Average temperature and weather patterns vary enormously across Japan, and the best time to visit isn’t consistent across the country. The main influences on Honshū’s climate are the mountains and surrounding warm seas, which bring plenty of rain and snow. Winter weather differs greatly, however, between the western Sea of Japan and the Pacific coasts, the former suffering cold winds and heavy snow while the latter tends towards dry, clear winter days. Regular heavy snowfalls in the mountains provide ideal conditions for skiers.
Despite frequent showers, spring is one of the most pleasant times to visit Japan, when the weather reports chart the steady progress of the cherry blossom from warm Kyūshū in March to colder Hokkaidō around May. A rainy season (tsuyu) during June ushers in the swamp-like heat of summer; if you don’t like tropical conditions, head for the cooler hills or the northern reaches of the country. A bout of typhoons and more rain in September precede autumn, which lasts from October to late November; this is Japan’s most spectacular season, when the maple trees explode into a range of brilliant colours.
Also worth bearing in mind when thinking about the best time to visit are Japan’s national holidays. During such periods, including the days around New Year, the “Golden Week” break of April 29 to May 5 and the Obon holiday of mid-August, the nation is on the move, making it difficult to secure last-minute transport and hotel bookings. Avoid travelling during these dates, or make your arrangements well in advance.