Mount Fuji surrounded by cherry blossoms
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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 2023, as well as some of the best times to visit Japan. 

When are 2023’s Major National Holidays in 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 2023 that you should be aware of when deciding on when to travel.

Golden Week (April 29th - May 7th)

Koinobori for Children's Day in Japan
© choco❁⃘*.゚ / PhotoAC

Golden Week encompasses four national holidays in Japan: 

Showa Day (昭和の日) – April 29th
Constitution Day (憲法記念日) – May 3rd
Greenery Day (みどりの日) – May 4th
Children’s Day (こどもの日) – May 5th

Most Japanese locals will be away from work between May 3rd and 7th. Many people will, however, choose to make this a longer holiday and start their time off on April 29th instead.  This makes the period between April 29th and May 7th 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.


Obon (August 11th - 16th)

Fuurin (wind chimes) in Japan
© inamami / PhotoAC

The Obon festival (also called Bon festival) takes place between August 13th and 16th in  2023. 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 the 13th and 16th, the 11th is also a national holiday.  As the 11th falls on a Friday this year, many companies and schools will set the period between August 11th and August 16th 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.

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 (September 16th - 18th)

Trains in Japan
© たもぞう / PhotoAC

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 2023’s Silver Week will be shorter than previous years, it is still expected to be very busy with travelers.

In 2023, Silver Week is from September 16th to the 18th. Although less common, Japanese locals may choose to use their time off during this week to extend their break, with the longest period some may choose to take between the 16th to the 25th.

If you can only visit Japan during September 2023, consider arriving at the start 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.

New Year’s (December 29th - January 3rd)

New Years in Japan
© BREAKIFY / Unsplash

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 29th, 2023 and January 3rd, 2024. 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.


When are the Best Times to Visit Japan in 2023?

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.

May (Directly After Golden Week)

Cherry Blossoms in Hida Takayama, Japan
© 丸岡ジョー / PhotoAC

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 7th. The majority of 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
Enakogawa River
・Nakabashi Bridge
・Shiroyama 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. 

See our recommended accommodation in Takayama : THE MACHIYA HOTEL TAKAYAMA

Summer (June, July, August)

Kawadoko dining in Kyoto, Japan

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.

See our recommended accommodation in Kyoto: MACHIYA RESIDENCE INN KYOTO

Winter (Late January, February)

Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa City, Japan
© コージーワーク / PhotoAC

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!

See our recommended accommodation in Kanazawa : MACHIYA RESIDENCE INN KANAZAWA

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!

Where to stay when in Japan

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