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Japan Weather, climate and geography

Weather and climate

Best time to visit

The climate in Japan is mostly temperate with four distinct seasons, except for the Hokkaido area and the Okinawa region.

Tokyo, along with most areas on the main island Honshu, has a humid subtropical climate characterised by warm and wet summers and mild winters. January is usually the coldest month while August is the hottest month. July and August are the main rainy season, and umbrellas are a daily essential during this period.

Spring and autumn are generally mild throughout the country.

Typhoons, or tropical cyclones, with strong winds and torrential rains often hit Japan during August and September, but can occur through May to October. Strong typhoons often affect transport systems, causing rail and air services to be stopped, and there is a danger of landslides in rural areas.

The best time to visit Tokyo is usually from March to May, and October to November. Every April, tens of thousands of tourists go to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka for the spectacular views of cherry blossom. Equally, many travellers visit in October for the colourful autumnal leaves.

Hokkaido, the northernmost island, is also Japan's coldest region. Winters are long and harsh with plenty of snowfall, making it a prime destination for snow sports. Ski resorts here often open from early December to April.

On the other hand, the Okinawa prefecture is about 1,000 miles (1,600km) south of Tokyo and enjoys long summers with temperatures hover around 32°C (90°F).

Required clothing

In Japan, lightweight cottons and linens are required throughout summer in most areas. To avoid sunstroke and sunburn it is advisable to wear a hat. According to the region, light to medium weight clothing is best during spring and autumn; whilst medium to heavy weight clothing is recommended for winter months. A light rain coat or jacket is useful during the rainy season in June and July. Much warmer clothes will be needed in the mountains all year round. Thermal innerwear is recommended if trekking, climbing or skiing. It’s best to purchase all necessary clothing before arriving in Japan, as it can be difficult to find larger sizes.

Geography

The archipelago of Japan is separated from the Asian mainland by 160km (100 miles) of sea and split into four main islands: Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. About 70% of the country is covered by hills and mountains, a number of which are active or dormant volcanoes, including Mount Fuji, Japan's highest peak, reaching 3,776m (12,388ft). Japan sits on major seismic fault lines and is susceptible to frequent earthquakes.

A series of mountain ranges runs from northern Hokkaido to southern Kyushu. The Japanese Alps (the most prominent range) run in a north-south direction through central Honshu. Lowlands and plains are small and scattered, mostly lying along the coast, and composed of alluvial lowlands and diluvial uplands.

The coastline is very long in relation to the land area, and has very varied features, for example, the deeply indented bays with good natural harbours tend to be adjacent to mountainous terrain. Many of Japan’s major cities are located on the coastline, and have extremely high population density.

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