloom. This natural event marks the beginning springtime in Hokkaido.

May and June mark the spring season in Hokkaido. While most of Japan experiences their rainy seasons during this time, Hokkaido remains fairly dry. Temperatures fall between 50°F/10°C and 70°F/21°C making it a perfect time to go out and enjoy the natural beauty of Hokkaido.

Although Hokkaido is most known for its winters, there is a short but enjoyable summer season. During the months of July and August temperatures go up to 80°F/27°C and almost never fall below 60°F/15°C. Summer can be a great time to go visit Hokkaido. While most the country will be uncomfortably hot and humid, Hokkaido’s climate is very pleasurable. Go enjoy blooming fields of flowers, beautiful mountains, and endless hiking.

As September comes around the temperature starts to cool off. This continues in October as winter starts to begin.

Overall, Hokkaido is the coldest part of Japan. It is a great location to go enjoy snowy winters. During the summer, it serves as a great escape from the humidity of the rest of the country. No matter what time of year you choose to be in Hokkaido you will be pleased to find each season having unique and enjoyable attributes.

Honshu

Honshu is the largest and most populated island in Japan. When you first think of Japan it is probably the island that you are imagining. It holds large cities such as Kyoto, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. Since the island is so large, the seasons have different characteristics depending where you are. Northern Honshu’s climate is more similar to its neighbor Hokkaido while southern Honshu has a lot of similarities to the southern islands. Also, there are many mountainous regions of Honshu that have slightly different climates.

In general spring time is the most pleasant season throughout Honshu. Temperatures are moderate while the rainy season has not come yet. Starting in the south and working their way north, the cherry blossoms begin to bloom throughout the island starting in the beginning of April. This combination of blossoming flowers and temperate climate make the spring a great time to be in Honshu.

As spring transitions into summer in Honshu, the rain begins. Beginning around the middle of June and lasting into the middle of July, expect almost daily rainfall. Additionally, during this time the climate gets very hot and humid. Expect to sweat and use your umbrella.

As the rainy season ends toward the end of July, monsoon season begins. This is characterized by strong winds and torrential downpours of rain. In the southern parts of Honshu monsoons are a bigger issue than in the north.

Monsoon season comes and goes quickly and is followed by summer. The weather is very hot (80°F/27°C-100°F/38°C) and the air is humid. This lasts until around the middle of September. Then, similar to spring, fall in Honshu is a very temperate time. Temperatures cool off and there is not as much rainfall. Enjoy the leaves changing colors.

Winter in Honshu is the most diverse season on the island. In the northern parts, similar to Hokkaido, there is heavy snow fall. This also true in the mountainous regions of the island. In Tokyo and other central parts of Honshu, winter is the driest season. Temperatures get cold enough for it to snow but there is no precipitation. Further south, the winter is filled with rain.

Living in Honshu, as most people do, allows you to experience 4 distinct seasons. Enjoy the sakura in the spring, the summer rain, the changing of the leaves in the fall, and the cold brisk air of the winter. Each season can be enjoyed in a uniquely Japanese way.

Kyushu & Shikoku

Kyushu and Shikoku are two islands just south of Honshu. Due to their proximity to each other they share very similar climates.

Winters in Kyushu and Shikoku are generally very mild. The temperatures on average range from between 40°F/4°C and 50°F/10°C. Skies are often cloudy, and it will occasionally rain. Snowfall is very rare in these southern islands.

The arrival of cherry blossoms is a sign that winter is over, and spring has arrived. The cherry blossoms bloom first in the south, so these regions are the first to see their arrival. Springtime is usually very nice. The temperatures warm up to around 70°F/21°C and there is much more sunshine. My favorite time to be in Kyushu and Shikoku is the spring. There is nothing to comparable to looking at the cherry blossoms while enjoying the sunshine.

June marks the arrival of summer and the rainy season. Most days are cloudy and very humid. By August temperatures get as hot as 95°F/35°C. However, during the summer, especially in August, there are many nice days where it can be a great opportunity for you to enjoy the southern beaches. The surrounding water is very warm and comfortable during the summer months.

As August turns to September typhoon season is in store. These tropical storms can bring rain and winds. On average 3 typhoons hit the islands per year. In extreme circumstances, these can cause flooding and landslides. Often, public transportation and airports can be closed due to safety concerns.

Once typhoon season is over, the weather in the fall is quite nice. There is another peak in sunshine and the temperatures lower to a more comfortable level. Autumn in the south can be a great time to enjoy the outdoors.

Okinawa Islands

The Okinawa Islands are among the most southern group of Japanese Islands. These islands fall within a subtropical climate zone. This results in warm to hot weather almost year-round.

Summer in Okinawa sees high temperatures and lots of sunshine. This makes it an ideal time to go enjoy the many beaches of the islands. The summer in Okinawa typically lasts from the end of May until the end of August.

At the end of August and through September is typhoon season. Of all the Japanese islands, Okinawa is hit worst by typhoons.

In October typhoon season passes and the sun returns. The autumn days drop to a more comfortable temperature of around 70°F/21°C. Most days see clear skies. By the end of autumn in November temperatures have dropped to as low as 60°F/15°C.

Winter in Okinawa is short and mild. Temperatures stay between 60°F/15°C and 70°F/21°C but the wind chill can make it seem cooler. There is occasional rain, but most days remain clear.

Around mid-February to early March, the cherry blossoms bloom and spring has sprung. Spring sees warm but comfortable temperatures and clear skies. A great time to be in Okinawa. There is a short rainy season in May but even then, it does not rain every day. It quickly passes giving way to summer.

No matter where you are in Japan, you are sure to experience 4 distinct seasons. I personally love the Japanese seasons. Each one provides unique opportunities to experience the country in a new way. Whether you love the snow or the sun, there will be a chance for you to experience it all.

What is your favorite season in Japan? Any more questions about the weather in Japan? Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

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