I am always being asked “When is the best time to come to Japan?”
The answer to this question really depends what you want to do here. If you are thinking of getting a job and staying for a year or longer, you need to know that many jobs will start in April, so get here a month or more before then. I came to Kyoto at the end of December so I could find work, get to know the city, get settled in, and see some of the sights before April, and my new working life, began. I also managed to learn to love Sumo, thanks to Sumo digest being on television every night at the guesthouse where I stayed.
If you want to study, April, which is the beginning of the academic year, or September, which is the beginning of second semester, are the times to look into. You will need to apply to your school of choice and complete all the paperwork before you arrive. The school will help you through the procedures.
If you are wanting to stay for a few months to get a feel for Japan and have a well-deserved holiday, spring and autumn may be best for you. The weather is pretty great, and if you are interested in seeing the blossoms (not only cherry blossoms!) or the autumnal leaves, these are the seasons. There are also a lot of festivals, such as Kyoto’s Aoi Matsuri (May 15) and Jidai Matsuri (October 22nd).
Skiers will love the winter here, and even if you are based in Kyoto, there are some great ski areas not too far from the city. And winter features the New Year, Coming of Age Day, Setsubun, and Valentine’s Day, so there are no shortages of great experiences or photo ops. However, it is cold. Very cold. So if you don’t like the cold, this season is probably best avoided.
Some people hate summer here because it is hot and dreadfully humid. But, for me, summer is the best. The gardens are so lush, the moss is at its peak, there are bugs you’ve never seen before, and fresh fruit is abundant and cheap. The restaurants that line Kyoto’s Kamo River build outdoor platforms each year so customers can dine in the cooler outdoor air of the riverside. There are fireflies and fireworks, Kyoto’s magnificent Gion Matsuri, and the Obon holiday, featuring the five huge bonfires around the hills of Kyoto. And when you think you can’t bear the heat any longer, jump into a swimming spot along one of the rivers and take a dip in the refreshing clear waters, or just paddle in the Kamo River closer to the city.
So, choose the time that would best suit you, and you will find that THAT is the perfect time to come to Japan!