Breathtaking cherry blossoms, innovative technology, and Mount Fiji are just a few of Japan’s numerous attractions. Whether you’re planning a visit or simply interested in what the bustling country that Japan is all about, you may be wondering: does it ever snow?
It does snow in Japan. The majority of Japan experiences the four seasons, including snowy winters. Northern destinations like Hokkaido often experience incredibly long winters with increased snowfall, which make the region ideal for lovers of snow and winter sports.
While it does snow in Japan, the amount of snowfall, temperatures, and frequency of snow vary based on the region.
Throughout this article, I’ll provide information such as the best destinations for snowfall, how often to expect snow, and a look at how intense winters are in Japan. Let’s get started!
Does It Snow in Japan?
It’s a good idea to be prepared for snow if you visit Japan anytime during winter. However, whether or not you see snow during your visit will greatly depend on which part of the country you visit.
Below is a list of a few cities in Japan that experience snow frequently:
- Nyuto Onsen
- Aomori City
You may notice that many popular tourist destinations, such as Tokyo, are absent from the list. Generally, these cities experience very little snow each year.
Weather in Different Regions of Japan
Japan is an island country (roughly the size of California) that stretches along a gentle curve from north to southwest. Because Japan spans such a vast distance lengthwise, weather throughout the country can vary greatly depending on the location.
The country’s northern region, Hokkaido, is widely known to be the country’s coldest region. Alternatively, southern destinations such as Okinawa and Kagoshima can see temperatures of up to 15.5°C (60°F), even during the winter.
Aside from the far northern and southern regions, the rest of the climate tends to be mild and experiences four seasons annually.
How Often Does Japan Get Snow?
Japan gets snow every year. Much of Japan gets snow quite often, mainly during the snow season. In the northern parts of the country, known for their lengthy and harsh winters, the snow season lasts from November to May, while other southern regions’ snow season only lasts from December to March.
Of the four main islands, Hokkaido is the country’s coldest region, with the high temperature in the winter months rarely reaching above freezing. Daily snowfall is quite common in this region as, according to locals, it snows daily in Hokkaido during the winter.
Although Hokkaido experiences frequent snow, that isn’t the case for popular tourist destinations such as Tokyo and Osaka. Both locations experience little to no snow, even during the winter months, as they’re situated near the southern part of the country. In terms of frequency, you can only expect 9-15 snow days for cities located in southern Japan.
How Cold Are Winters in Japan?
Winters in Japan average around -1°C to 7°C (30°F to 45°F), especially in Japan’s most frequently visited areas. However, in the Hokkaido region, the winters are much longer and more intense, with temperatures much colder than average, around -3.9°C (25°F).
However, on the southern island of Japan, Kyushu, you can expect temperatures to be a bit warmer than in the northern regions. While snowfall is still present (mostly in mountainous areas), this snow is nothing like the heavy snowfall of Hokkaido.
If you’re interested in winter sports or enjoy the scenery of a snowy winter wonderland, northern Japan is ideal during the winter months. However, destinations such as Kyoto are suitable if you desire to spend more time outside without needing a heavy coat.
Why Is Japan So Cold?
By now, you may be starting to grasp just how cold Japan can get in the winter and wondering why. There’s a surprisingly simple explanation as to why Japan tends to be on the frigid side, but first, let’s dive into a bit of geography knowledge, as it will go a long way in helping it all make sense.
Japan is east of North & South Korea and northeast of China. Along the western edge of Japan lies the Sea of Japan, which is mainly responsible for Japan’s frigid winters.
Japan is so cold because, during the winter, the Siberian winds from the Sea of Japan carry cold air over the warmer sea waters. Therefore, resulting in colder weather conditions and snow in Japan, which lies just east of the sea.
Is Japan Worth a Winter Visit?
Depending on the city, snowfall can vary from a handful of days annually to almost daily in northern regions. While weather conditions vary widely throughout Japan, Hokkaido, the country’s northernmost area, is known for its heavy snow and cold climate. Additionally, cities such as Kyoto, Tokyo, and Okinawa tend to see more mild and subtropical weather.
Although much of the country is cold and snowy during the winter, Japan is still worth the visit. While most visitors tend to experience Japan during the summer and spring, a winter visit can be equally as fulfilling due to the variance of weather throughout the country.
Depending on your preference for snow and overall weather conditions, several great cities are suitable whether you desire a winter wonderland complete with plush, powdery snow or a gentle chill ideal for walking and exploration.
If you visit Japan and see what it has to offer, be mindful that it may take multiple flights to reach your destination, possibly operating or arriving overnight. Check out this article by Expedition Hopper on whether airports are open 24/7 to help you decide whether staying at the airport or exploring a city during a layover is your best option.
It does snow in Japan, as the majority of Japan has four seasons. Therefore, you can expect it to snow in Japan every year, especially in areas such as Hokkaido. The snowfall in Japan makes it a popular tourist destination for those who enjoy snow sports.
However, there are also areas to visit that experience very little snow or none at all, such as Tokyo. Nevertheless, Japan is an excellent place to visit, despite how you feel about snow.