We describe the results of a dendroclimatic study in central Japan using ring width data from living trees of Hinoki cypress. February–April temperatures were reconstructed for the period AD 1719–1961. This reconstruction, from which five cooling events were determined for the late Little Ice Age, was validated against other climate proxies. There is a reasonable agreement with cold periods previously estimated from documentary records in Japan and China. A notably good agreement is also found for a dendroclimatic reconstruction for Korea, suggesting that the annual activity of the winter monsoon in the western Pacific Rim persisted longer in the 19th century than at present. Records of prolonged famines and unusual climatic phenomena support the reconstruction of the cold periods in the 1780s, 1810s and 1830s. It is thus revealed that the Hinoki chronology has enough potential to reconstruct the climatic variability further into the past.