Weatherwatch: the extreme nature of Japan’s climate

The weather varies across the island nation, with everything from long cold winters to mild summers and tropical cyclones

Japan may appear, geographically, to be a mirror-image of the British Isles – a group of islands on the edge of the vast Eurasian landmass – but climatically it is very different. Whereas Britain and Ireland have a maritime climate, influenced by the prevailing Atlantic airstream, Japan’s is far more extreme.

That said, the proximity of the sea does have some ameliorating influence. Compared with the adjacent mainland countries of Russia, North and South Korea, winters are milder and summers slightly less hot, and there is a lot more rain and snow.

Japan’s climate also varies considerably from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south – a distance of about 2,360 miles (3,800km). Winters in Hokkaido are long and snowy, with temperatures near or below freezing for four, or even five, months of the year.

Well to the south, the capital, Tokyo, has a much milder climate, with winters usually well above freezing and hot, sweltering summers, punctuated by relatively short springs and autumns when temperatures are far more comfortable – hence these being the main tourist seasons.

Late summer and early autumn are often blighted by tropical cyclones, which move northwards along the coasts; these can bring very heavy rains. Across much of Japan, most rainfall occurs during the summer months, which as a result are not as sunny as might be expected.

Stephen Moss

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Weather tracker: Deadly floods batter Italy’s Adriatic coast
Ten people confirmed dead with three missing; Typhoon Nanmadol forces millions to flee homes in Japan

Andrew Stewart (Metdesk)

19, Sep, 2022 @9:41 AM

Article image
Torrential rain causes flooding and landslides in Japan
Several dead and more than a million people told to evacuate after storms batter south and west of country

Brendan Jones for MetDesk

19, Aug, 2021 @5:00 AM

Article image
Weather tracker: Japan’s rainy season ends early amid heatwave
Meteorological authority declares short season in several regions as temperatures remain high across country

Daniel Gardner for MetDesk

01, Jul, 2022 @6:46 AM

Article image
World weatherwatch: Flooded Japan battered again by Typhoon Jongdari
Wildfires continue to rage in California, as drought in Australia shows no signs of abating

Brendan Jones (MetDesk)

01, Aug, 2018 @8:30 PM

Article image
World weatherwatch: Japan and South Korea hit by tropical storm Kong-Rey
Ex-hurricane Rosa brought flooding to Mexico and parts of US, while drought-stricken Australia was glad of downpours

Rich Johnson (MetDesk)

10, Oct, 2018 @8:30 PM

Article image
World weatherwatch: deadly lightning strikes hit Poland
South-east Asia battles Typhoon Bailu and Alaska turns into a tinderbox as wildfires rage

Nicholas Lee (MetDesk)

28, Aug, 2019 @8:30 PM

Article image
World weatherwatch: Monsoon brings floods and landslides to India
Japan also suffers torrential rain and flash flooding as Australia shivers in unusually cold spell

Nicholas Lee (MetDesk)

18, Jul, 2018 @8:30 PM

Article image
World weatherwatch: Intense threats from Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Jebi
While the US prepares for a category 4 hurricane, Japan reels from its strongest typhoon for a quarter of a century

Judith McConnell, MetDesk

12, Sep, 2018 @8:30 PM

Article image
Weatherwatch: the Japanese legend of the wind weasel
Folklore tells of the kamaitachi, a flying creature with claws like sickles, that cuts like the wind

David Hambling

03, Mar, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
Weather tracker: Japan swelters as ‘heat dome’ pushes up temperatures
Trapped warm air and high pressure result in country recording temperature of 40C for first time in month of June

Jodie Woodcock (Metdesk)

27, Jun, 2022 @9:43 AM