Japan weather & when to go: May
Move over skiing, trekking is now flavour of the month in the northern provinces of Hokkaido where Spring finally arrives and Cherry Blossom season has its last bloom. Elsewhere the great weather is continuing and as the tourists chasing blossoms have waned and many locals are heading home for golden week the smaller crowds make it an ideal time for touring and although there will be moments of rain on land, diving in the Okinawa Islands is opening up as a great option.
May's weather in detail
Golden Week is the most popular time to travel in Japan with most Japanese taking the week off work and making the most of the Spring weather. Trains & hotels, shops & restaurants are extremely busy during this time so we would suggest planning your holiday to avoid these dates. If your trip coincides with Golden Week then you need to book as far in advance as you can.
Sapporo, Niseko, Furano
Spring finally arrives in Hokkaido and the northernmost regions of Japan in May, with temperatures comfortably hitting double figures (avg temp: 13°C). Typically dry, sunny days make May an ideal month for hiking in Hokkaido’s mountains and exploring the National Parks, although a jumper is still worth packing for cooler evenings.
By the end of the month the sakura zensen (cherry blossom front) finally makes an appearance in Hokkaido, and interestingly, asparagus is being harvested in the farming area near Sapporo, so if you see asparagus on a menu – try it!
Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima
May is typically a warm and sunny month throughout Honshu with low rainfall (avg temp: 19-20°C). Hiroshima and Osaka experience warmer, sunnier days than Tokyo and Kyoto. Once the Golden Week crowds have dispersed the popular tourist spots such as Kyoto are pleasantly uncrowded, making May an ideal time to visit Japan.
Taking advantage of the good weather, Tokyo hosts several festivals during May including the rather intense Sanja Matsuri, that runs for three days and reportedly attracts two million visitors. The Sumo Summer Basho also takes place in Tokyo in May, offering you the opportunity to see these mighty wrestlers in action.
If you’re planning on walking a section of the Nakasendo Highway, May is a particularly picturesque time, with temperatures conducive to comfortable walking.
Shikoku & Kyushu
Matsuyama, Fukuoka, Nagasaki
Sunny, dry days continue across the islands of Shikoku and Kyushu during May, in fact Matsuyama and Nagasaki experience their second sunniest month of the year (avg temp: 19°C). The temperate Spring climate makes it the perfect time to make the pilgrimage to Shikoku’s 88 temples and Fukuoka makes the most of the good weather by hosting the Hakata Dontaku Festival, rumoured to be Japan’s largest festival .
Naha, Okinawa, Kerama
Tropical rain comes to Okinawa, Kerama and the southern islands of Japan in May and will generally continue until late June. However, rain typically falls in intense tropical bursts or short showers and temperatures in the south remain high in May (avg temp: 23°C).
Spring is a good time to dive with many schools of big eye jacks and mackerel around the islands.
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Our recommended journeys
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Key Festivals & Religious Ceremonies
Golden Week (29th April – 5th May) is one of Japan’s busiest holidays thanks to four national holidays taking place within the space of seven days.