There’s no more fulfilling Japanese city than Kyoto. Even if the buzz of modern Japan beckons in Tokyo or Osaka, visiting the former imperial capital is a cultural experience your mind will never part with.
Truthfully, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint a time when adding a little Kyoto to your life wouldn’t be a good idea. But with Japan’s ever-changing weather, there are certainly times of the year when Kyoto is at its best. And fortunately, it’s fairly simple to explain.
Need some ideas to plan your Kyoto trip? Get started with this complete Kyoto weather guide including recommendations for the best time to visit Kyoto…
Table of Contents
- Weather in Kyoto: An introduction
- Kyoto Weather by Season
- Kyoto Weather by Month
- The verdict: When is the best time to visit Kyoto?
Weather in Kyoto: An introduction
Located on Honshu, Japan’s most populated island, Kyoto experiences a temperate climate. If you’re used to fighting out the weather in European countries like Germany or Poland, you’ll have a idea of what to expect in Kyoto. Four distinct seasons roll along, varying temperatures greatly throughout the year.
Not unlike other Japanese cities like Osaka or Tokyo, the seasonal temperature shifts in Kyoto are marked by extremes. Summer in Kyoto can get uncomfortably hot and humid while winter often dips into chilly territory.
Spring and autumn, on the other hand, are among the best times to travel to Kyoto, especially during the cherry blossom or fall foliage seasons. The temperatures are often mild and comfortable with lower rainfall than during the summertime wet season.
When to go to Kyoto: A quick overview
- The best time to visit Kyoto is either spring (April/May) or autumn (October/November), especially if you time with the cherry blossom & fall foliage seasons.
- Summer (June to August) can get uncomfortably hot, wet & humid in Kyoto. Surprisingly, the city’s still quite busy at this time of year. Although there are better seasons to visit, it’s not a complete no-go as you’ll still get your fair share of sunny days sprinkled in even in the height of rainy season between mid-June and late July.
- The winter months in Kyoto (December to February) are cool, although not as cold as more northernly destinations like Hokkaido. Snowfall is possible and renders Kyoto quite magical.
Need more information? To help you better plan out when to go to Kyoto, I’ve broken down the weather in Kyoto by season and month by month. In each section, I give tips on what to expect in Kyoto weather-wise and some ideas on how to prepare and what to do during each time of year.
Let’s see what Kyoto’s weather has in store for you…
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Kyoto Weather by Season
- When is spring: March to May
- What to expect in spring: Spring is one of the best times of the year to go to Kyoto. Crawling away from the chilly winter, the city comes back to life as spring rolls in. The temperatures slowly rise from the cool days of March to the warm days of April and May. Nights throughout spring still tend to be a tad chilly. Early spring is particularly beautiful when cherry blossom season in Kyoto hits somewhere between late-March and mid-April. When the city’s in full bloom and during Golden Week at the beginning of May, big crowds descend upon the former imperial capital. If you’re visiting during these times, you’ll need to book your accommodations far ahead!
- What to wear in spring: As the temperatures in spring vary quite a bit, you’ll need to fill your travel backpacks with some warmer clothes to deal with the swings. On most warm spring days you should be able to get away with a short- or long-sleeved shirt and a pair of jeans. Keep a sweater handy just in case, and pack one of these ultralight rain shells or a softshell jacket to wear as an outer layer.
- When is summer: June to August
- What to expect in summer: As much as you might love escaping the cold, summer isn’t the pleasantest time of year in Kyoto. Temperatures can soar into the high-30s at the height of summer. And then there’s the incessant humidity. Mid-June to early-July marks Japan’s rainy season. If you choose to visit at this time be prepared for a serious soaking!
- What to wear in summer: On sunny summer days you’ll want to stay comfortable with light clothing such as t-shirts and shorts. Throw a light sweater in your daypack to deal with over-air-conditioned restaurants and malls. As summer is wet, always carry a travel umbrella and lightweight rain jacket along with you to be prepped for the inevitable sudden downpours.
- When is autumn: September to November
- What to expect in autumn: Like spring, autumn is one of the best times to travel to Kyoto. Descending from the heat and humidity of summer, fall temperatures in Kyoto are far more comfortable. In terms of aesthetics, Kyoto is also at its best in autumn. The cavalcade of fall colours paints the city in bright red, yellow and orange hues, creating a scene that’s truly remarkable. The biggest drawback to visiting in autumn is the crowds. Be sure to book your accommodations far ahead to avoid disappointment. Early autumn is also typhoon season in Japan although Kyoto rarely sees much of the action.
- What to wear in autumn: Although you’ll still get away with summer-wear into September, mid- to late-autumn begins to get chilly. Be sure to pack a warmer light jacket (either a softshell or fleece would work well) and a sweater or a hoodie.
- When is winter: December to February
- What to expect in winter: Average temperatures quickly drop as Kyoto transitions from fall to winter. Winter is cold, but not unbearably so—at least not for many Western Europeans or North Americans! There’s truly something magical about catching the temples & shrines of Kyoto under a light blanket of snow. With the cooler temperatures of winter, there’s a bonus of thinner tourist crowds. Winter’s a great time to find good accommodations deals!
- What to wear in winter: To stay comfortable, you’ll need to pack warmer clothes including sweaters, a warm winter coat, toque, and gloves or mittens.
Kyoto Weather by Month
- Overviewy: A solidly winter month, January hands out cold temperatures and sunny skies. Along with December, this is the driest month of the year. Snow is certainly possibly, but even with the cooler temperatures, rarely sticks around for very long. Outside of the New Year’s holiday (shogatsu), January is relatively quiet with smaller crowds.
- Average Temperature: 5ºC / 41ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 1ºC / 34ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 8ºC /46ºF
- Average Rainfall: 50 mm
- Overview: Slightly warmer and wetter than January, February still features into Kyoto’s colder winter weather. Like January, visitor numbers are lower in February than at other times throughout the year. Snow and rain is still a possibility even though February is one of the drier months.
- Average Temperature: 6ºC / 43ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 2ºC / 36ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 9ºC/ 48ºF
- Average Rainfall: 80 mm
- Overview: Temperatures rise into March as spring begins to rear its head. March is a real mixed bag of weather in Kyoto. Rainfall increases quickly from the dry winter months while temperatures fluctuate between cold and warm—and everything between. By mid-March the plum blossoms are out while late March marks the start of cherry blossom season. By this time, tourism numbers start to pick up.
- Average Temperature: 9ºC /48ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 4ºC / 39ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 13ºC /55ºF
- Average Rainfall: 120 mm
- Overview: From the ever-changing March weather, April begins to see a little more stability. Spring temperatures start to even out with daytime averages sneaking upwards. Evening and nights in April can still inch towards the cooler spectrum. The beginning of April is one of the busiest times of year in Kyoto with the beautiful cherry blossoms bursting into full bloom all over the city. The rest of the month is, however, fairly quiet and comfortable for travellers in the city.
- Average Temperature: 14ºC /57ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 9ºC / 48ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 19ºC / 66ºF
- Average Rainfall: 130 mm
- Overview: The last official month of spring, May is one of the best months to visit. With the temperatures warming up nicely and the spring flowers in bloom, Kyoto is simply delightful. Other than during Golden Week, a string of Japanese holidays around the first week of the month, the city is also relatively quiet.
- Average Temperature: 19ºC /66ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 14ºC / 57ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 24ºC / 75ºF
- Average Rainfall: 160 mm
- Overview: With summer coming into force in Kyoto, temperatures start to surge heading into June. The beginning of June is still a pleasant time to visit the city with warm temperatures that don’t inch into the uncomfortable highs of mid- to late-summer. Late June is a different story. As the summer roars in, so does the rainy season. The end of the June is the wettest time of the year in Kyoto with heavy afternoon showers as the norm. You’ll probably want to avoid travelling at this time to save yourself from the brunt of it.
- Average Temperature: 23ºC /73ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 19ºC / 66ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 27ºC / 81ºF
- Average Rainfall: 240 mm
- Overview: The heat and humidity continue to rise into July with the rainfall of late June continuing into the beginning of the month. The end of July sees some reprieve from the intense wetness even if the humidity continues to stick around.
- Average Temperature: 27ºC /81ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 23ºC / 73ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 31ºC / 88ºF
- Average Rainfall: 230 mm
- Overview: Even though there’s a marked drop in rainfall heading into August, the hot and humid summer weather rages on in Kyoto. August is overall the most pleasant summer month in Kyoto as its the driest and sunniest of the bunch. Even with the slightly better weather, the crowds in August are thinner than either June or July making it a little easier to enjoy Kyoto. Late August starts to see the possibility of typhoons in Japan although the outer islands are more likely to be heavily affected than Kyoto.
- Average Temperature: 29ºC /84ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 24ºC / 75ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 33ºC / 91ºF
- Average Rainfall: 130 mm
- Overview: With summer disappearing in the rearview mirror, September sees a dip in the heat and humidity from the previous couple months. Typhoon season in Japan brings a smattering of rain in early September, making it a wetter month overall than August. By the end of the month though, temperatures become far more comfortable and the rain tapers off. The tourist numbers in September are also lower allowing you to snag some pretty awesome accommodations deals.
- Average Temperature: 24ºC / 75ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 20ºC / 68ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 28ºC / 82ºF
- Average Rainfall: 220 mm
- Overview: As the autumn kicks into full swing, October sees a marked drop in temperatures from the summer-like highs of September. It’s still pleasantly warm and sunny though making October one of the best times to travel to Kyoto. Cooler evenings into the end of the month start to usher in the changing of colours of the fall foliage season.
- Average Temperature: 18ºC /64ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 13ºC /55ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 22ºC / 72ºF
- Average Rainfall: 100 mm
- Overview: Along with May, November is overall the best month to visit Kyoto. Although autumn is in full swing, the weather can still be pleasantly mild with sunny days as the norm. By mid-November, the fall colours are out in full force. This can be a busy time of year in Kyoto, but well worth it for the experience of seeing the city at its most beautiful.
- Average Temperature: 13ºC /55ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 8ºC / 46ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 17ºC /63ºF
- Average Rainfall: 80 mm
- Overview: The first official month of winter in Kyoto isn’t such a bad one. Even with the dipping temperatures, December days are often sunny. In fact, December is the driest month of the year in Kyoto. The cooler weather though seems to keep travellers at bay. You’ll find thinner crowds and cheaper accommodations at this time of year. Be sure to plan around shogatsu, the Japanese new year celebrations that shut down businesses between December 29th and January 3rd.
- Average Temperature: 7ºC /45ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 3ºC / 37ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 11ºC / 52ºF
- Average Rainfall: 50 mm
The verdict: When is the best time to visit Kyoto?
The best month to visit Kyoto is May or November.
Why visit in May?
While there’s hardly a truly bad time of the year, there’s perhaps no better time to visit Kyoto than May. Springtime in Kyoto is simply magical, and May offers the best compromise between beautiful scenery, good weather and smaller crowds.
Although you’ll be missing out of the cherry blossoms of early spring, the weather in May is far warmer than during the cool days of late March and early April. Sightseeing in May is also more comfortable, not just because of the warmer weather, but because of smaller crowds.
Outside of Golden Week, a collection of Japanese holidays at the beginning of the month, May is relatively quiet, so finding accommodations in Kyoto won’t be as much of a challenge at this time of year!
Why visit in November?
Aside from May, the best month to go to Kyoto is November. Along with seeing the city blanketed with cherry blossoms, watching Kyoto erupt into fall colours is one of the most memorable experiences you’ll have in Japan.
The weather in Kyoto in November is comfortable and sunny, although you should expect slightly cooler temperatures in autumn than in the late spring.
Be aware that the crowds in November will be slightly denser than in May. The fall colours attract domestic visitors from around Japan. You’ll find accommodation availability and prices a little higher than normal throughout most of the month, but it’s unlikely you’ll regret it as you scour through Kyoto’s temples, shrines, and gardens under the delightful burst of colour.
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