Things to know before you go: Japan
Planning on heading to Japan? Read our overview of key insights, seasons and events to plan your next trip around!
A Brief History
Japan has a fascinating history, and travelling around this country is sure to expose you to some of it. In 1923, a huge earthquake reaching 7.9 on the richter scale, affected Tokyo and Yokohama. Tragedy struck again in 1945 when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was in this year that the Allied occupation of Japan started, and it ended in 1952. The country hosted the Olympic Games in 1964, and has since hosted two more Winter Olympics.
Japan's large north-south extension means the weather can vary hugely between the regions, which mean any time of year is a good time to visit the country! January and February is an especially good time to visit, with typically dry, sunny conditions in the south and snowfall in northern areas and along the Sea of Japan coast. March and April see plants and trees beginning to flower, with the famous cherry blossom season beginning in most areas.
Expect to see lush vegetation in May, while June sees the rainy season arrive in most areas. It is usually hot and humid in July and August, with peak typhoon season in August and September. By October and November, the weather is warm but not too hot, with clear conditions and beautiful autumn colours. December signals the start of winter but the days are usually still clear and dry.
Japan's Cherry Blossom Season
Japan is famous for its spectacular cherry blossoms, which flower during the spring and blanket the country in delicate pastel colours. The enchanting flowers start blooming in late March, and can last until early May in some areas.
For early cherry blossoms, head to Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Kyoto, Matsuyama, Nagoya, Kagoshima, Tokyo, Osaka, Shizuoka or Nagasaki in
the south. If you want to see cherry blossoms as late as April, Sapporo, Aomori and Sendai are ideal destinations in Japan's north.
Japan's Snow Season
Japan's snow season usually starts in December and runs until late March or early April. This depends on the levels of snow at each ski resort. Some have been known to open as early as late October with the help of snow machines. Shizuoka's Snow Town Yeti is often the first to open, while Hokkaido's Niseko resorts often have strong December seasons.
If you head to the plethora of resorts that are still open after March, you may find lower prices for lift tickets as they're in 'spring skiing' mode. Some of these resorts, which are at a higher altitude than the others, can stay open until as late as the end of May.
Early February, Sapporo capital of the northern island of Hokkaido, delights in throwing a weeklong event! This event the 'Sapporo Snow Festival' attracts millions of visitors from across Japan and indeed the world.
This is a huge undertaking for an event that started as 6 snow statues made by local high school students in 1950. It now spans 3 unique sites; the Odori Site, Susukino Site and Tsu Dome Site.
Each site offering spectacular snow and Ice sculptures as well as snow activities. The three sites are linked by the Subway system or a dedicated tourist shuttle. These magnificent ice sculptures are truly a winter wonderland of crystalline art coupled with powder white snow.
The peak of the season is usually from mid-January to late February. However these strong conditions tend to lead to busier slopes. Avoid this by hitting the fields on weekdays, and steer clear of the New Year holiday (January 1st to 3rd 2015) and Chinese New Year (commencing February 19th 2015).
- Japan New Year holiday
- January's three day weekend
- Chinese New Year
Sushi, sashimi and ramen are increasingly included in western diets, but many first-time visitors to Japan will be surprised at the huge variety of food they encounter.
Try prawn, fish or vegetable tempura for a twist on your deep-fried favourites, or go all out with kaiseki ryori, the most exquisite culinary refinement in Japan.
This is made up of fish and vegetables with a seaweed and mushroom base. Yakitori consists of bamboo sticks with small pieces of liver, chicken meat and vegetables grilled over hot coals. You'll also encounter plenty of soba and udon noodles served in broths and sauces.
Japan is a country that packs in so many new expereices and new adventures. Many travellers find themselves drawn back to Japan time and time again. It's easy to see why!