Tokyo kicks off its year with cold winter days and the odd snowfall. Although temperatures occasionally drop below freezing, winter (December to February) is usually reasonable if you have the right kind of clothes. Spring (March to May) brings pleasant, warm days, and, of course, cherry blossoms – early April is probably the best time to view the blooms. Summer (June to August) is hot and muggy, a time when overcrowded trains and long walks can feel irritating. Late June can see torrential rains that pound the city during monsoon seasons. The temperature and humidity are at their worst in August. Apart from spring, autumn (September to November) is the most pleasant season as temperatures cool down to a cosy level and days are often clear and fine. Autumn also means the return of the dramatic foliage season, when the parks and green areas of the city mellow into varying hues of orange and red.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS
As one of the brighter stars of Asia's constellation of cities, Tokyo plays host to many international festivals and events. Why not time your trip there to coincide with one? Not only do a city's festivals give you a real insight into local culture, but they're fun!
Shōgatsu From 1–3 January people turn out in droves to shrines and temples such as Sensō-ji and Meiji-jingū to celebrate the New Year.
Seijin-no-Hi (Coming-of-Age Day) Also at Meiji-jingū, traditional archery displays are held on 15 January to mark the move into adulthood.
Setsubun At home and at temples such as Sensō-ji, beans are thrown outside as people shout, ‘Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!' (‘Devils out! Fortune in!'), to mark the first day of spring on 3 or 4 February.
Hina Matsuri (Girls' Day) On 3 March a doll festival is held near Azumabashi and hina (princess) dolls are displayed in homes and public spaces.
Tokyo International Anime Fair Held in late March or early April, this huge trade fair is held at Tokyo Big Sight for anime fans and industry pros alike.
Hanami In late March and early April, hanami (cherry blossom) viewing parties take place day and night in parks across the city.
Otoko-no-Hi (Boys' Day) Family homes honour their sons by flying koinobori (banners in the shape of a carp) on 5 May.
Sanja Matsuri Hundreds of mikoshi (portable shrines) are carried through the thronged streets around Sensō-ji over three days in mid-May.
Design Festa In mid-May a wide showcase of work from budding designers and artists is displayed at Design Festa, held at Tokyo Big Sight.
Iris Viewing The inner garden at Meiji-jingū is a favoured spot for viewing irises – most vibrant in June, when these flowers are in full bloom.
Fuji Rock Festival This outdoor concert in late July draws international acts and thousands of fans to its beautiful woodland surroundings.
Tokyo International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival Check the website (www.tokyo-lgff .org) to see where screenings are held for this queer film festival, growing steadily into its second decade. Held in mid-July.
Sumida River Fireworks On the last Saturday of July, hanabi (fireworks) over the Sumida River are the year's most popular.
Asakusa Samba Festival The highlight of this festival is the parade down Kaminarimon-dōri, drawing half a million spectators and samba troupes from Tokyo to Rio. On the last Saturday of August.
Tokyo Pride Parade It's on again, off again, but come mid-August, the parade may be taking to the streets in Harajuku. Check the website (parade.tokyo-pride.org).
Ningyō-kujō Dolls are off ered to Kannon (the Buddhist goddess of mercy) at Kiyomizu Kannon-dō by childless couples who wish to conceive. The dolls are ceremonially burned there on 25 September.
Tokyo International Film Festival This festival lasts about 10 days and begins in late October. Although featured films focus on Asia, most are subtitled in English.
Kōyō Autumn foliage-viewing season begins in mid-October or early November. As this colourful season is longer, the crowds are more low-key than for hanami.
Shichi-Go-San (Seven-Five-Three Festival) On 15 November this festival celebrates these milestone ages, and parents in turn bring their traditionally clad little ones to temples and shrines to mark the occasion on the nearest weekend.
Design Festa Returning to Tokyo Big Sight for its biannual stint.
Emperor's Birthday On 23 December, this is one of only two days per year that the Kōkyo (Imperial Palace) is opened to the public; the other is 2 January.