Climate of Japan
Where is the country of Japan located? Japan is an island country in East Asia. Japan has a moderate maritime climate for the most part, with warm summers and fairly mild winters. The south of Japan has a warm maritime climate. Of these Ryukyu Islands, the southernmost, the Okinawa Islands, have a subtropical climate, with temperatures still around 20 degrees even in the winter months. Some western areas of the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido have a cool to temperate continental climate. Because these areas are largely closed off from the Pacific Ocean by various mountain zones, the seawater has much less influence here than on the eastern coasts.
As with us, most of Japan really has four seasons, which are very similar to ours. However, the transitions are much faster than with us. While night frost can still occur at the beginning of March, it can be full of summer weather more than a month later. Winter lasts on average from December to March, spring from April to mid-May and summers from mid-May to late September. October and November are autumn months. The northerly you go, the greater the seasonal differences. The spring and autumn intermediate seasons also last a little longer there. In the south of Japan, where the weather has a more Mediterranean to subtropical character, you really only have two seasons. Winters are spring-like warm, with a fair amount of precipitation, summers are warm to quite hot, with large amounts of rain. Winter weather does not occur here and the biggest change is in the temperature. The amount of rainy days in the south is almost the same throughout the year. Because the precipitation intensity increases during the summer, the final amounts of rainfall per month are about twice as high as in winter.
Japan is a country with large differences in altitude. On all islands you will find volcanoes and mountains, ranging from medium-high mountains and hilly areas to large areas with high mountain peaks that reach up to 3776 meters (the famous volcano Fuji). Due to the large differences in height, a fairly large difference in weather can occur within a fairly small distance. The amounts of precipitation can therefore also differ greatly from one year to another for a particular location.
Rain & snow
There is no shortage of rain in Japan. Throughout the year there is plenty of rain spread all over the country. Most parts of Japan have more rainfall in the summer, with amounts locally reaching as much as 300mm or more per month. In the north the precipitation is much better spread out over the year and the early summer months are even fractionally drier than winter and autumn. In the north there is about 1000 millimeters of precipitation on an annual basis, the island of Hachijōjima, which is located south of the island of Honshu, has no less than 3100 millimeters of rain per year. There is no shortage of rain in Japan. There is plenty of rain throughout the year, spread all over the country. Most parts of Japan have more rainfall in the summer, with amounts locally reaching as much as 300mm or more per month. In the north, the precipitation is much better spread over the year and the early summer months are even fractionally drier than winter and autumn. In the north there is about 1000 millimeters of precipitation on an annual basis, the island of Hachijōjima, which is located south of Honshu, has no less than 3100 millimeters of rain per year.
In the winter months, precipitation on the four largest islands can fall in the form of snow. Especially in Hokkaido and Honshu those chances are reasonable, especially in mountainous areas. Large parts of the mountains are covered with a heavy snow layer in winter. Japan therefore has a large number of excellent ski resorts, which you will mainly find in the regions of Tohoku and Chubu and the island of Hokkaido. Since winter sports in Japan are very popular among the local population, it is quite expensive by European standards. A day pass for the ski lifts will quickly cost you about five thousand yen (40 euros) per person.
Summers are warm (north) to very hot (central and southern Japan). The country has a fairly large number of seaside resorts, beaches and resorts, but is not an ideal summer sun destination. Despite the very suitable temperatures, there are few weeks in which there is plenty of sunshine with little precipitation. There is a good chance that the sun will hide behind a cloud cover and precipitation falls almost every day in most regions. You will therefore not easily book a real beach holiday to Japan, especially because there are much better sun destinations at shorter flight distances.
Japan is located between the Tropic of Cancer and 46 degrees North latitude. Normally this is northerly enough not to be in the supply area of hurricanes, which form between 5 and 20 degrees latitude. Because hurricanes and tropical depressions in the Northern Hemisphere have a nasty habit of turning north, it still hits Japan regularly during hurricane season. The typhoons (or typhoons as the Japanese call them) arise over the warm seawater of the Pacific Ocean. This happens at seawater temperatures above 26 degrees. The hurricane season in Japan starts in July and ends in November. However, most activity is observed in the months of August, September and October. The chance of being hit by a hurricane is very different in Japan. The northernmost island, Hokkaido, sometimes suffers from a tropical depression that extends all the way north. However, you don’t have to be afraid of hurricanes in the north. Most hurricanes that reach Japan pass over the Ryukyu Islands, which lie between Taiwan and Kyushu. During the hurricane season there is a relatively high chance of hurricanes. During this period there is also a lot of nuisance in this region due to storms and rainfall. In addition to typhoons, there is also a high risk of other natural disasters in the form of earthquakes. The country is in a very active area as far as earthquakes are concerned. The reason is that the country lies on the boundary of the Pacific plate, the Philippine plate and the Eurasian plate. In March 2011, several earthquakes in and near Japan caused enormous problems. Tsunamis caused by seaquakes have wiped out entire villages, the earthquakes in Japan itself have had major nuclear consequences.
Japan is definitely not one of the sunniest places in the world. The average number of hours of sunshine for most places is under two thousand hours per year. For most areas in Japan, the winters are much sunnier than the summers. During the summer months there is often a cloud cover in the sky. Some cities have only 4 to 5 hours of sunshine per day (on average) during the summer months, while the number of daylight hours during that same period is 13 to 15. Despite the fact that the sun does not always shine exuberantly in the summer, you should be aware of the high sun strength that prevails in the summer months. Depending on the region, the maximum solar power in Japan is between UV Index 8 (north) and UV Index 11 (south) in sunny weather. In large parts of the country, a UV index of 6 to 8 in cloudy weather is no exception. That is just as high as the maximum achievable values in the Netherlands in the middle of summer, so more than enough to burn considerably with prolonged exposure.
The figures below are based on long-term average climate statistics. The temperatures are displayed in degrees Celsius (°C).
|Maximum temperature||Minimum temperature||Hours of sunshine per day||Days of rainfall per month||Water temperature|
Best time to visit Japan
Do you want to know when is the best time to travel to Japan? You can determine the best time to travel to a destination based on the weather and climate. In addition, there are other factors that are not directly related to the weather and that can influence the best travel periods for a travel destination. Think, for example, of holidays or festive periods, which makes traveling more interesting or not, because daily life comes to a standstill as a result. From a climatological point of view, Japan is quite a complicated country. You have to deal with a wide variety of climate types and landscapes. This popular Asian destination has areas with cool winters to areas that are subtropical. The differences in height within the country and the enormous differences in latitudes cause the fairly large differences that arise in the weather within Japan. It is therefore almost impossible to name one best time to travel to Japan.
The best months
If we really have to choose, then spring is the most suitable general travel period for Japan. To be specific, we would indicate the months of April, May and the beginning of June as the best time to travel. In many places it is not too wet, too hot or too cold. If you are seriously going to travel around Japan, you will experience the least amount of inconvenience during this period.
The weather in Japan has one characteristic in common and that is that the summer months are wet to very wet. There are hardly any exceptions to this. The summer period is also the hottest period in the country. That means in the mountain areas on Shikoku afternoon temperatures of 16 to 20 degrees Celsius, in the northern Sapporo around 23 to 27 degrees and in the capital Tokyo around the tropical value of 30 degrees. Because the chance of a hurricane (or taifoon) increases from June and the chance of less severe storms in the summer months is also present, traveling to Japan in the summer is always a risk. The hurricane season lasts until early November.
A favorite time to vacation in Japan is during the cherry blossom blooming period. This spring-like phenomenon has a huge attraction for domestic and foreign tourists. If you want to travel to Tokyo around the end of March, you will experience that it is busier because of the ‘cherry blossom season’. Airline tickets are more expensive, hotel room prices are higher than usual and in the parks you notice that the city is flocking to the colorful blossom. The cherry blossom season varies by location. Latitude is the most important factor here. The first blossom appears in the south of Japan (in Okinawa around February 1) and the north is not until early May.