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Hokkaido Climate

Hokkaido experiences four distinct seasons like the rest of Japan, but lying so far north it is generally cooler in summer (22° C in July) and cold, snowy and blustery in winter (-5° C average in January). Because of the cool summers, various groups including students, affluent Japanese, and foreigners head for Hokkaido to escape the hot, stuffy climate of southern Honshu. The main tourist flood occurs from June through September, spilling its banks in August. The cherry blossoms burst forth in late May and a variety of colorful wildflowers cover the floors of the deep northern forests all summer long.

Hokkaido is known for its cooler summers and icy winters. Most of the island falls in the humid continental climate zone (Köppen Dfa (humid continental) in some inland lowlands, Dfb (hemiboreal) in most other areas). The average August temperature ranges from 17 to 22 °C (62.6 to 71.6 °F), while the average January temperature ranges from -12 to -4 °C (10.4 to 24.8 °F) depending on elevation and latitude. The island tends to see isolated snowstorms that develop long-lasting snowbanks, in contrast to the constant flurries seen in the Hokuriku region.

Unlike the other major islands of Japan, Hokkaido is normally not affected by the June-July rainy season and the relative lack of humidity and typically warm, rather than hot, summer weather makes its climate an attraction for tourists from other parts of Japan.

In winter, the generally high quality of powder snow and numerous mountains in Hokkaidō make it one of Japan's most popular regions for snow sports. The snowfall usually commences in earnest in November and ski resorts (such as those at Niseko, Furano and Rusutsu) usually operate between December and April. Hokkaido celebrates its winter weather at the Sapporo Snow Festival.

During the winter, passage through the Sea of Okhotsk is often complicated by large floes of drift ice. Combined with high winds that occur during winter, this frequently brings air travel and maritime activity to a halt beyond the northern coast of Hokkaido.
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