Joetsu-Myoko is truly a year-round destination, and the local culture is remarkable in its profound appreciation of the changing of the seasons. As you’ll see when you visit, each season (and even sub-season!) is celebrated with seasonal foods and many matsuri (festivals). What can you expect during each of the seasons of Joetsu-Myoko? Read on below.
Seasons of Joetsu-Myoko
Spring in Japan is famous for the cherry blossom season, and if you’re lucky you may experience hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) in all its glory. This romantic time of year is popular for honeymoons in Japan. The most famous local area for viewing cherry blossoms is at Takada Park in Joetsu City. It’s also the season of sansai (wild mountain vegetables) as locals gather to pick and enjoy the slender local bamboo shoots and other mountain vegetables of the season. As the snow recede plants begin to bloom and the flower viewing season gets underway with most peaking in June through August.
Spring in Joetsu-Myoko lasts from about mid-March to May, depending on the location. The weather in spring is notoriously fickle, with temperatures ranging from approximately 1° to 18°. On some days you possibly still want your winter coat, while on other days you may only need a t-shirt. This of course varies from where you are in the area, with spring arriving later in the Myoko highlands than down the hill in Joetsu.
Summer is arguably the most festive time of year. There are colorful matsuri (festivals) throughout the area, the chance to hike in the Myoko mountains (climbing Mount Myoko is a popular activity), and lovely beaches in the Joetsu region where you can enjoy the Sea of Japan, or even a surf. Many Japanese flee the larger cities to visit the coolness of the mountains or lake areas such as Lake Nojiri. This is because in the high plateau areas, such as Myoko Kogen, there is a relatively short rainy season compared to much of the country.
Summer lasts from about early July to early-September, depending on the location in Joetsu-Myoko. Summer temperatures vary from a low overnight of around 16° in the mountains to a warm, sticky daytime 30°+ in the lowlands and coastal areas. The area usually has a relatively mild rainy season (known as tsuyu – the plum rain) which goes from around mid-June until mid-July.
Autumn in Joetsu-Myoko is another magical (and highly popular) time of year, with brilliant autumn colors, high blue skies plus crisp, pleasant temperatures. Some of the ski area gondolas are open for autumn leaf viewing which begin around late October or early November. It’s a great time for mountain hiking too – but be sure to bring warm wear with you!
The mountain peaks usually turns white for the first time by mid-late October, a beautiful contrast to the autumn colors and lingering greens of the lower slopes. Slowly the snowline descends, until the towns below gets their first snowfall around late November or early December.
Winter in Joetsu-Myoko lasts from about early December to mid-March, depending on the location. Winters are cold, with temperatures ranging from approximately -10° to 7 °. The season offers amazing seafood, incredible onsen (hot springs) experiences, not to mention some of the best powder in the world for skiing and snowboarding. With the winter winds driving straight across the sea from Siberia, the Joetsu-Myoko region experiences longer and more pronounced winters than many other areas of Japan.
Winter is both a time of quiet and of excitement in Joetsu-Myoko. The quiet that comes from the heavy, sound-absorbing snowfalls and high walls of snow around houses and hotels, punctuated by the rumble of snow falling from roofs. The excitement comes as skiers flock from around the world to make the most of the local powder snow.
Enjoy the Four Seasons of Joetsu Myoko!