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Japan's Climate

Winter

In general, Japan's winters are relatively mild and dry. In the subtropical Ryukyu Islands, winters are cool and sunny. Central Japan, around Tokyo, experiences short winters with cold and sunny days and occasional snowfall. Northern Japan (northern Honshu and Hokkaido) experiences long, cold winters with bitterly cold temperatures that help keep snow on the ground for up to four months a year. The sparkling, beautiful winter is perfect for skiing, skating, and the annual snow festival in Sapporo with its world-famous ice sculptures.

Winter is a remarkably dry, bright season across the Kansai area, which includes the Seto Inland Sea, Ise Bay, and the central lowlands on Honshu. This region experiences a mild climate due to the mountains along its northern and southern extent blocking most of the northwesterly seasonal winds. This situation also reduces the annual average rainfall to less than 1,200 mm (47.2 in). The cold winds blowing out of East Asia pick up moisture across the Sea of Japan and dump relatively heavy snowfall along the coastal regions facing the Sea of Japan. On the Pacific side of Japan there is very little snow and the temperature rarely drops much below freezing. Tokyo has an average January high temperature of 4.7°C (41°F). To the north, Sapporo, on the Sea of Japan side of Hokkaido, has an average January high temperature of -4.9°C (23°F).

Further south and along the Ryukyu Island chain enjoys mild winters. Even in January, Naha,Okinawa, averages a moderate high temperature of 16°C (60.8°F). Nighttime temperatures hover around 14°C (58°F).

 

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