Japan Spring vs Autumn

An Overview of Japanese Spring and Autumn Highlights

So you are planning your trip to Japan and can’t make up your mind between Spring and Autumn huh? I can’t say I blame you though. Don’t ask me to decide for you, as in all honesty, I don’t think I can pick one myself even after all these years. 

Every season has its own charms but Spring and Autumn are the strongest magnets for visitors, drawn by the promise of mild weather and the dramatic and colorful seasonal changes. In ideal circumstances I’d tell you to just see both for yourself but I know that’s not particularly realistic for most of you, so in this article we’ll go over the main highlights that you can expect on each season:


Spring and Autumn: a Comparison

Chureito Pagoda with SakuraOk let’s face it. Spring in Japan is by far the most celebrated season. The warmth after winter, the feeling of renewal (school year begins in spring and many people also start new jobs in this season), and of course, the much-awaited cherry blossoms. However, as Japan’s popularity explodes abroad, bear in mind that springtime also brings huge crowds to the usual hotspots. 

Kiyomizudera with autumn leavesOn the other hand, Autumn in Japan is also a mesmerizing season thanks to the warm colorful spell over the country’s landscapes, bringing with it a cooler, crisp atmosphere and a sense of relief after the scorching hot summer. While not as busy as Spring, the Fall colors also bring quite the enthusiastic crowd. 

The Seasonal Highlight: Cherry Blossoms (Sakura) vs. Fall Foliage (Koyo)

Cherry blossomsUndoubtedly, spring is an exceptional time to visit Japan, the pink magic is sprinkling all over the place, sweeping across the country from south to north between late March and April, and lasting until May in the northern regions. The fleeting beauty of sakura petals has a profound historical and cultural significance, symbolizing the transient nature of life. 

Thousands of people gather for picnics under the blooming trees on the most popular locations everywhere, particularly in the highly populated areas of the Tokyo and Osaka Metropolis and the tourist spots in Kyoto. Sakura blooming forecasts are a hot topic particularly if you need to plan hanami parties with a large crowd. 

▽More information about Sakura in Japan!▽

Spring in Japan: 10 Best Things to Do

Best Cherry Blossom Events in Japan

10 Best Places to View Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Autumn leavesCome autumn, and Japan’s lush foliage transforms into a vibrant palette of reds, golds, and oranges with spectacular sights drawing crowds both domestically and internationally. The term “koyo” refers to the viewing of autumn leaves, a tradition that is almost as eagerly anticipated as cherry blossoms. Once again, the most iconic spots in Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto can be a bit of a challenge if you don’t plan ahead in your quest to enjoy the most striking scenes of autumnal beauty. 

Which is why just like sakura, the autumn leaves forecast is closely followed by those eager to make the most of the peak season. However, as autumn leaves are not as ephemeral as sakura, this season allows for a bit more flexibility in schedules.

▽More information about Autumn leaves in Japan!▽

Autumn in Japan: 10 Best Things to Do

10 Best Places to Visit in Japan in Autumn

10 Best Places to See Autumn Leaves in Japan

Weather and Climate

Unlike the extremes of Winter and Summer, during Spring and Autumn you can enjoy a milder weather, making it a comfortable time for travel. Those prone to allergies however, should probably be on the lookout for pollen. With spring, also comes the dreaded Kafunsho Season so you may want to take some preventative measures just in case! 

Other than that and save for some occasional rains, Spring is ideal for outdoor activities, although you may expect a lot of variation depending on which locations you will be covering in your trip. 

Similarly for Autumn, as the intense heat of summer gives way, autumn welcomes cooler temperatures and clearer skies with lower humidity, although light showers may be more frequent. In my experience, you should never go out without an umbrella or a light raincoat just in case, even if the weather forecast says otherwise, particularly if you plan to go hiking.

▽Check our dedicated guides about weather and clothing for Spring and Autumn!▽

What to Wear in Japan in Spring: March, April and May

What to Wear in Japan during Autumn: September, October and November

Festivals

Takayama Matsuri
Takayama Matsuri

The joy of springtime is reflected in plenty of local festivals with a rich cultural heritage that celebrate the season of renewal. So even if you miss the sakura season, there are lots of seasonal activities that you can still enjoy, sometimes with the advantage of not dealing with as many visitors compared to peak sakura bloom. 

▽Need more ideas for Spring? Check below to get started!▽

Japan’s 3 Biggest Festivals in April

Top 11 Things to Do in Japan in May

10 Must-Visit Flower Festivals around Tokyo in Spring

10 Best Things to Do in Golden Week in Japan

Kawagoe Matsuri
Kawagoe Matsuri

Autumn is also a season rich with festivals that celebrate the harvest and the natural splendor of the season. One of the most prevalent themes of the season revolve around the moon, since admiring the harvest moon, also known as “Tsukimi” is one of the most traditional activities during september. There are also lots of evening festivals with lanterns and colorful floats along a variety of performances!

▽Check the links below to get details about the season’s best festivals and activities!▽

11 Best Autumn Festivals in Japan

Top 10 Things to Do in Japan in October

Seasonal Foods

One of the most interesting things about Japanese cuisine is how closely tied to the seasons it is and how much seasonal ingredients change. 

ChirashizushiSpring offers a lot of fresh flavors like takenoko (bamboo shoots) or sansai (wild mountain vegetables) which are typical ingredients culturally linked to the arrival of new life. Chirashi sushi is another popular seasonal food, as well as fresh seafood, such as clams and the first catches of bonito. And of course, a myriad of Sakura-themed sweets!

▽Don’t miss out on these delicious sakura goodies!▽

Best Sakura Food and Drinks in Japan

Sweet potatoes and persimmonsAs for Autumn, in the same vein as the festivals, the culinary landscape shifts to embrace the harvest’s bounty. Some seasonal favorites include kuri (chestnuts), satsumaimo (sweet potatoes), kaki (persimmons) among many other ingredients used in both sweet and savory dishes.Matsutake mushrooms are another highlight since they’re eaten almost exclusively in this season.

▽Find out more about Autumn specialties!▽

Best Japanese Food to Try in Autumn

Some Travel Tips for Spring and Autumn

As the busiest seasons in Japan, traveling during Spring and autumn requires some thoughtful preparation. Here are some tips to ensure your visit is as fulfilling and hassle-free as possible:

  • Book Early: Both seasons see a surge in tourism due to their popularity. Secure your accommodations well in advance to avoid the last-minute rush and higher prices, especially if your travel coincides with cherry blossom peaks or prime fall foliage periods.
  • Be Mindful of Holidays: Spring’s Golden Week and various national holidays in autumn can significantly affect travel plans due to crowded destinations and limited availability. Plan your itinerary keeping these dates in mind to enjoy a smoother journey.
  • Layer Up: Weather can be quite unpredictable, with warmer days and cooler evenings. Pack layers that can easily be adjusted to the day’s weather, including light sweaters, comfortable walking shoes, and a waterproof jacket for unexpected showers.
  • Sun Protection: Despite cooler temperatures, sunny days can still pose a risk of sunburn. Include sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen in your packing list.

▽Check out our seasonal itinerary suggestions!▽

14 day Spring Itinerary in Japan

Japan Autumn Itinerary for 14 Days


Spring vs Autumn: Bottom Line

As much as I seriously love both seasons, for first time travelers I’m slightly partial to sakura season simply because things like the magic of all these pink trees lining up so many places followed by the charm of the falling petals can hardly be replicated elsewhere.

However, almost the same could be said regarding the fervor that follows the fiery hues of the autumn leaves. Certainly, Autumn leaves are hardly a Japan-exclusive phenomena, but so many celebrations accompanied by autumn-specific traditions and gastronomy really make the case for a rather unique way to experience Autumn. 

Sorry, that brings us back to square zero right? Well anyway, despite my indecisiveness, the above should provide enough information for you to decide. If you still need some more information, check our all-encompassing guides below!

Team Spring! ▶ Japan Spring Travel Guide

Team Autumn! ▶ Japan Autumn Travel Guide

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Written by

Photographer, journalist, and avid urban cyclist, making sense of Japan since 2017. I was born in Caracas and lived for over 10 years in Barcelona before moving to Tokyo. Currently working towards my goal of visiting every prefecture in Japan, I hope to share with readers the everlasting joy of discovery and the neverending urge to keep exploring.