Best Time to Visit Hokkaido: When to Go & Weather Guide

If you’re planning a trip to rugged & beautiful northern Japan, figuring out the best time to visit Hokkaido is must.

The most northernly of Japan’s four islands, Hokkaido is famous for its natural hot springs, fields of lavender, and otherworldly volcanic landscapes. If you want to see it all during your Hokkaido itinerary, however, you’ll have one hurdle: the weather.

Want to know when to visit Hokkaido? Plan your trip with this complete Hokkaido weather guide including a summary of the best times of the year to travel to Hokkaido by season and by month…

Weather in Hokkaido: An overview

So, we already know that choosing a best time to go to Japan isn’t always as simple as it sounds.

Planning out your itinerary can be a toss up between wallowing in the beauty of spring cherry blossoms or fall colours or getting soaked in a fury of rain and sticky humidity in summer. (Okay, so maybe it’s not that complicated.)

The weather in Hokkaido throws yet another curveball. Japan’s north isn’t quite like the rest of the county weather-wise. And, honestly, this can be a good thing. (Depending on whom you ask.)

Mist over Lake Toya

In general, Hokkaido is quite a bit cooler than the rest of Japan. Cold snowy winters and more temperate summers dominate here. Spring and fall are somewhere in between with relatively cool to mild temperatures as each season moves onward.

Truthfully, there’s good reason to travel to Hokkaido in any season depending on what you want to do.

If you’re prepared to bundle up, winter is a great time to travel to Hokkaido to enjoy sports like skiing & snowboarding or events like the Sapporo Ice Festival.

Summer, on the other hand, is perfect for hikers who’ll discover unbridled paths in the far reaches of the island while simpler pleasures like scoping out cherry blossoms or getting mesmerized by the fall colours give credence to visiting in the spring or autumn.

Still confused about when to go to Hokkaido? Let’s dig a little deeper…

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Hokkaido Weather By Season

Spring

  • When is spring in Hokkaido: From April until early June
  • What to expect in spring in Hokkaido: Spring is a wonderful time to go to Hokkaido. With the long cold winter slipping away, warmer temperatures breathe new life into the island. Visiting Hokkaido in spring sees cherry blossoms (sakura) hit their peak, happening a little later here than in the rest of Japan. To check out cherry blossoms in Hokkaido, time your visit to late April or early May.
  • What to wear in Hokkaido in spring: There’s still a bit of a chill in the air in early spring. If you’re visiting in March, dress in layers and bring along a warm hardshell jacket with a toque and gloves to stay warm. From late April on, you can be a little more liberal with your clothing and outerwear choices as Hokkaido starts to quickly warm up.

Summer

  • When is summer in Hokkaido: From mid-June until August
  • What to expect in summer in Hokkaido: Coming into summer, there’s still a smattering of cooler rainy days in Hokkaido left over from spring. It doesn’t take long for them to give way to warmer sunnier times. Popular among Japanese holidaymakers, summer in Hokkaido offers a brilliant respite from the intense heat and humidity of Honshu, Kyushu or Shikoku. Although the cherry blossoms are long gone, foliage replenishes the barren trees to create some beautiful scenery throughout the island. Flowers start to bloom in Hokkaido in early summer, hitting their peak in August.
  • What to wear in Hokkaido in summer: With average temperatures finally in the teens, most days will bring opportunities to carry on with minimal layering. Be sure to keep a lightweight rain jacket and travel umbrella handy for the inevitable rain. Temperatures at night can still drop in summer. It’s a good idea to pack a warm hoody or fleece jacket in your best daypack.

Mountains Biei

Autumn

  • When is autumn in Hokkaido: From September until November
  • What to expect in autumn in Hokkaido: With intense colours bursting throughout the island, fall is one of best times to visit Hokkaido. Temperatures are still pleasant throughout September and October with the truly chilly days not hitting until late autumn in November. The cavalcade of colours in October can bring with it loads of visitors to Hokkaido from Japan and from abroad. Be sure to book ahead to avoid disappointment.
  • What to wear in Hokkaido in autumn: Throughout most of the fall, the mild temperatures will mean that dressing in layers with a good jacket should be fine. November sees slightly cooler temperatures in the single digits and will require something a tad heavier to stay comfortable. Although fall is generally dry by Japanese standards, southern Hokkaido sees some remnants of typhoon season in September. Bring along a sturdy rain jacket for these times (actually, it’s a good idea all year round in Japan).

Gearing up for autumn in Hokkaido? Check out our top picks for the top-rated waterproof jackets for men and the top-rated waterproof jackets for women!

Winter

  • When is winter in Hokkaido: From December until March
  • What to expect in winter in Hokkaido: With the island’s northernly location, winter in Hokkaido is, as you’d expect, cold & chilly. Despite what you’ll hear though, it’s probably not as unbearable as its made out to be. In fact, winter is among the best times of the year to visit Hokkaido with its world-class ski resorts and stunning winter scenery. Just don’t plan on getting much off the beaten path as many of the island’s more remote locations like Shiretoko National Park become inaccessible to visitors.
  • What to wear in Hokkaido in winter: The sub-zero temperatures throughout Hokkaido in winter mean that you’ll need to bundle up to stay comfortable. Even if you’re not planning to spend time at one of the best ski resorts in Hokkaido, wear a hardshell jacket with a warm mid-layer to stay toasty. A warm winter hat (toque), gloves and a pair of winter boots is also a good idea.

Hokkaido Weather By Month

January

  • Overview: The first complete winter month in Hokkaido, January is a chilly time to be travelling around the island. By now, average temperatures are firmly in the minuses with snowfall hitting its peak during the month. The increased snowfall makes it more difficult and less safe to travel by road. January’s a good month to get use out of your Japan Rail Pass or JR Hokkaido Pass to avoid delays.
  • Where to go: If you’re into winter sports, January’s a fantastic month to travel to Hokkaido. By January, Hokkaido’s top ski resorts including Niseko, Sahoro, and Rusutsu really hit their stride.
City Avg. High Avg. Low Avg. Temp Avg. Precip.
Sapporo -1ºC / 30ºF -7ºC / 19ºF -4ºC / 25ºF 110 mm
Asahikawa -4ºC / 25ºF -12ºC / 10ºF -8ºC / 18ºF 70 mm
Hakodate 0ºC / 32ºF -7ºC / 19ºF -3ºC / 26ºF 71 mm
Kushiro -1ºC / 30ºF -12ºC / 10ºF -6ºC / 21ºF 43 mm

February

  • Overview: There’s little difference in the weather in Hokkaido between January and February. Like the previous month, February is marked by heavy snowfall and cold temperatures. February can, however, be a relatively pleasant month to travel with plenty of sunny days and clear skies to be had.
  • Where to go: Hokkaido’s top ski resorts see their peak during the sunny days of February. Since this is an insanely popular time of year in Hokkaido, you’ll need to book ahead by several months if you’re planning to hit up the top winter resort towns. February’s also a fantastic time to take in Hokkaido’s best hot springs (onsen) towns such as Noboribetsu or Jozankei and to enjoy the famous Sapporo Snow & Ice Festival.
City Avg. High Avg. Low Avg. Temp Avg. Precip.
Sapporo -1ºC / 30ºF -7ºC / 19ºF -4ºC / 25ºF 100 mm
Asahikawa -3ºC / 27ºF -12ºC / 10ºF -8ºC / 18ºF 60 mm
Hakodate 1ºC / 33ºF -7ºC / 19ºF -3ºC / 27ºF 59 mm
Kushiro -1ºC / 30ºF -12ºC / 10ºF -6ºC / 21ºF 39 mm

Tomamu Ski Resort

March

  • Overview: The transition between winter in Hokkaido and spring, March can be a bit of a mixed bag for weather. Remnants of winter remain with snow and sub-zero temperatures still on the docket. Things improve though, especially towards the end of the month when temperatures ascend into the teens and mild sunny days emerge.
  • Where to go: Skiing in Hokkaido is still kickin’ in the cool beginning days of March. Ski resorts like Niseko or Rusutsu are quieter than February although ski conditions can be hit or miss as the warmer wet days of spring approach. With spring yet to fully kick into gear, March in Hokkaido doesn’t showcase the island’s best face. Trees have yet to sprout their plumes so the scenery can feel a tad underwhelming compared to late spring, summer or fall.
City Avg. High Avg. Low Avg. Temp Avg. Precip.
Sapporo 3ºC / 37ºF -3ºC / 27ºF 0ºC / 32ºF 90 mm
Asahikawa 2ºC / 36ºF -7ºC / 19ºF -3ºC / 27ºF 60 mm
Hakodate 5ºC / 40ºF -3ºC / 26ºF 1ºC / 33ºF 62 mm
Kushiro 2ºC / 36ºF -6ºC / 21ºF -2ºC / 29ºF 62 mm

April

  • Overview: The first true signs of spring in Hokkaido come in April as temperatures climb, quickly melting the winter’s worth of snow. Days get continually warmer throughout the month while nights still remain somewhat chilly. By month’s end, spring flowers start to make their first appearance in Hokkaido. The cherry blossoms that are in full swing elsewhere in Japan don’t even start winking in Hokkaido until near the end of April, if not the beginning of May.
  • Where to go: With the ski resorts shut down for another year, April is a good time to batten down in the cities of Hokkaido. Spending some time hunting down Hokkaido’s numerous ramen varieties in Sapporo and Asahikawa makes for a great side-trip. The slow winter-to-spring transition leaves many of Hokkaido’s mountain activities off-limits.
City Avg. High Avg. Low Avg. Temp Avg. Precip.
Sapporo 11ºC / 52ºF 3ºC / 37ºF 7ºC / 45ºF 70 mm
Asahikawa 11ºC / 52ºF 1ºC / 34ºF 6ºC / 43ºF 60 mm
Hakodate 11ºC / 52ºF 2ºC / 36ºF 7ºC / 44ºF 77 mm
Kushiro 8ºC / 46ºF 0ºC / 32ºF 3ºC / 38ºF 84 mm

Otaru Canal

May

  • Overview: Spring in Hokkaido is finally in swing coming into the swaying days of May. Temperatures pick up slack as averages inch into the teens throughout most of Hokkaido. The weather in May, however, is hit-or-miss with warm sunny days getting interspersed with cold rainy ones. Japanese spring flowers really start to show their colours in Hokkaido in May even if still in its infancy compared to the warmer days of summer. By the end of the month, trees become fully engulfed in foliage throughout the island returning much needed colour to the island’s scenery. And lets not forget the cherry blossoms that start sprouting, moving south to north as the month ticks on.
  • Where to go: The mixed bag of spring weather makes southern Hokkaido the best place to visit in Hokkaido in May. Cities like Sapporo and Otaru are wonderful to visit at this time as they continue to wake from their winter/early-spring slumber. The cherry blossoms at Goryokaku Park in Hakodate and Hokkaido Shrine in Sapporo, both peaking in May, are simply stunning.
City Avg. High Avg. Low Avg. Temp Avg. Precip.
Sapporo 17ºC / 63ºF 8ºC / 46ºF 13ºC / 55ºF 60 mm
Asahikawa 18ºC / 64ºF 6ºC / 43ºF 12ºC / 54ºF 60 mm
Hakodate 16ºC / 62ºF 11ºC / 53ºF 12ºC / 53ºF 72 mm
Kushiro 12ºC / 54ºF 4ºC / 40ºF 8ºC / 46ºF 103 mm

June

  • Overview: As the summer rolls in, the full spring bloom is finally in effect into the warmer days of June. This is one of best months to visit Hokkaido as the average temperatures are usually in high teens and rainfall tails off towards the end of the month. Even into June, evenings can still get chilly with northerly winds swooshing in to drop the mercury.
  • Where to go: The warmer temperatures and drier conditions make travelling throughout much of Hokkaido in June quite pleasant. By June, off-beat spots like Shiretoko National Park start to open up after a long off-season. The flower blooms in places like Furano and Biei are starting but don’t quite hit their peak until July.
City Avg. High Avg. Low Avg. Temp Avg. Precip.
Sapporo 22ºC / 72ºF 13ºC / 55ºF 18ºC / 64ºF 60 mm
Asahikawa 23ºC / 73ºF 12ºC / 54ºF 18ºC / 64ºF 80 mm
Hakodate 20ºC / 67ºF 11ºC / 53ºF 15ºC / 60ºF 82 mm
Kushiro 15ºC / 59ºF 8ºC / 47ºF 11ºC / 53ºF 122 mm

Flowers in Furano

July

  • Overview: Better arriving late than never, July in Hokkaido brings with it consistently warm and pleasant days. Average temperatures inch into the twenties throughout the popular central parts of the island. Even nighttime temperature stick in the teens. Towards the end of the month rainfall starts to ramp up with the increased humidity although it’s nothing compared to what you’ll find in southern Japan at this time of year.
  • Where to go: Most of Hokkaido is near its best weather-wise in July, especially in the first part of the month, and just about anywhere you visit will be enjoyable. One of the best activities to take on in Hokkaido in July is to check out the lavender fields of Furano and Biei at their peak colour. Hiking in Hokkaido is also superb in July; expect to share the privilege with locals and tourists.
City Avg. High Avg. Low Avg. Temp Avg. Precip.
Sapporo 25ºC / 77ºF 17ºC / 63ºF 21ºC / 70ºF 60 mm
Asahikawa 26ºC / 79ºF 16ºC / 61ºF 21ºC / 70ºF 80 mm
Hakodate 23ºC / 74ºF 16ºC / 61ºF 19ºC / 67ºF 114 mm
Kushiro 19ºC / 66ºF 13ºC / 55ºF 15ºC / 60ºF 110 mm

August

  • Overview: The true summer weather in Hokkaido hits its apex in the dog days of August. As expected in a Japanese summer, conditions are hot and humid—although far more pleasant than on Honshu, Shikoku, or Kyushu—with plenty of rain to boot. Average daytime temperatures swell into the twenties while nighttime averages feel far more mild.
  • Where to go: The summer crowds peak in August as tourists rush to Hokkaido to escape the sticky discomfort of southern Japan. Like July, central Hokkaido is at its most brilliant in August with flower gardens like Shikisai-no-Oka in Biei showing off their wonderful colours. August is also one of the best times of year to visit Shiretoko National Park in the remote northeast of the island.
City Avg. High Avg. Low Avg. Temp Avg. Precip.
Sapporo 26ºC / 79ºF 18ºC / 64ºF 22ºC / 72ºF 140 mm
Asahikawa 27ºC / 81ºF 17ºC / 63ºF 22ºC / 72ºF 140 mm
Hakodate 26ºC / 78ºF 18ºC / 65ºF 22ºC / 71ºF 158 mm
Kushiro 21ºC / 70ºF 15ºC / 59ºF 18ºC / 64ºF 118 mm

Hot Springs in Noboribetsu

September

  • Overview: The short summer slowly starts to come to a close as September rolls into Hokkaido. In the northern part of the island, the trees already start to transition from their greens to their vivid fall colours. Southern Hokkaido still sees a torrent of rainfall at the beginning of September thanks to the typhoons that hover over the three other main Japanese islands. Although daytime highs are still warm and pleasant, there’s a marked drop-off in the temperatures from dusk until dawn.
  • Where to go: As the cooler autumn temperatures sail in, there’s no better place to enjoy Hokkaido to its fullest than at a hot springs resort. Try out Daisetsuzan National Park or Noboribetsu to get the full Japanse onsen experience.
City Avg. High Avg. Low Avg. Temp Avg. Precip.
Sapporo 22ºC / 72ºF 13ºC / 55ºF 18ºC / 64ºF 110 mm
Asahikawa 21ºC / 70ºF 11ºC / 52ºF 16ºC / 61ºF 130 mm
Hakodate 22ºC / 72ºF 13ºC / 56ºF 18ºC / 64ºF 176 mm
Kushiro 19ºC / 66ºF 11ºC / 52ºF 15ºC / 59ºF 136 mm

October

  • Overview: Whether in appearance or feel, it’s obvious that October marks the true peak of autumn in Hokkaido. Throughout the island, the trees flash their fall colours, painting Hokkaido’s best scenery in their explosive red, yellow, and orange hues. Temperatures are still relatively mild, especially in the beginning of the month, with average temperatures sitting in the teens. Nights cool down quite a bit, although hardly as chilly as the lows of November or the winter months ahead.
  • Where to go: The peak in fall scenery with decent weather means that most of Hokkaido is at your fingertips in October. It’s a great time to visit both cities and to enjoy the great outdoors whether its hiking in Noboribetsu or zipping up Mt. Moiwa in Sapporo. Just remember that October is one of the busy tourist months in Hokkaido; be sure to book ahead.
City Avg. High Avg. Low Avg. Temp Avg. Precip.
Sapporo 16ºC / 61ºF 7ºC / 45ºF 12ºC / 54ºF 110 mm
Asahikawa 14ºC / 57ºF 5ºC / 41ºF 10ºC / 50ºF 120 mm
Hakodate 16ºC / 61ºF 6ºC / 43ºF 11ºC / 52ºF 100 mm
Kushiro 15ºC / 58ºF 5ºC / 40ºF 10ºC / 50ºF 109 mm

Winter in Susukino in Sapporo

November

  • Overview: As we trek into November, the autumn is already slowly slipping away. By now, the fall leaves have already hit their peak colours and are slowly falling away form the trees. Average temperatures and highs throughout the island begin to dip into the single digits. Northern Hokkaido and the highlands will start to see trickles of snowfall towards the middle and the end of the month.
  • Where to go: The cooler temperatures outside make outdoor activities in Hokkaido slightly less appeal in November than October. For something a little different, spend time in Hakodate sampling fresh sushi or in Otaru tasting sake. Both of these Japanese delicacies find their peak in November. If you’re caught dreaming of Europe in Japan, the Sapporo Munich Christmas Market, starting at the end of November, should put you into an early festive spirit.
City Avg. High Avg. Low Avg. Temp Avg. Precip.
Sapporo 8ºC / 46ºF 2ºC / 36ºF 5ºC / 41ºF 90 mm
Asahikawa 5ºC / 41ºF -1ºC / 30ºF 2ºC / 36ºF 120 mm
Hakodate 9ºC / 49ºF 1ºC / 33ºF 5ºC / 41ºF 104 mm
Kushiro 8ºC / 47ºF -2ºC / 29ºF 4ºC / 39ºF 73 mm

December

  • Overview: The winter runs full steam ahead in Hokkaido in December. The average temperatures throughout Hokkaido continue to slip, already dropping into the sub-zero range. Both days and nights are chilly, so bundle up! By the middle and the end of the month, snowfall will start to pick up, blanketing the entire island. As long as the colder weather doesn’t scare you off, the scenery can look quite magical.
  • Where to go: One of the best ways to deal with the cold temperatures of winter in Hokkaido is to embrace them! Warm up in the hot springs of Noboribetsu or be one of the first people on the pistes at one of Hokkaido’s top ski resorts (although for the best conditions, you might want to wait until January).
City Avg. High Avg. Low Avg. Temp Avg. Precip.
Sapporo 2ºC / 36ºF -4ºC / 25ºF -1ºC / 30ºF 100 mm
Asahikawa -1ºC / 30ºF -7ºC / 19ºF -4ºC / 25ºF 90 mm
Hakodate 3ºC / 38ºF -4ºC / 24ºF 0ºC / 31ºF 81 mm
Kushiro 3ºC / 37ºF -7ºC / 19ºF -2ºC / 28ºF 45 mm

The verdict: When is the best time to visit Hokkaido?

The best month to visit Hokkaido is July, October or February.

Why visit in July?

Okay, so I’m slowly realizing that I may not be able to offer a definitive answer on when the best time to go to Hokkaido is. But here’s a good start: July.

Hokkaido’s weather lags behind the rest of Japan thanks to its far north location. Nowhere does this serve the island better than in July. While cities like Kyoto and Tokyo are already seeing their worst summer weather brewing, Hokkaido is just getting a first peek at its warmest days.

And the warm and relatively dry weather in Hokkaido isn’t the only reason.

Flower Garden

Visiting Hokkaido in July will unfold one of Japan’s most unique scenes. Near the towns of Furano and Biei, you’ll get to experience the height of the lavender bloom, painting the beautiful Hokkaidan countryside awash with indigo and violet.

Of course, with all its beauty, July is one of the busier times to visit Hokkaido; you’ll need to plan your accommodations well ahead to avoid disappointment.

Why visit in October?

Like July, visiting Hokkaido in October is all about the scenery. The autumn season starts early in Hokkaido with the gorgeous fall colours hitting their full stride in the mild days of October, slotting this autumn month in among the best to visit Hokkaido.

Jigokudani (Hell Valley) in Noboribetsu

October is one of the best times of the year to enjoy the outdoors in Hokkaido, with days that are neither uncomfortably hot, cold nor wet. The only caveat is that, like July, October is extremely popular. Getting your top choice of rooms around the island can be difficult without some timely pre-planning.

Why visit in February?

For anyone who isn’t scared of a little chilliness, February is among the best times to go Hokkaido. The winter sports season is at its peak in February with the top ski resorts in Hokkaido such as Niseko and Rusutsu competing for your attention (and your adrenaline).

Mount Yotei in Niseko

February in Hokkaido isn’t just about skiing either. The island’s hot spring towns (onsen) are lovely at this this time of year with Noboribetsu and Jozankei among the top picks.

Other popular events like the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival and Sapporo Snow & Ice Festival give February an even bigger boost as the top choice for when to visit Hokkaido.

Ryan O'Rourke

Ryan O'Rourke is a Canadian traveller, food & drink aficionado, and the founder & editor of Treksplorer. Join Ryan as he explores the world two to three weeks at a time from his home base of Canada with Treksplorer's independent and unsponsored mid-range luxury travel guides including itineraries, things to do, where to stay, when to visit, and hiking & walking trails.

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