When is the best time to visit Japan? It’s a question we hear often, and there is no singular answer. The best time to go to Japan depends on a combination of factors including personal travel preferences and local events (such as festivals and holidays). But Japan is a great travel destination all year round, regardless of the season, as you’ll always be able to find something interesting to do.
If you would rather bypass the crowds and enjoy a calmer vacation, though, you need to know when Japan’s national holidays occur. Understanding the best places to visit will help you plan your perfect Japanese adventure, too.
In this post, you’ll find out when the major national holidays take place in 2024, as well as some of the best times to visit Japan.
Depending on which days National Holidays fall on in Japan can greatly change the timing and lengths of breaks for Japanese locals. You don’t need to get out a calendar, though! The local staff here at MACHIYA INNS & HOTELS have rounded up the major National Holidays in Japan for 2024 that you should be aware of when deciding on when to travel.
Golden Week encompasses four national holidays in Japan:
・Showa Day (昭和の日) – April 29
・Constitution Day (憲法記念日) – May 3
・Greenery Day (みどりの日) – May 4
・Children’s Day (こどもの日) – May 5
Most Japanese locals will be away from work between May 3 and 6. Many people will, however, choose to make this a longer holiday and start their time off on April 29 instead. Add the weekend prior, and the period between April 27 and May 6 become the peak travel days for Japanese locals.
Locals tend to leave busy urban areas (primarily Tokyo) during Golden Week, so public transportation can be busy. Popular tourist attractions also can be more crowded.
Although the Golden Week period can be busy, the weather is mild, making it the perfect time to enjoy outdoor activities in Japan. There are a couple things you can keep in mind to keep your travels during this time as smooth as possible if you plan on visiting Japan in early May. First, be sure to book accommodations, transport, and activities well in advance. Second, if possible, avoid public transportations and choose to do local activities, close to your accommodation.
The Obon festival (also called Bon festival) signify for most of Japan the period between August 13 and 16 in 2024. Each year, this Buddhist event allows the Japanese to commemorate their ancestors: their spirits are believed to return for a brief period, enabling them to see their loved ones again.
In addition to the Obon period between August 13 and 16, 11 is also a national holiday. As 11 falls on a Sunday this year, the following Monday (12) has been designated a national holiday. Many companies and schools will set the period between August 10 and August 16 as the summer obon break. Many Japanese will choose to travel during this time, either for leisure or to go back to their hometown to see family during the Obon festival. Some choose to also use their vacation days in addition to the designated break period, making their total break 9 days long (from August 10to August 18). If you’re planning to visit Japan during summer and want to try to avoid the crowds as much as possible, be aware of this period as we are likely to see more Japanese local travelers between these dates.
Obon, although a popular travel season for Japanese locals, also makes a great time to visit Japan for international travelers as well. There are many festivals held throughout the various regions of Japan during Obon, making it great way to experience Japanese culture and tradition. Daimonji Festival in Kyoto is one of the most famous events to take place during the Obon festival. During this festival, also known as Gozan no Okuribi (五山の送り火), 5 huge bonfires are set on the mountainsides of Kyoto, shaped like specific Japanese characters. These are visible from the city, making a fantastic memory of your Japan travels that would only be possible during the Obon period.
Silver Week is a relatively new term in Japanese culture, and refers to a number of holidays that fall consecutively during the month of September. While 2024’s Silver Week is not a long break, there are two consecutive 3-day weekends in September, so it is still expected to be very busy with travelers.
In 2024, September 14-16 and 21-23 are designated as 3-day weekends. Although less common, Japanese locals may choose to use their time off during the weekdays in between to extend their break, with the longest period some may choose to take between September 14 to the 23.
If you can only visit Japan during September 2024, consider arriving at the start or end of the month. If you do plan on traveling during Silver Week, however, be sure to secure your reservations for lodging and travels in advance! Silver Week is also when you can find some of the earliest fall foliage in Japan. Head up north, to cooler prefectures like Hokkaido, or areas in the mountainside like Hida Takayama City in Gifu prefecture to catch early autumn leaves towards the end of Silver Week.
Japan celebrates Christmas like many other countries, but focuses more on New Year’s. Most businesses and banks will close at some point between December 28, 2024 and January 5, 2025. During the New Year period, Japanese locals tend to visit their hometowns or family during this period.
With that in mind, be sure to check the operating hours and and days off of restaurants, shops. and tourist attractions during this time! If you are visiting during the New Year’s period, we recommend stopping by a ‘depachika’ (the delicatessen floor of a high-end department store) to pick up a variety of side dishes, bento boxes, Japanese cuisine, and enjoying a meal in your accommodation. Be sure to try ‘osechi ryori’, or traditional Japanese New Year’s food, as it can be found in many depachika.
Although shrines and temples can be busy during the New Year’s, it is also a great chance to experience the Japanese tradition of ‘hatsumode’. Hatsumode is the Japanese tradition of visiting a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine to ring in the new year. Many shrines and temples will extend their opening hours to accommodate visitors. Major shrines, like Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto City, Japan and Oyama Shrine in Kanazawa City also offer various entertainments and have many food vendors and stalls, for a festival like atmosphere.
We (the MACHIYA INNS & HOTELS local staff) have picked some of the best times to go to Japan across spring, summer, and winter. If you’re looking to explore Japan and soak up the local culture without running into holiday crowds, try to schedule your travels during the time periods listed below.
If you would prefer to explore Japan during a quieter period, May is one of the best months to visit Japan. But make sure you arrive after Golden Week, which ends on May 6. Many Japanese locals take the whole of Golden Week off, so streets and popular attractions will be less crowded immediately after.
Another reason why we recommend traveling to Japan in May? You’ll enjoy pleasant weather, before the heat and humidity of summer sets in. That can make a big difference if you want to explore without being slowed down by high temperatures.
In addition to the great weather, you may still be able to catch the late blooming cherry blossoms (sakura) in spots like Takayama City and its surrounding mountain area in during the time directly after Golden Week.
Some of the best spots in Takayama City, located in Gifu Prefecture, for appreciating cherry blossoms include:
・Miyagawa Ryokuchi Park
Cherry blossoms bloom late March to early April in most of Japan. Takayama City and the surrounding Hida area boast a longer time period, from mid-April to early May, if the weather cooperates.
While summer can be hot in Japan, you can still find plenty of places to stay cool and enjoy your stay.
Kibune, in Kyoto, is a fantastic option if you’re looking for a place to keep cool when visiting during the summer months. Kibune is a picturesque small mountain village to the north of Kyoto. Besides Kibune’s temperature being around 10 degrees lower than in nearby Kyoto, many restaurants here are built directly over the water, making for an amazing experience during the summer. Enjoy a refreshing breeze and reazing views as you sample delicious Japanese food over the Kibune River!
Another reason to visit Kibune is the Kifune Shrine, dedicated to the god of water, who is believed to have arrived in Kibune at this very spot. Be sure to try the omikuji, or fortune, here! Instead of just drawing your paper fortune, you must place your omikuji paper inside the water here at Kifune Shrine to reveal your fortune.
If you love winter, January or February will be the best month to visit Japan.
One of our favorite places to visit during the winter months is Kanazawa City in Ishikawa Prefecture. Famous for the fresh and delicious seafood, you can dine on snow crab and other Japanese seafood only available during the winter while in Kanazawa.
Kanazawa City is also home to some exquisite sights, including the yukizuri in the legendary Kenrokuen Garden. The yukizuri are amazing conical structures made of rope, designed to protect Kenrokuen’s Karasaki pine trees from heavy snowfall (which can damage their branches).
Another area to visit, especially during the winter, are the villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in an extraordinary mountainous area. This region was isolated from the world for many years, and it retains a wonderfully traditional feel.
During winter, this area is often blanketed by snow, which is a sight you’ll never forget. You can access these historic villages easily from Takayama City as well, if you plan on visiting there as well!
For other recommendations on places to visit in Japan during the winter season, be sure to check out our page on the best destinations during winter in Japan.
We hope this post will help you find the best time to travel to Japan and enjoy the vacation of a lifetime! If you need any tips on where to visit in Japan or what to do, be sure to check out our other posts as well!