Japan’s position as an island archipelago in the Pacific Ocean means that several different factors affect the weather during the year. Being aware of these weather patterns will help you plan your trip.
The Rainy Season
From the beginning of-June to mid-July is Japan’s wet season (in Okinawa May through June). It is extremely humid in most parts of Japan at this time and you may experience torrential rains. It doesn’t rain buckets, but bathtubs full! However, you will experience cooler temperatures during the rainy season due to the increased cloud cover. Hokkaido has no rainy season, so this is a good time to travel Japan’s northern-most island.
The Typhoon Season
The typhoon season in Japan is the month of September and, in some areas, also the month of June. This does not mean you won’t get the odd typhoon between these months, but if you come to Japan in September, you are bound to experience at least one typhoon. Japan gets over 20 typhoons per year, only half of which make landfall. The others either die while still at sea, or veer eastward towards China. Typhoons are formed in the seas south of Okinawa, making Okinawa and the Amami Islands risky places to travel during the typhoon season, especially if you are planning on snorkeling or scuba diving. Japanese typhoons are more on the scale of tropical storms and seldom become as strong as hurricanes in the US, but they will invariably disrupt public transportation, especially planes, ferries and trains. Most evacuations are due to flooding from heavy rain rather than wind damage.
The Summer Season
From mid-July through August and into September is the hottest time of the year in Japan. Many tourists are surprised at how humid Japan is. If you tend to sweat a lot, bring plenty of extra shirts to change into. Be aware that Kyoto and Nara are especially hot and humid in the summer as they sit in a valley that holds the humidity. Seaside towns and those along the Seto Inland Sea will always have a breeze and therefore be cooler. If you don’t handle the heat well, try to travel Japan in the Spring or Fall, both lovely times of the year. Even in the winter time, any place west or south of Osaka will only experience a mild winter, with clear, sunny skies and little, if any, snowfall.
Amy Chavez is author of Guidebook to Japan: What the other guidebooks won’t tell you” She is a columnist for The Japan Times, co-hosts the Planet Japan podcast. Visit her website at www.amychavez.com