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Climate. The exaggerated estimation in which the climate of Japan is held by many of those who have had no experience of it often prepares a bitter disappointment for visitors, who find a climate far wetter than that of England and subject to greater extremes of temperature. It should be added, on the other hand, that it also has more fine days,[1] and that the fine days which it has are incomparably finer and more inspiriting than the feeble, misty incertitudes that pass for fine weather among the natives of Great Britain.

The best season is the autumn. From the latter part of October to the end of the year, the sky is generally clear and the atmosphere still, while during a portion of that time (November), the forests display glorious tints of red and gold, surpassed only in Canada and the United States. During January, February, and March, snow occasionally falls, but it rarely lies longer than a day or two. The spring is trying, on account of the wet spells and the frequent high winds, which often seriously interfere with the enjoyment of the cherry, wistaria, peony, and other flowers, in which the Japanese take such pride. True, the rain is always pronounced exceptional. Never, it is alleged, was so wet a season known before, properly conducted years admitting of no rain but in June and the first week or two of July—the "rainy season (nyubai) duly provided for by the old Japanese calendar, in which not native only, but the foreign residents, exhibit a confidence which would be touching were it not tiresome. Statistics[2] show, however, that from April on to July inclusive nearly every other day is rainy, while in the months flanking them on either side March and August an average of more than one day in three is rainy. In September and October the average number of rainy days rises again to about one out of every two. The superstition concerning a special "rainy season" may be due to the trying combination of dark skies with the first heat of the year, making exercise wearisome when not impossible. So penetrating is then the damp that no care can succeed in keeping things from mildew. Boots, books, cigarettes, if put away for a day, appear next morning



Jan. Feb. March April May June July Aug. Sept. Oct Nov. Dec. Year.
Mean Temperature … 36.9 38.4 44.2 54.3 61.9 68.8 758.8 78.2 71.6 60.3 50.1 41.3 26.8
Mean Maximum Temp. … 46.8 47.5 53.4 62.9 70.2 76.1 83.0 86.0 78.9 68.9 60.1 52.0 65.5
Mean Minimum Temp. … 28.6 30.4 35.3 45.6 53.5 62.2 69.6 71.8 65.5 53.1 41.7 32.4 49.1
Absolute Maximum Temp. … 97.9   14 July, 1891.
Absolute Minimum Temp. … 15.4   13 Jan., 1876.
Mean Rainfall … 2.14 3.03 4.32 5.04 5.91 6.52 5.01 4.37 8.12 7.07 4.35 2.02 57.90
Number of Rainy Days … 7.2 9.1 12.4 14.8 13.3 14.4 14.1 11.8 16.2 13.1 9.0 6.3 141.6
Days with Snow … 4.0 4.5 2.8 0.1 0.2 1.2 12.8
Mean Barometer (reduced
to Freezing point) …
29.96 29.97 29.95 29.04 29.84 29.77 29.77 29.79 29.87 29.98 29.99 29.95 29.90
Mean Direction of Wind … N 22° W N 16° W N 8° W N 51° E S 44° E S 39° E S 20° E S 21° E N 47° E N 4° W N 14° W N 25° W N 1° W

The number of "rainy days" includes all days on which more than a tenth of a millimetre of rain fell, and also those on which any snow or hail fell. The "days with snow" are those on which snow fell, regardless of the question whether rain also did or did not fall. Few days are uninterupptedly snowy at Tōkyō—perhaps only two or three in the year.

covered with an incipient forest of whitish, greenish matter. No match-box can be got to strike; envelopes stick together without being wetted; gloves must be kept hermetically sealed in bottles, or they will come out a mass of spots. The second half of July and all August are hotter, but less damp, the rain then falling rather in occasional heavy storms which last from one to three days, and are followed by splendid weather. The heat generally vanishes suddenly about the second week in September, when the rain sets in with renewed energy and continues about a month. Such is the common order of things. But scientific observations stretching over a quarter of a century past prove that seasons differ very widely from each other.

One striking peculiarity of the Japanese climate is the constant prevalence of northerly winds in winter and of southerly winds in summer. Rooms facing south are therefore the best all the year round, escaping, as they do, the chill blasts of January and February, and profiting by every summer breeze. Another peculiarity is the lateness of all the seasons, as compared with Europe. The grass, for instance, which dies down during the cold, dry winter months, does not become really fit for tennis-playing before the middle of May. On the other hand, winter is robbed of the gloom of short afternoons by the transparent clearness of the sky down to the end of the year, and even throughout January whenever it is not actually raining or snowing. Travellers are recommended to choose the late autumn, especially if they purpose to content themselves with the beaten tracks of Kyōto, Tōkyō, Miyanoshita, Nikkō, etc., where the Europeanisation of hotels has brought stoves in its train; for stoveless Japanese tea-houses are wofully chilly places. April and May, notwithstanding a greater chance of wet weather, will be better for the wilds. There is then, too, neither cold nor heat to fear. Japanese heat, after all, is not tropical, and many will enjoy travelling throughout the summer months. Mountain climbing must in any case be reserved for that time of year, as the mountains are not "open" at other seasons, that is to say, the huts on them are deserted, and the native guides mostly refuse to undertake any ascent.

The foregoing description of the Japanese climate applies to the Pacific seaboard of Central Japan, of which Tōkyō is fairly representative. But need we remind the reader that Japan is a large country? The northernmost Kuriles, now Japanese territory, touch Kamchatka. The most southern of the Luchu Isles is scarcely a degree from the tropic of Cancer, to say nothing of newly acquired Formosa. The climate at the extreme points of the empire, therefore, differs widely from that of temperate Central Japan. Speaking generally, the south-eastern slope of the great central range of the Main Island—the slope facing the Pacific Ocean and washed by the Kuro-shio,—Gulf-Stream of Eastern Asia has a much more moderate climate than the north-western slope, which faces the Sea of Japan, with Siberia beyond. In Tōkyō, on the Pacific side, what little snow falls melts almost immediately. In the towns near the Sea of Japan it lies three or four feet deep for weeks, and drifts to a depth of fifteen to eighteen feet in the valleys. But the summer in these same towns is, like the Tōkyō summer, oppressively hot. That the Tōkyō rainfall more than doubles that of London has already been stated. But Tōkyō is by no means one of the wettest parts of the country; on the contrary, with the exception of the northern shore of the Inland Sea and the plain of Shinshū, it is among the driest. Many districts show double its rainfall, the Hida-Etchū mountains and the south-east coast of Kishū show treble.

Thunder-storms and sudden showers are rare in Japan, excepting in the mountain districts. Fogs, too, are rare south of Kinkwa-zan, about 38° 20' North. From Kinkwa-zan right up the eastern coast of the Main Island, all along Eastern Yezo, the Kuriles, and up as far as Behring's Strait, thick fogs prevail during the calm summer months,—fogs which are relieved only by furious storms in autumn, and a wintry sea packed with ice. The average number of typhoons passing over Japan yearly is from four to five, of which Tōkyō receives one or two. The months liable to typhoons are (in a decreasing order of severity) September, August, October, and July. Typhoons have, it is true, been experienced as early as the end of March; but this is quite exceptional.

The climate of Japan is stated on the highest medical authority to be excellent for children, less so for adults, the large amount of moisture rendering it depressing, especially to persons of a nervous temperament and to consumptive patients. Various causes, physical and social, contribute to make Japan a less healthy country for female residents of European race than for the men.

The table on page 97 gives the average of twenty-five years observations [1876-1900], made at the Central Meteorological Observatory, Tōkyō.

Japan has been divided, for meteorological purposes, into ten districts, namely, I. Formosa and Luchu; II. the southern half of Kyūshū and Shikoku; III. the Inland Sea; IV. N. W. Kyūshū and the west coast of the Main Island up to the latitude of Kyōto; V. the Pacific coast from Ise to Tōkyō and the River Tonegawa; VI. the interior provinces to the north of the fifth district, from Hida on the west to Iwashiro on the east; VII. the N. W. coast from Wakasa to Ugo; VIII. the Pacific coast from the River Tonegawa to Sendai and Miyako; IX. the province of Rikuoku and the western half of the Island of Yezo; X. the eastern half of Yezo and the Kurile Islands.

Books recommended. The Monthly and Annual Reports of the Central Meteorological Observatory.—The Climate of Japan, issued by the same in 1893.—The China Sea Directory, Vol. IV.

  1. Tōkyō has 57.90 inches of yearly rainfall, as against 24.76 at Greenwich, but only 141.6 rainy days as against 166.1.
  2. See page 97.