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A Guide to Japan’s Peak Travel Times – Avoid Them for an Amazing Trip!

It would be a shame if you traveled all the way to Japan, but didn't get to enjoy any sightseeing because it was crowded everywhere. In order to help you make a travel plan that avoids crowds, we've put together an article explaining the times of year when Japan's tourist attractions and public transport are most crowded.

When Does Japanese Public Transport Get Most Crowded?

During long holidays such as Obon (mid-August), the New Year period, and Golden Week (early May), many people who work in the major cities return home to their families or go on vacation, so Japan’s public transport network gets extremely congested.
Basically, at the beginning of a long holiday period, public transport outbound from Tokyo is crowded, and at the end, the public transport inbound to Tokyo is crowded. When taking the bullet train, it’s best to book a reserved seat in advance if you want a guaranteed seat, as the non-reserved seats are extremely packed.

Spring

Major holidays: Spring Break (a period of about 10 days from late March to early April; differs by school, region, etc.), Golden Week (a long holiday period consisting of many consecutive national holidays from the end of April to the beginning of May)

After winter comes spring, when the days get longer and warmer. Spring is a beautiful green season throughout Japan, where many lovely flowers bloom including cherry blossoms, so of course there are a lot of holidaymakers around. Tourist attractions well-known for their cherry blossoms including Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima are busy even outside of holiday periods, so be cautious of these places.

Summer

Major holidays: Summer Break (about 40 days from the second half of July to the end of August; differs by school, region, etc.), Obon period (August 13-15)

Around the Obon festival, when many Japanese companies take time off for the summer, many people return home to their families or take trips, so public transport networks will be extremely crowded. Roughly speaking, the outbound rush often peaks around August 8-10, and the inbound rush peaks around August 15-16.
Tourist attractions such as the mountains and seaside, where you can enjoy marine sports and outdoor activities, tend be very busy during the summer.

Autumn

Major holidays: Silver Week (a long holiday period that occurs from mid- to late September; due to the timing of holidays, this doesn’t occur every year).

Autumn, when the summer heat starts to abate and the weather is calmer, is a popular season for pleasure trips, like spring. As you might expect, public transport out of Tokyo is crowded before national holidays, and the reverse is true at the end of holiday weekends. Many people go to famous areas for autumn leaves, such as Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima, so public transport networks and hotels are especially busy in those places.

Winter

Major holidays: Winter Break (December 25 to around January 7; differs by school, region, etc.), New Year period (the Japanese New Year is December 29-January 3)

Many companies enter vacation mode over the New Year period. This is when the "holiday congestion" occurs, as many people living in the capital return to their hometowns and families. All public transport networks are jam-packed, including bullet trains. The peak of the holiday congestion first occurs around December 28, and returns again as people go back to work and school around January 1.
With many people doing “hatsumode” (the first Shrine visit of the year), famous shrines and temples all over Japan, including Meiji-jingu Shrine in Tokyo and Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, are full of people. If you want to visit a shrine but avoid the crowds, the best time to go is early morning.

This is a good guide of when to expect crowded public transport and tourist attractions in Japan. For people who want to do some sightseeing but avoid the crowds, avoid these major holidays when planning your trip. We’re sure you’ll have a pleasant trip!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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