When To Go

The best seasons for Japan travel are spring and fall, when the weather is most pleasant. The Japanese spring usually begins in March with the first plum blossoms, continues into April with the blooming of the sakura (cherry blossoms), before the muggy summer months arrive at the end of May. Blessed with clear skies and warm and fragrant air, spring is, weather wise, the most comfortable season for Japanese travel. But spring is also the height of the domestic holiday season, and a period in which the citizens of Japan travel around the country and crowd beaches and tourist areas.

Because most native Japanese travel and vacation at the same time, it is important to book flights to Japan, and flights within Japan, well in advance during the holiday periods. Though most Japanese travel options are routed through Tokyo's crowded Narita International airport, there are better (i.e., less crowded) airports that serve as entry points for flights to Japan. For those travelers seeking a more scenic (and adventurous) Japan travel option, arrival by sea from nearby countries like China and South Korea is one method of transportation worth looking into.

Besides booking flights to Japan well in advance during he holiday season, it is important for the savvy Japan tourist to reserve hotel rooms and secure train and bus tickets in advance. Also important to note is that businesses, shops and restaurants often close down during these holidays. Holiday periods include Golden Week, beginning on April 29 and lasting approximately one week; the August Obon Festival when many Japanese return to their hometowns; and the days before and after New Year's.

Perhaps the best time to plan a Japan tour is during the autumn months. The domestic tourists of the spring season have largely disappeared, and the wet and humid summer season have given way to less crowded tourist destinations and pleasant temperatures. Autumn, which lasts from mid September to late November, is also the perfect time for a Japan tour of the fall foliage in the countryside. During this season Maple trees explode in a riot of colors in the cities and rural areas.

After the fall colors winter arrives in differing degrees between the western Sea of Japan and the Pacific coasts. The western coast is known for heavy snow and cold winds, while the Pacific coast is blessed with usually dry and clear winters. If you are planning a Japan tour during the winter months (late November to early March) the best Japan tourist option is to head to the mountains, where some of the best—and most luxurious—ski resorts in the world are located.

Japan, then, is an island with four distinct seasons and, therefore, four distinct Japan tourist options for travelers. If you are visiting in spring remember to book flights and hotels well in advance; if you are planning a simmering summer stop over, remember to stay well hydrated; during the fall remember to pack your camera to capture the brilliant fall foliage; as for the winter months, don't forget your skis or snowboard!

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