If you want to experience all four seasons, Japan is the country to visit. From the colorful cherry blossoms in spring to the rustic fall foliage of autumn, there’s no shortage of stunning sights to see during your visit. But if you’re planning on traveling in winter, it’s important to be prepared for colder weather and potentially snow.
Does it Snow in Japan?
Japan sees a heavy amount of snow in the winter, especially in the north and in regions near the Sea of Japan. On average, the country gets around 5 feet of snow a year, although this can be much higher in the mountains (anywhere from 300 to 600 inches annually).
It’s even home to the top 2 snowiest cities in the world – Aomori City and Sapporo!
Japan is lucky to have four distinct seasons, although the weather and climate will fluctuate depending on the exact region.
Summers tend to be hot and humid, with daily highs reaching 85°F or 90°F around Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. In addition to the high temperature and humidity, this is also Japan’s rainy season.
However, there are a few exceptions. The Japanese Alps and regions of Tohoku avoid most of the rainy season. Temperatures are also a bit cooler due to the high altitude. You can also escape the heat and rain by visiting Hokkaido, which sees mostly sunny days and cooler temperatures around 70°F.
As fall rolls around, Japan experiences more pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds. Days will be sunny and brisk in cities along the Pacific, making it a great time to visit the color-changing leaves in Nara and Kyoto.
Bring warm clothing if you’re visiting Hokkaido or the mountains, as winter weather (and snowfall) starts early.
Although the rainy season is over, fall brings another set of dangers – typhoons. Storms are most likely to occur in August and September in the southern region around Okinawa.
The harshness of winter will vary depending on where you are in the country. Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima have relatively mild winters.
Although it will be chilly, there is little chance of rain or snow. But on the other side of the Alps, the weather can be wildly different. Not only will the temperatures be near freezing, but you can also expect storms, blizzards, and heavy snowfall.
If you’re hoping to avoid the cold, Okinawa is a great place to visit due to its subtropical climate. Temperatures can be in the mid-60s with just a slight chance of rain.
After the cold winter, Japan starts to warm up as it heads into spring. Sun and rain can be expected in the Kanto and Kansai provinces.
Okinawa and Kyushu will also be pleasantly warm, with temperatures hovering in the high 60s and low 70s.
The Alps around Tohoku and Shinetsu will still feel like winter, with cold temperatures and heavy snow. Hokkaido will also be snowy in the mountains, although Sapporo and the lower regions will be milder and perfect for sightseeing.
When Does it Snow in Japan?
It is most likely to snow in Japan in Winter. During this time, the cold wind from Siberia flows over the Sea of Japan, where it accumulates moisture as it heads towards the mountains. These clouds are responsible for heavy snowfall, which dumps over the entire western coastline of Japan.
The snow season usually starts sometime in December, although the first snowfall can occur several weeks early in the north. In Hokkaido and Tohoku, it’s not uncommon to see snow in November. Snow will continue to fall until late March or early April, although the peak season is in late January or early February.
If you’re planning to visit Japan during the springtime, there are a few locations where you can still experience a snowy atmosphere.
In central Japan, you can take the Shin-Hotaka gondola to the top of the Northern Japanese Alps to see snow on the mountain peaks. Or you can visit the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine (between Toyama and Nagano), which has snow that stays on the ground until early Summer.
Where Does it Snow in Japan?
Snow is most common in the north and along the western coastline that faces the Sea of Japan. However, it’s also quite prevalent in the mountain areas, specifically the Hakkoda Mountains, the Hidaka Mountains, and the Hakuba Valley.
The main island (Honshu) sees a fair amount of snow in winter, especially in the mountains of the Japanese Alps.
However, the mountains also offer protection for most of Japan’s larger cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. As such, snowfall in these regions is relatively uncommon.
Hokkaido, Japan’s second-largest island, is one of the snowiest destinations in the country. Due to its close proximity to Siberia, Hokkaido tends to be much colder compared to Honshu and Kyushu.
The mountains here are covered in snow for at least six months of the year. And unlike other big cities in Japan, Sapporo is one of the few metropolitan regions that sees heavy amounts of snowfall during the year.
The southern part of the country around Shikoku and Kyushu is protected by the warm air from the Kuroshio current. Therefore, it’s highly unlikely to see snow in these areas.
Are there Ski Resorts in Japan?
If you’re planning a ski trip during the winter, you’ll have multitudes of mountains and resorts to choose from. Japan has over 500 ski resorts scattered across the country, making it one of the most desirable winter sports locations in all of Asia.
Hokkaido is home to some of the best skiable slopes in Japan. The Niseko Ski Resort is a top choice for locals and visitors alike, thanks to the meticulously groomed trails and bustling après-ski scene.
For something less crowded, head to Rusutsu, which offers soft-powder trails for beginners and
The Japanese Alps is also the perfect background for a memorable ski trip. Shiga Kogen in Yamanouchi is the largest ski area in the country, with over 20 resorts and 51 lifts and gondolas.
Yuzawa is another popular destination located just 80-minutes from Tokyo by train. Other popular resorts in the area include the 1998 Winter Olympic town of Hakuba and the quietly picturesque slopes around Mount Myoko.
Even if you’re not a skier or snowboarder, you can still venture to the resorts to take part in another Japanese tradition – onsen bathing.
These natural, therapeutic hot springs can be found in the mountains near many of the top ski resorts in the country. Both athletes and non-athletes will enjoy soothing their aching muscles in the warm waters.
Each season in Japan brings new and exciting experiences. Although the warm weather of spring and summer attracts the crowds, winter can also be a magical time to visit.
Whether you’re skiing down the slopes of the mountains in Hokkaido or taking part in one of the many winter festivals, the snowy side of Japan is a unique sight everyone should see at least once in their lives!