When to Go
Temperatures vary widely from the coastal areas to the mountains. Hikers should bring warm clothes even in summer. Cherry-blossom season in April is beautiful; May, June, and September are when transportation is safe and reliable, and not too crowded. At the height of summer, from mid-July to the end of August, the Alps and coastal regions are the prime getaway for those fleeing the stagnant heat of urban Japan—expect throngs of tourists and lofty prices. The skiing season peaks over Christmas and New Year's. Winter's heavy snows make driving around the Alps difficult or impossible, and only a few buses and trains run per day. It’s fine if you’re sticking to the major cities, but unless you've got skiing to do, and a direct train to get there, winter is not ideal for exploring the countryside.