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.