After a few complaints about the calendar showing as blank, I think I’ve fixed it now. Let me know if it still isn’t working. Hint: there should be days in September, November and March showing as UNAVAILABLE.
The short answer: Everytime! Just come visit us!
Seriously though, it really depends on you; do you want to see a specific festival? Can you only get time off of work at a certain time of year? Can you get an amazing seat sale?
Tokyo has a similar winter to Victoria, BC, so somewhat damp and chilly for the most part. Depending on where you go in Japan, it will be a similar climate; a little warmer or cooler, and probably some snow. Unless you are intentionally planning your trip to attend a snow festival or hope to see scenic gardens and old-style houses covered in snow (or score an amazing seat sale), I would suggest delaying your trip until later so it’s a little more pleasant for sightseeing. A few years ago we went to Kyoto in early March, and they have a cool beginning of tourist season kick-off festival with temple light-ups that is really worth checking out. Looks like it is mid-March for 2014. (They also have one in the beginning of December on the other side of town).
March and April are nice times for sightseeing in Japan because it’s getting warm and the plum and cherry blossoms are out. Honestly though, they’re nicer in Victoria/Vancouver because you aren’t swarmed with people hanami-ing, and because the cherry trees in BC are planted in places you would just happen to be so you don’t have to go to a park to seek them out.
May and September can be hot and humid, and July and August are really hot and humid. Inland and further North are cooler and less humid. The first time we arrived in Japan was mid-September, and we have visited Japan for short travel in both May and September as well; it’s bearable, but a shock if you’re not prepared for it. May has plenty of flowers in bloom including spectacular wisteria throughout Japan and a wisteria tunnel in Kawachi. My favourite matsuri we have attended is the Tono Matsuri held every September in Tono, Iwate. It makes coming in September worth it just to attend!
July and August are not for the faint of heart, but are filled with lots of festive events: tons of fireworks displays, dances, the famed Gion Matsuri…the list goes on. This year is the first time we’ve ever been in Japan during these two months, and there is a lot to fill your time with–if you can stand to leave your apartment or hotel that is.
October and November are really great times to visit because the weather is perfect and still quite warm (a reasonable 15-25C in the day) and the autumn colours are nice. We were here on Cael’s language training all of last November and it was great. The southern places didn’t start turning until the 2nd or 3rd week, but in more northern cities the colours were great earlier. Kyoto has a great autumn colour light ups at many temples all throughout November. Other cities, like Tokyo, also have temple light ups, but they are not nearly as concentrated as the ones in Kyoto. It’s hard to find out the exact dates and times because so many posts about it are from past years, but generally they are on weekends and holidays. I’ll try to include the dates and times for popular spots once the season is closer. Here is this year’s koyo (autumn colours) report, but there obviously is nothing in it yet.
Almost forgot June; it’s the rainy season, but it’s also Felix’s birthday…
There’s really something special to be seen in every season, and when you come totally depends on you.
For more detail about climate and when to travel, check out http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2273.html
Japan is an amazing place to travel in–there is so much to see and it is so completely different than anywhere else. In addition, Japan’s trains are the most civilized mode of transportation anywhere I’ve been.
A really useful site is http://www.hyperdia.com/ which gives you pretty much every sort of transit info to anywhere. It’s actually kind of amazing. Google Maps didn’t used to offer that info and it was very late translating the Japan stuff, so you couldn’t used to use Google Maps at all in Japan unless you were very fluent in reading/writing. This site is still better than Google Maps IMO (because knowing how to write down the Japanese address is kind of tricky on Google) and it has more detailed transit info and options, but both work.
Of course, check out JTB Canada if you are interested in getting a JR Rail Pass. Depending on how you plan your travel, you might not need one or might need one shorter than you think (I suggest doing your research using http://www.hyperdia.com/ first). There are plenty of other companies that offer short passes for non-JR trains as well, such as the Kansai Thru-Pass (We’ve used this a couple of times and are impressed with the usability for such an inexpensive pass). There’s a pretty comprehensive list of train passes that I just found here.
One thing that we have really enjoyed doing in the past is flying in from Vancouver to Osaka and starting there, then flying back out of Narita. (Obviously works the other way too). By doing this we saved a lot of travel time between cities, didn’t have to loop back, and skipped buying a JR pass (the 1-week JR pass is the same price as the round-trip from Tokyo–>Kyoto–>Tokyo, so we saved money by only going one way). AirCanada only flies through Narita, so you would have to go with someone like United to get to Osaka, which means that you have to go through San Francisco (I hate having to transfer through the States…) I think that Delta also flies in and out of Haneda airport, which is actually IN Tokyo, rather than Narita which is much larger but about 75 minutes away. If you do end up flying in (or in and out) of Narita (there’s nothing wrong with doing that of course!) check out N’EX which gives you a combo deal on the train into Tokyo and a re-loadable Suica card that you can use for subway/bus/train transit within Tokyo and a broad area around Tokyo (also certain convenience stores and vending machines). The other ways to get into town are the Keisei Skyliner and the regular old train.
Of course we have room for you! We actually have a pretty deluxe place, with a guest room with a queen bed and access to our rooftop terrace from the guest room. We live in one of the Embassy compounds, so it’s a western style apartment. Not that there’s anything wrong with Japanese style, but it does make it feel more homey when you’re here for the long run. Please don’t think of getting a hotel in Tokyo!