If you’re thinking about taking a trip to Japan, or are simply curious and want to learn more about the country, then you might have wondered about the climate that the country has and the sort of weather that you can expect there. Does it snow in Japan?
Japan has a varied climate and diverse weather but it is a temperate zone and snow falls across most of the country in winter, particularly in the northernmost regions. The island of Hokkaido and the coastal areas around the Sea of Japan experience deep snowfall every year but further south the winters are milder. Japan is known as one of the snowiest countries in the world.
If you want to experience beautiful environments and a lot of snow, Japan is the place to be in the wintertime. Read ahead in this article to find out all about the snow that blankets the islands of Japan every year, and where and when the most snow can be found.
Does It Snow Everywhere In Japan?
Japan is a snowy country in the winter, and most areas will experience some snow every year.
Japan is located in the Northern Hemisphere, from 20° to 45° north latitude, which is about as far north as the United States. As a series of islands, it is also surrounded by oceans which makes the overall climate quite cold and humid. Japan also receives a lot of precipitation in general, which often falls as snow in the colder months
Even in the southern regions of Japan, snow is common in winter, though in smaller quantities than in the far north.
Where in Japan Does It Snow the Most?
The areas that receive the most snow are the islands to the north and the coastal areas to the northwest of the country. Winter snow is particularly deep in the regions of Hokkaido and around the Japanese Alps. In fact, these areas are even known as Snow Country, or “yukiguni”.
Snow Country in Japan ranges from Yamaguchi in the south to the tip of Honshū in the north, all along the Japanese Alps and the coastline of the Sea of Japan. More than half of the landmass of Japan is considered to be part of Snow Country, where the snowfall and snow cover can be heavy enough to hinder the lives of the people who reside there.
These parts of Japan experience such large amounts of snow because of heavy clouds that are filled with moisture that arrive on the coastline, pushed by cold westerly winds blowing from the continent or from Siberia. These clouds rise up as they meet the mountains of Japan and release heavy snowfall on the region.
What Climates Does Japan Have?
As an island that stretches nearly 2,000 miles long from north to south, there are many different climate regions across Japan. Most of the country is in the temperate zone, which means that most areas experience four distinct seasons.
Some of Japan’s climates are characterized by large amounts of snowfall in the winter, like the cool humid continental climate to the north, whereas others, like the warm tropical rainforest climate in the south, experience milder winters with less snow.
There are six major climatic zones across Japan:
- Hokkaido: The northernmost zone with a humid continental climate. There are long, cold winters and warm to cool summers.
- Sea of Japan: Located on the West Coast, cold seasonal wind delivers heavy snowfall in the winter that melts by spring. Summers are less rainy than in the Pacific area but can be extremely warm.
- Central Highland: An inland region in the center of the country. There are large variations in temperature between the summer and the winter and this zone experiences less rain than the coastal areas.
- Seto Inland Sea: The area surrounding this sea, which links the main islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, has a mild climate. Much of the harsher winter winds are blocked by the mountains of the Chūgoku and Shikoku regions.
- Pacific Ocean: The areas of Japan on the Pacific Ocean side of the country are milder than those to the west. Winters are less cold and the Ogasawara Island chain actually has a tropical to subtropical climate.
- Ryukyu Islands: The island chain to the far southwest of the country experiences a subtropical to tropical climate as well, with much warmer winters.
When Should You Visit Japan To See Snow?
Unlike countries closer to the equator, or nearer the poles, Japan is a mostly temperate region which experiences four distinct seasons throughout the year. In some areas, these seasons have less extreme variations in temperature and weather, but the whole country still has obvious summer, spring, autumn, and winter periods.
In Japan the seasons fall in:
- Spring: March, April, May
- Summer: June, July, August
- Autumn: September, October, November
- Winter: December, January, February
Throughout the country, it is the winter months of December, January, and February when you will see the most snow.
How Deep is Japan’s Snow?
In some areas of Japan, the snow falls deeply every single year. Extreme weather can also lead to record-breaking snowfall that piles up to incredible heights.
The resort of Sapporo Teine in Hokkaido generally sees a weekly average of around 40cm of snow throughout the months of December, January, and February, with snow falling at least 5 days a week.
In February of 2022 central and northern Japan saw record levels of snow, with locations recording depths of up to 12 feet. Some reports claimed that the snow was as deep as 14 feet, in the town of Tsunan, and 16.5 feet in Matsunoyama.
Where Should You Go In Japan To See Snow?
Japan has countless beautiful cities, towns, and regional areas to visit. Some places in particular, though, are popular destinations for those who want to see the incredible snow that the country is known for.
Sapporo in Hokkaido
If you really want to experience the snow of Japan in all its glory, then you should definitely visit the Sapporo Snow Festival. Sapporo is the largest city on the northern island of Hokkaido, and it hosts the Snow Festival in February every year. The festival is a seven-day long celebration of all things snow, including hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures.
Shirakawa Village in Gifu
The village of Shirakawa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the Gifu Prefecture in central Honshu. It is a beautiful mountainous village surrounded by thick forests and steep peaks. The village is famous for its thatched-roofed houses, known as Gasshō-zukuri, which are designed to protect against the heavy snowfall that blankets the area in winter.
Nikko in Tochigi
Right at the entrance to the Nikko National Park is another UNESCO World Heritage Site: the small town of Nikko. It is perhaps best known as the site of the Nikko Toshugo Shrine, one of the most lavishly decorated shrines in the country. It is rich in culture and history, and there are many hot springs to visit in the area.
Fujikawaguchiko in Yamanashi
If you want to see a very special kind of snow, Fujikawaguchiko is a little resort town with a spectacular view. Not only does it surround the beautiful Lake Kawaguchi, but it is also nestled in the foothills of Mount Fuji. This town is often used as a base camp for climbing and all around the area you can find majestic views of Japan’s most famous snow-capped mountain.
Snowfall is most common in the winter months, from December onwards. For the majority of the country, it has melted away by the start of Spring, around the end of February. In some regions, like in the mountains of Hokkaido to the north, the snow can start falling as early as October, and last until the end of April.
Can You Ski in Japan?
If you love the snow then you’re probably a fan of snow sports, like skiing. With such deep and consistent snowfall every year, Japan has some of the best resorts in the world. When it comes to places to ski, you’re spoiled for choice. Some of the most popular resorts include:
- Rusutsu: Near Sapporo on the island of Hokkaido, this resort is known for high-quality powder and deep annual snowfall.
- Niseko: Also in the southwestern part of Hokkaido, Niseko is very popular for international visitors, with a variety of different terrains located around a quaint resort town.
- Nozawa Onsen: Further south, in the Nagano Prefecture, Nozawa Onsen is not only famous for heaps of fresh powder, but also for the many hot springs (onsens) that you can visit in the area.
- Sapporo Teine: Just 40 minutes from the city of Sapporo, the Sapporo Teine resort offers steep slopes at an affordable price.
- Shiga Kogen: The largest ski area in Japan is Shiga Kogen, made up of 19 interlinked resorts with many different slopes to take advantage of.
In Summary: Does It Snow In Japan?
So, does it snow in Japan? It doesn’t just snow in Japan, it is actually considered to be one of the snowiest countries in the world. More than half of the landmass of Japan is known as Snow Country and record snowfall can be as deep as 12 feet.
Japan has a variety of climates across the different islands and it is a temperate country that experiences four distinct seasons. In the winter, from December to March, the northern island of Hokkaido and the coastal regions around the Sea of Japan receive the most snow.
There are many beautiful places in Japan to visit if you want to see some snow, and there are a large number of popular ski resorts that make the most of all that snowfall as well.
About the author: Marta Kovachek graduated from the university with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.