Best time to go walking in Japan

Best time to go walking in Japan


TEMPERATURE & RAINFALL

The Japanese love to hike, so stay clear of big vacations such as New Year or Golden Week. The rainy season mid-May-end June is never extreme. And the Kumano Kodo feels even more ethereal in the mist. Similarly, #nofilter needed in Nikko NP in autumn, when leaf colours are verging on Vermont. For hiking Dewa Sanzan, only Mt. Haguro is accessible all year. Mt. Gassan is closed autumn-early summer, and Mt. Yudono autumn-spring. Fuji is only for summer summit seekers.
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When to go walking in Japan


A MONTH BY MONTH GUIDE

If you want to time your walking vacation with cherry blossom season, this varies according to where you are in the country. It starts as early as January in Okinawa, end of March and April in Honshu, and in Hokkaido, May is panoply of pink. Mount Yoshino, one of the most popular spots for spectacular arrays, starts around late March and reaches full bloom early-mid April.

For walking on the Nakasendo Trail in winter, tour operators travel there December until March.

Religious festivals in Japan are wonderful to witness, but they do get very busy, so best be aware of the key dates which are: New Year, Japan’s Golden Week (beginning May), and O-bon (mid August). Hotels book out, trains are packed and prices soar.

Japan does have a rainy season, from mid-May to end June or sometimes as late as mid July, but it is never extreme. Just be sure to pack good waterproof gear and read your trip notes for more details.

There may still be snow on higher ground in February; 4th February is considered the first day of spring in Japan. It is still cold, but the days are dry and sunny. The famous Ume blossoms come out during this month, considered the first signs of spring, and on the eve of official spring, 3rd February, Setsubun is celebrated at many shrines where roasted soybeans are thrown at people to ward off evil forces.

Walking during October and November is just wonderful for the leaf changes in some of Japan’s ancient forests. Shikoku Island or the Mitarai Valley, for example, are just stunning at this time of year.

You get typhoons knocking in around end August, September and October. Check out the Japan Meteorological Agency's English-language website for warnings.

Walking among the paddy fields around, for example, the Nara Basin, in May and June is wonderful as it is planting season. Everyone comes out to help and it is quite a serene, beautiful site. The rice harvest, around September, is often accompanied by local festivals.

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BEST TIME TO GO ON WALKING HOLIDAYS IN JAPAN

Jim Eide, Japan walking vacations specialist from our supplier Exodus: “You can only climb Fuji between 1st July and early September. I prefer late August to early September as you get a lot more autumnal colours which make the lakes around Fuji and the Alps spectacular.”
Jeremy Spencer of one of our suppliers, Oku Japan: “People think cherry blossom marks the end of spring, but I think it marks the end of winter. And most of Japan is still very dried out and brown at the end of March-April, which is the cherry blossom season. Whereas in May, new lush green growth is coming through. If, like me, you are interested in plants and flowers, the cherry blossom is a bit of a red herring.”
Photo credits: [Temp chart background (Tokyo & Kyoto): Floyd Manzano] [Jeremy Spencer quote: Arnie Grever]
Written by Catherine Mack
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