The holiday-makers' favourite guidebook series (The Sunday Times Travel Magazine
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When to go
In an archipelago stretching over 3000km from north to south you'd expect the average temperature and weather patterns to vary greatly. The main influences on the climate on Honsh0 are the mountains and surrounding warm seas, bringing plenty of rain and snow. Winter weather differs greatly, however, between the western Sea of Japan and the Pacific coasts, the former suffering cold winds and heavy snow while the latter tends towards dry, clear winter days. Regular heavy snowfalls in the mountains provide ideal conditions for skiers.
Despite frequent showers, spring is one of the most pleasant times during which to visit Japan, when the weather reports chart the steady progress of the cherry blossom from warm Kyushu in March to colder Hokkaido around May. A rainy season (tsuyu) during June ushers in the swamp-like heat of summer; if you don't like tropical conditions, head for the cooler hills or the northern reaches of the country. A bout of typhoons and more rain in September precede autumn, which lasts from October through to late November and is Japan's most spectacular season, when the maple trees explode into a range of brilliant colours.
Also worth bearing in mind when planning your visit are Japan's national holidays. During such periods as the days around New Year, the "Golden Week" break of April 28 to May 6 and the Obon holiday of mid-August, the nation is on the move making it difficult to secure last-minute transport and hotel bookings. Avoid travelling during these dates, or make your arrangements well in advance.
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