When Should You Visit Japan? Check Out The Best Times To Enjoy The Snow

If you’re planning a visit to Japan in the winter, you might be thinking of when you should best visit.

The same can also be said if you’re looking for a summer trip. But if you’re looking for a snow-filled holiday, it can’t hurt to find out when the best time to visit would be.

When Should You Visit Japan

Japan is a beautiful country no matter the weather, but it’s spectacular when the landscape is covered in snow. In fact, some would say that this is the best time to visit Japan.

The country is known for its spectacular ski resorts and has some amazing spots that you can check out.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about visiting (see also: Everything You Need To Know About Snakes In Spain Before You Visit)Japan, and when the best time to go is. We’ll even give you some advice for the best places to visit while you’re there.

But first, we need to understand what Japan’s climate is like and what you can expect when it snows. So, let’s dive in.

What Is Japan’s Climate Like?

Japan is surrounded by the ocean, so the country has four distinct seasons, but these can vary depending on which part of the country you visit.

Each season is distinct, so you’ll find that in the North, you’ll experience subarctic weather, and subtropical conditions in the South. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll experience these exact conditions all year round.

Generally, it’s found that summers in Japan are known for being incredibly hot, but they may be cooler in the Northern region of Japan, especially in Hokkaido.

However, we’ve found that winter is generally incredibly cold in most areas, but is more mild in the south.

Does Japan Have Snow?

Due to how cold it is in Japan during the winter months, it should come as no surprise that there’s a great deal of snow to look forward to.

However, the southern regions of Japan are warmer and may not have snow due to the warm Black Current that flows from the southern parts of the ocean.

If you go to the Pacific Ocean side of Japan, you’ll also find that there isn’t as much snow as in other areas. That’s because this side is protected by the central mountains, so snow doesn’t accumulate and the temperatures don’t drop below freezing.

However, regions of Japan that face the Japan Sea are known for having more snow each winter as the sea’s humidity is cooled by cold winds coming in from Manchuria and Siberia.

As the Sea of Japan doesn’t freeze, there’s plenty of moisture in the air, which eventually turns into snow over time.

When Should You Visit Japan To See The Snow?

If you want to experience the best places for snow in Japan, you need to know when the best time to visit is. Ideally, it’s best to visit in winter. Japanese winters are known for being long, beginning in early December and sometimes even continuing into early March.

You’ll find that there is between 300 and 600 inches of snowfall on average, but there is usually more in the mountains, but we can’t know for sure how much there actually is.

Where Are The Best Places To Go When It Snows In Japan?

When Should You Visit Japan

Ideally, it’s better to go into the more northern regions of Japan to experience more snow. Hokkaido is therefore one of the best places to go, so long as you prepare for how cold it will be.

Generally, it’s one of the coldest places to be when you visit in winter in Japan, and the snow is much more powdery and light.

If you do visit Hokkaido, there will be plenty of ski resorts to choose from, so it’s one of the most popular spots.

If you want to experience a winter that is a little bit warmer, you should visit Honshu. As Japan’s main island, it is located in a more southern part of Japan, but it doesn’t get too cold.

Generally, it’s still warmer than Hokkaido, but it still has some of the most popular ski resorts in Japan. The reason it’s so popular is because the mountains are generally higher here, which means that it gets colder as you climb even higher.

Best Places To Visit When It Snows In Japan

Now that we’ve explored the two best areas to visit, let’s take a look at some of the best places to actually visit when it snows. We’ll include some of our favorite cities, and include some of our favorite ski resorts and where you can find them.

Furano, Hokkaido

The city of Furano is in Hokkaido, and it’s an incredibly popular tourist hotspot. It’s located in the southern part of the Kamikawa Subprefecture.

Having a rural landscape, Furano has a rural image, and it’s famous for its lavender fields. However, you’ll be interested to know that it is also home to the Furano Ski Resort which has been the host of the Snowboarding World Cup.

Generally, Furano Ski Resort is open from the end of November to the beginning of May, and they have a variety of places where you can find accommodation.

You can either stay at the base of the Furano Zone, the base of the Kitanomine Zone, or you can stay in downtown Furano itself. There are plenty of hotels, and areas where backpackers can stay too.

The closest airports to Furano are Asahikawa and New Chitose, and there are also railway stations that go directly to Furano, and plenty of buses that run from Asahikawa Station, Asahikawa Airport, and Furano Station.

Ginzan Onsen, Yamagata

Ginzan Onsen is a hot spring town that is nestled in the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture. It’s known for being one of the most beautiful onsen towns in Japan, with plenty of historic ryokan buildings lined up along the river.

It feels like you have traveled back in time when you enter this town, as it has narrow streets and no parking. The ryokan are lit by gaslights which are illuminated in the night, so this area offers a selection of beautiful views as you go for winter strolls.

You can visit the public baths to truly appreciate the onsen experience. However, if you want to travel a little bit further out of the town, you can even see some of the silver mines that the town was built around.

The nearest airport to Ginzan Onsen is Yamagata Airport, and there are two round bus trips that travel between the town and the Airport. It is recommended that you get a rental car from the airport if you want to explore the local area.

You can also travel by train by taking the JR Yamagata Shinkansen from Tokyo to Oishida Station, where you can then get a bus to the Onsen.

Hakuba, Nagano

Hakuba is a village in Nagano prefecture that is known for its internationally renowned ski resort in the northern Japan Alps.

Annually, there is over 11 meters of snowfall, and it is a central hub of 10 different ski resorts. It was also where the 1998 Winter Olympics was held for its main events.

The collective of ski resorts around Hakuba are known as the Hakuba Valley:

  • Jigatake
  • Kashimayari
  • Sanosaka
  • ABLE Hakuba Goryu
  • Hakuba 47 Winter Sports Park
  • Happo-one
  • Iwatake
  • Tsugaike
  • Hakuba Norikura
  • Hakuba Cortina

Not only is Hakuba an exciting area to go skiing, it’s also known for its onsen around the village. The season to visit usually begins from late November, and usually ends in early May depending on which resort you decide to visit.

You can either get the bus from Tokyo to Hakuba, or you could take the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano, where you can take an express bus to Hakuba Station.

If you take the train through the Matsumoto route, you need to take the JR Azusa Limited Express from Shinjuku Station to Matsumoto, and transfer to the JR Oito Line to Hakuba.

Lake Kawaguchi

Lake Kawaguchi

Located in the town of Fujikawaguchiko in the southern region of Yamanashi Prefecture near Mount Fuji, Lake Kawaguchi is one of the most beautiful lakes found in Japan.

It has the longest shoreline of all the Fuji Five Lakes, and you can easily see some stunning views of the Mountain from this area.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you can always see it. If it’s cloudy, you may struggle to see Mount Fuji. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything left to do.

You can visit the onsen, the museums, and even the Fuji Q amusement park. It’s an excellent place to visit, and one of the top hotspots for tourism of the Fuji Five Lakes. It’s even been added to the World Heritage list.

The easiest way to get to Lake Kawaguchi is by taking a train to the Fujikyu Railway from Otsuki. There, you will find buses that go to and from Tokyo, Kofu, Gotemba, and many other destinations.

You’ll also find that from Kawaguchiko Station, there is an Omni Bus line that allows tourists to travel around Lake Kawaguchiko and Lake Saiko.


Located in Tohoku in the Kanto region of Japan, Nikko is located at the entrance of the Nikko National Park.

It is a historic area, which is famous for holding Toshogu, one of Japan’s most lavishly decorated shrines, which is also the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Many people used to travel to Nikko for Shinto and Buddhist pilgrimages, however, nowadays it is known for offering scenic trails, lakes, waterfalls, and the onsen.

You’ll find that Nikko is a beautiful area to explore in winter, with the shrines having a beautiful appearance under the snowfall.

Ideally, you should visit in autumn, but if you want to miss the crowds, it’s better to visit in the winter, where many visit in the New Year.

Nikko National Park itself is a large area which spans four prefectures northeast of Tokyo. It’s easy to access, and you can travel there from car or by public transport.

The closest airports are Narita and Haneda, with trains departing from each through Tokyo.

If you’re traveling from Tokyo station, you can take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen and transfer at the Utsunomiya Station for the JR Nikko Line to Nikko.

However, if you travel from Shinjuku Station, there is a limited express service that runs between Shinjuku and Tobu Nikko Station, and you will need to reserve your seats.

Another option is to go from Asakusa Station, where you can take the SPACIA Limited Express, where you will need to change at Shimo-Imachi-Station.

Niseko, Hokkaido

Niseko is a town located in Hokkaido, and is known for the it’s mountain range and world famous ski resorts.

The ski resorts are located on Mount Yotei, which is often referred to as the Mount Fuji of Hokkaido. Overall, the town itself is known as being a part of the Niseko United Mountain Collective.

If you’re looking for powdery snow, then this is a perfect location to visit, as alongside the weather, you’ll find there are traditional onsen, and many restaurants to dine at.

If you’re coming from outside of the country, then Niseko is the best place to visit as it’s incredibly accessible to foreign visitors.

There are plenty of ski trails, and it’s one of the few resorts where you can explore off-trail skiing. The season usually begins from early December and ends in early April.

To visit Niseko, you’ll find that Niseko Station is close to the Annupuri and Niseko Village ski resorts, and you can take a bus from Sapporo or Shin-Chitose Airport that will take you directly to the resort.

In the winter, you’ll also find there is an hourly Niesko United Shuttle Bus that can take you to the Hirafu, Niseko Village, and Annupuri resorts, with All Mountain Pass holders eligible to use the shuttle bus for free.

You’ll also be pleased to know that there are several hotels that offer complimentary shuttles to and from the various ski resorts in the area.

Otaru, Hokkaido

Otaru is both a city and port in Hokkaido, just northwest of Sapporo. It faces the Sea of Japan and Ishikari Bay, and has served as one of its main ports. It’s a famous tourist destination that is known for being a great place to relax.

It is also home to the Otaru Snow Light Path, which is a festival that has small illuminated snow statues across the canal.

Officially, Otaru is one of the most beautiful places to explore, and you can also visit it if you’re heading in the direction of Niseko. There are plenty of museums to explore, and you can get there by taking the train from Sapporo.

Shirakawa-go, Gifu

Shirakawa-go was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, and it’s home to the traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses which are constructed like hands in prayer.

These styles of houses resemble the hands of Buddhist monks and were designed to withstand large amounts of heavy snow.

The best time to see these houses is during winter, as so much snow gathers on the roof.

Organized during Sundays in January and February, there is an illumination event that lights up the many farmhouses in the area. However, it’s essential that you reserve a place to visit the village to ensure that you can experience this event.

You can also arrange a stay in one of the farmhouses, of which we recommend heading over to Ogimachi Village to truly experience this idyllic scenery.

You can get to Shirakawa-go by the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo and then take a bus via Toyama.

However, you can also take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Takaoka Station and then get a bus transfer from here via the Kaetsuno Bus, which also allows you to visit Gokayama.

Gokayama is a nearby village that is usually more difficult to get to, so if you want to experience both villages, we recommend taking this final route to get the full experience of your journey.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, these are only a few of our favorite sights when visiting Japan, and we recommend visiting during the winter months.

We find that it’s best to travel there from December to early March so you can really appreciate the views, and enjoy the ski season when it’s at its peak.

However, you should also consider making reservations in advance as it’s an incredibly popular travel destination.