Japan is an archipelago consisting of over 6,000 islands lying on the east coast of Asia. It covers 377,975 square kilometers and borders the Sea of Japan to the west, Sea of Okhotsk towards the north, Taiwan to the south and China to the east. A large chunk of Japan’s landmass consists of four main islands; Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Honshu, the largest islands. Japan has a rugged terrain, with around three-quarters of its landmass covered in the mountains. The highest point in Japan is Mount Fuji rising to 12,388 feet (3,776) meters above sea level. But does it snow in Japan?
The northern parts of Japan have a humid continental climate that gets super cold during winter, creating ideal conditions for snowfall. Winter in Japan runs from December to February, and heavy snowfall is experienced in the country’s northern parts. Snowfall is also experienced on the west coast near the Sea of Japan and some parts of southern Japan. Some regions in Japan start receiving snow as early as November, while others still receive snow showers as late as May.
When is there Snowfall in Japan?
Snowfall is heavy and consistent in Japan due to its strategic location climate wise as it receives cold masses of air from Siberia, which pick up moisture as they cross the Sea of Japan. With that being said, some parts of Japan, such as Fukuoka on Kyushu Island, rarely experience snow.
Deep and heavy snowfall is predominantly seen in Honshu, the area around the Japanese Alps, Sado and Hokkaido islands, beginning November and lasts through April.
Snow in November
November is still autumn in most parts of Japan. Some regions such as Tokyo witness average low temperatures of 51.6 degrees Fahrenheit (10.9 degrees Celsius), and therefore snow is unheard of. In Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, however, the weather is chilly. Temperatures in Sapporo drop below freezing point, with average temperatures of 31.6 degrees Fahrenheit (-0.2 degrees Celsius) being recorded. Snow falls in Sapporo for 11.5 days during the month and can aggregate up to depths of 6.61 inches (168 millimeters)
Snow in December
As winter sets in, temperatures in Sapporo drop below zero degrees. The average temperatures vary between highs of 29.7 degrees Fahrenheit (-1.3 degrees Celsius) and lows of 20.3 Fahrenheit (-6.5 degrees Celsius). Snowfall goes hand in hand with the cold weather as Sapporo accumulates 16.81 inches (427 millimeters) of snow after snowing for 24.8 days.
On the main island, temperatures are still cool. Cities like Tokyo experience average lows of 42.6 degrees Fahrenheit (5.9 degrees Celsius).
Snow in January
Temperatures in Tokyo drop to chilly lows of 37 degrees Fahrenheit (2.8 degrees Celsius). January is the first month where Tokyo sees snow, and the snow falls for 1.3 days accumulating 0.2 inches (5 millimeters) throughout the month.
January is the coldest month in Sapporo, with an average low temperature of 14.4 degrees Fahrenheit (-9.8 degrees Celsius). January also happens to be the month with the most snowfall. Snow falls for 28 days and aggregates up to 16.93 inches (430 millimeters) of snow.
Snow in February
Snow falls for 22.6 days in Sapporo and accumulates to depths of 14.25 inches (362 millimeters) of sn. The temperatures rise slightly but are still in the subzero range. In Tokyo, it falls for 2.3 days and aggregates up to 0.83 inches (21 millimeters).
Snow in March
March, the turn of spring is the last month it snows in Tokyo. It snows for 0.3 days and accumulates to depths of 0.04 inches (1 millimeter).
The weather is still wintry up north in Sapporo, with temperatures ranging between highs of 33.4 Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) and lows of 20.5 Fahrenheit (-6.4 degrees Celsius). Snow falls for 19.4 days accumulating depths of up to 10.35 inches (263 millimeters) of snow.
Snow in April
Sapporo receives an average low temperature of 33.1 Fahrenheit (0.6 degrees Celsius). It snows for 4.9 days with depths of up to 2.68 inches (51 millimeters).
Where is there Snowfall in Japan?
Snow in Tokyo
Tokyo is the capital and most populous city in Japan. Located on the main island of Honshu, it spans a total area of 2,194 square kilometers at an altitude of 6617 feet (2,017 meters) above sea level. Tokyo is home to about 14 million people, making it the most populous metropolis in the world.
January is the coldest month in Tokyo, with an average low temperature of 37 Fahrenheit (2.8 degrees Celsius). Snow falls from January to March and reaches a total annual depth of 1.06 inches (27 millimeters). February has the most snowfall with an aggregate of up to 0.83 inches (21 millimeters).
Snow in Sapporo
Sapporo is the biggest city on Hokkaido island. In January, temperatures can drop to lows of 14.4 degrees Fahrenheit (-9.8 degrees Celsius), with snow falling for 28 days and accumulating to a depth of 16.93 inches (430 millimeters). Sapporo witnesses 111.9 snowfall days throughout the year, and the snow reaches average depths of 67.83 inches (1723 millimeters).
Snow in Aomori City
Aomori is the snowiest city in the world and covers an area of 824.61 square kilometers. Daily temperatures drop to lows of 21.2 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 degrees Celsius) in January.
It snows heavily in Aomori, with an average snowfall of 262 inches (6654.8 millimeters) per year.
Ski Resorts in Japan
Japan has a thriving skiing scene and has hosted a couple of winter Olympic games already. It is often referred to as the Mecca of winter activities within the winter sports circle, a clear indication that it contains some of the best skiing resorts in the world.
Shigakogen Mountain Skiing Resort
Shigakogen resort is located in Honshu between the elevations of 1,335 and 2,307 meters above sea level. The resort has 83 kilometers of slopes for skiing and snowboarding activities. The resort uses 58 ski lifts to transport guests.
The resort operates from mid-January to early May.
Happo-One – Hakuba Ski Resort
Happo-One – Hakuba ski resort is located in the Nagano Prefecture in Honshu Island. It has 52 kilometers of slope for skiing and snowboarding.
The resort is open to the public from late November to early May.