At all times dynamic, Tokyo shows a brand new side to its character with each passing season. There’s really no bad time to go to. Spring and fall bring great weather for sightseeing and seasonal changes in foliage – hanami (flower viewing) in spring and momijigari (leaf-viewing) in autumn – which are followed by locals with giddy enthusiasm. In summer people gather to look at giant firework displays light up the night sky, and in winter, there are fewer crowds, festive illuminations, and snow-clad Mt Fuji is at its most beautiful.
Whether you’re hoping to catch Japan’s capital at its most energetic or just avoid the tourist crowds, here’s our guide to one of the best time to go to Tokyo.
There are several high seasons all year long
As Japan’s travel appeal has grown in popularity (it witnessed record-breaking annual tourism figures yearly from 2012 to 2019, peaking at 32 million visitors) the high seasons have expanded outwards with it; nowhere has this been more apparent than in the key cities, particularly Tokyo and Kyoto. While the capital is sprawling enough to accommodate such an influx, Tokyo’s premier attractions are noticeably more thronged for significant stretches of the yr consequently. But normally, it’s with good reason.
March to May is when you possibly can see cherry blossoms in bloom
March to May is peak season in Tokyo, with great weather and riots of color in city parks due to the famous cherry blossom bloom. Locals and visitors gather for open-air picnics and parties, called hanami, to absorb the natural splendor. The month of May can be marked by Ōgon Shūkan (Golden Week), which sees various significant holidays happen, giving the town an added buzz. Expect loads of crowds, jam-packed trains and a spike in accommodation costs.
Mt Fuji climbing routes open in late-July to August, and summer festivals begin
Despite the possibility of late-summer rains, energy-sapping humidity in August, and roaring typhoons in fall, a second tourism peak is available in late July and continues roughly unabated until December
Mt Fuji’s climbing routes are open during July and August, attracting pilgrims and summiters of their stick-wielding droves, while firework-fuelled summer festivals keep people entertained in the town.
September to November is one of the best time for moon-viewing and fall foliage
Clear skies across the autumn equinox in September call for tsukimi (moon-viewing gatherings), one other quintessentially Japanese pastime. Plenty of massive events also happen presently, including the Tokyo Film Festival and indulgent Halloween celebrations in October.
The temperature cools to agreeable levels as Tokyo moves through the autumn, paving the best way for the koyo (autumn foliage) phenomenon. In November, the town’s parks, gardens, and high streets are painted in fiery hues as deciduous trees – ginkgo, momiji, maple, zelkova, and more – bid their leaves adieu. Some gardens, like Rikugi-en within the north, illuminate the falling leaves after dark.
Low season (December to February and June to July) is the best time for avoiding the crowds
Tokyo is quiet throughout the winter period, except the latter half of December when locals head out to end-of-year work parties and get-togethers. That is, nevertheless, time to see the town decked out in dazzling winter lights, and observe religious ceremonies in full swing at temples and shrines during Shōgatsu (the Japanese Recent 12 months) at first of January.
Accommodation prices are generally low during this era and crowds are thin. Nonetheless, it’s value noting many businesses close over the Recent 12 months period. It’s also quite cold, though frequent clear blue skies mean snow-decked Mt Fuji is especially beautiful presently of yr.
The peak of the rainy season, normally arriving in mid-June to mid-July, is one other low season for tourism in Tokyo, however the damp conditions usually are not great for sightseeing.
January is the time to purchase good luck charms at shrines
Tokyo falls eerily quiet for Shōgatsu, the primary three days of the Japanese Recent 12 months, that are put aside for family time and rest; most places close, sometimes for the entire week. Things stay pretty quiet all month, actually. Temples and shrines, including Meiji-jingū, are the exception; many get very busy as people make their first visit of the yr, a ritual generally known as Hatsu-mōde, often purchasing omamori (good luck charms) whilst they’re at it.
Key events: Emperor’s Recent 12 months Greeting, Hatsu-mōde.
February is Tokyo’s coldest month
February is the coldest month; crisp and clear with only the rare dusting of snow – this also means it’s the right time to take pleasure in steamy bowls of ramen and hot sake. It is not a preferred time of yr to go to (except over Chinese Recent 12 months), so sights are less crowded. February 2, 3, or 4 is setsubun, the last day before spring within the Japanese lunar calendar, which signals a shift believed to bode evil. Visitors will see various celebrations in light of the passing winter – notably in Shimo-Kitazawa, where people parade around dressed as tengu (a demon from Japanese folklore with an extended red nose); and at Senso-ji, where Japanese public figures throw beans toward the watching masses to symbolize the purification of evil.
Key events: Shimo-Kitazawa Tengu Matsuri.
March means early blooms and spring festivals
Spring begins in suits and starts. The Japanese have a saying for the season: sankan-shion – three days cold, 4 days warm – so pack accordingly. March also sees the annual Tokyo Marathon and St Patrick’s Day parade roll into town, in addition to the celebration of Hina Matsuri (Girls’ Day), where public spaces and houses are decorated with o-hina-sama (princess) dolls in traditional royal dress.
Cherry blossoms will normally arrive towards the top of the month, though erratic weather patterns and climatological conditions could cause an early bloom – 2021 saw the earliest cherry blossom season in Tokyo for 1200 years (and isn’t it amazing they’ve maintained the records?), reaching full bloom by March 22.
Key events: Hina Matsuri (Girls’ Day), Tokyo Marathon.
April is one of the best time for hanami and boozy picnics
Warmer weather and spring blooms – from floating sakura to tumbling wisteria – make this quite simply a improbable month to be in Tokyo. Celebrating the arrival of spring-proper, spirited parties accompany the ritual of hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in parks like Ueno-kōen, Yoyogi-kōen, and Inokashira-kōen – get down early to ensure a spot on the parks’ extensive lawns. Elsewhere, the traditional Buddhist temple Sensō-ji celebrates the Buddha’s birthday on April 8 with a giant, white papier-mâché elephant (referring to a dream had by the Buddha’s mother). Seasonal hydrangea tea is served free to visitors.
Key events: Cherry blossoms, Hana Matsuri (Buddha’s Birthday), Tokyo Pride Parade.
May has lovely weather and is right for long city walks
There is a string of national holidays between April 29 and May 5 generally known as Golden Week, which implies numerous events (but in addition crowds and steep accommodation prices). Among the many notable celebrations is Children’s Day, where koinobori (colourful banners in the form of a carp) are strung up across the base of Tokyo Tower. Weather-wise, May is blissfully warm and sunny, so go for a stroll through Tokyo’s streets and green spaces, or rent a bicycle and explore quieter neighborhoods in between the well-trodden tourist hubs.
Key events: Children’s Day, Roppongi Art Night, Tokyo Jazz Festival.
June offers the last gasp of spring and cheaper accommodations
Early June is beautiful, though by the top of the month tsuyu (the rainy season) sets in. The trade-off is that accommodation prices will drop after the April–May spike. Should the rain arrive early, visitors can head to the BeerFes Tokyo throughout the first weekend of June, where over 100 different craft beers from around Japan and the world are on offer at the long-lasting Yebisu Garden Place. Other celebrations in June include Sannō Matsuri (held on even-numbered years), a centuries-old festival that involves traditional music performances and takes place over 11 days in mid-June at Hie-jinja.
Key events: BeerFes Tokyo, Sannō Matsuri.
July is one of the best time to climb Mt Fuji
When the rainy season passes in mid-July, suddenly it’s summer – the season for energetic street fairs and hanabi taikai (fireworks shows). The grandest of the lot takes place on the last Saturday in July, with an incredible 20,000 pyrotechnic wonders exploding over Asakusa district (beware, crowds can reach a million). Outside the town, the preferred climbing route up Mt Fuji, the Yoshida Trail, opens July 1; other trails open July 10. The downside of a visit during this month is the energy-draining humidity.
Key events: Mitama Matsuri Sumida-gawa Fireworks, Fuji climbing season begins.
August is the right time for otaku (popular culture fans)
That is the peak of Japan’s sticky, hot summer (which locals like to bemoan with the phrase atsui desu ne – “hot, is not it?”). The O-Bon national holidays mean attractions popular with students and families might be crowded, while accommodation will likely be pricey. Asagaya’s Tanabata festival sees Tokyo’s signature shōtengai (shopping arcade), Pearl Centre, decked out with colourful lanterns and papier-mâché decorations (some with cheeky popular culture references). The twice-annual Comiket (Comic Market) also rolls into town in August, a highlight of the yr for major manga fans. It focuses on doujinshi, self-published and fanfic comics.
Key events: Asagaya Tanabata, Comiket.
September means full moon parties
Days are still warm, hot even – though typhoons occasionally roll through presently of yr. Full moons in September and October call for tsukimi (moon-viewing gatherings), where people snack on tsukimi dango – pounded rice dumplings (mochi) which are round just like the moon. For a change of pace, the Kichijoki Art Matsuri celebrates the autumn with mikoshi (portable shrines) parades and street stalls.
Key events: Kichijoki Art Matsuri, Asakusa Samba Carnival.
October is one of the best time for Halloween street parties
Pleasantly warm days and funky evenings make this a wonderful time to be in Tokyo. There are various big events too, including Tokyo International Film Festival, screening works from international and Japanese directors, and Halloween, which sees hundreds of costumed merry-makers now converge on Shibuya Crossing for one big, chaotic street party. True to form, late-October also welcomes the Ikebukuro Halloween Street Party, one among the biggest cosplay events in Japan.
Key events: Tokyo International Film Festival, Halloween.
November is when the autumn colours are at their best
November is a rather quieter month. Days are cooler but comfortable, and the festivals are also calmer. O-tori shrines akin to Hanazono-jinja hold fairs called Tori-no-ichi where vendors sell kumade – stylized rakes that literally symbolize “raking within the wealth”. Meanwhile people gather to look at the town’s trees undergo magnificent seasonal transformations during kōyō (autumn foliage season). Rikugi-en, Koishikawa Kōrakuen, and Hama-rikyū Onshi-teien are three favorite local viewing spots.
Key events: Tori-no-ichi, autumn leaves.
December has seasonal illuminations and parties to have a good time year-end
The primary half of December is a sweet time to go to Tokyo. Later within the month the chilliness sets in and restaurants, full of Tokyoites hosting bōnenkai (end-of-the-year parties), are harder to book. Tokyo loves its winter illuminations, and business districts like Ginza outdo themselves with extravagant displays throughout December. Keiyakizaka-dori near Roppongi Hills and Omotesando are particularly resplendent. Temple bells announce the top of the month by sounding 108 times at midnight on December 31, a purifying ritual called joya-no-kane. Sensō-ji is Tokyo’s hottest spot for this.
Key events: Ako Gishi-sai, Joya-no-kane.
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