The Best Time of Year to Visit Okinawa, Japan’s Tropical Island Chain

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The Best Time of Year to Visit Okinawa, Japan’s Tropical Island Chain

Okinawa is a sunny archipelago about three hours south of mainland Japan by plane. With a subtropical climate and relatively short, mild winter, Okinawa is a fantastic choice for a summer beach holiday or autumn golf trip. The best time of year to visit this island chain varies depending on the types of activities you have planned, whether it's winter cherry blossom festivals, exploring the coral reefs or working on your back-swing. 

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The Best Time of Year to Visit Okinawa, Japan’s Tropical Island Chain

Swimming Season

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Japan's archipelago of paradise has a long swimming season that lasts from April to October. The region has a very short and mild winter, and temperatures are already on the rise by March, reaching a high of 20 degrees Celsius, though it can still be a little chilly in the evenings. Okinawa's beaches are busiest during the summer holiday months July and August. Keep in mind that early May and mid-August will also be especially busy with local tourists for both Golden Week and Obon holidays respectively.

Typhoon Season

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Typhoons are a regular occurrence in tropical areas, and can cause damage and flooding with high force winds and torrential rain. Since typhoons originate over the water, they create dangerously high waves and make swimming perilous. A powerful typhoon can also interrupt flights, ferries and ground transport, hindering travel plans. If you are caught in a typhoon, it's best to stay inside and wait for the storm to end.

Peak typhoon season in Okinawa is August, with July and September also higher risk. That said, Okinawa usually only sees about seven typhoons a year of varying size, so getting caught in an especially large one is just bad luck.

Rainy Season

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Okinawa's rainy season lasts for about six weeks from mid-May through June. The island's rainy season isn't all that bad however, as unlike mainland Japan it doesn't rain every day during that period, and when it does, it doesn't usually last for an entire day. While it rains, take the opportunity to do some shopping, check out the world-famous Churaumi Aquarium, visit the museums or take classes on local food, music and crafts.

Jellyfish Season

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Box jellyfish make themselves a nuisance in Okinawan waters from May through October, which also happens to be peak swimming season. Luckily, resort beaches and many public beaches are equipped with jellyfish nets to keep waters free of the pesky invertebrates, and divers' wetsuits offer protection from the painful stings. If you are stung, get out of the water, wash the area with vinegar to deactivate the stingers (this only works with box jellyfish stings) and remove the tentacles with something other than your bare hand before heading to the emergency room for a second opinion.

The Best Time to Visit

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Taking all natural phenomena into account, the best time of the year to visit Okinawa is late April, before Golden Week begins. The weather is warm enough to swim, but hasn't been warm long enough for typhoons to develop, jellyfish to congregate or rainclouds to gather.

The best time to visit Okinawa also depends on what activities you plan to do. Peak season for swimming and diving runs from July to September, while land activities like golf are recommended in the cooler months from October to March. If you're hoping to see Japan's renown cherry blossoms, Okinawa has the earliest blooms, and sakura season here is late January through early February.

In Conclusion

Geographically closer to Taiwan and Shanghai than it is to Tokyo, the climate and culture of Okinawa is a world away from mainland Japan. The tropical islands were once the property of the Ryukyu Kingdom, a seafaring nation with close ties to the ancient dynasties of Imperial China. Plan your trip to Okinawa for the perfect time of year to visit according to your favorite travel activities and the memorable experiences on offer.