If you are traveling in Japan during the winter, what type of trip is best? If you have never experienced a cold winter, I would recommend Hokkaido first. Next, I recommend the Tohoku region and some Chubu regions. On the other hand, in urban areas such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, you will be able to enjoy sightseeing trips as well as other seasons without hinderance from snow. On this page, I will introduce the tourist spots I especially recommend in winter.
Table of Contents
- Enjoy Japan in December, January, February
- Snowy mountains: Experience skiing and snowboarding
- Large cities in Hokkaido and Tohoku : Enjoy snow festivals and more!
- Traditional Japanese snow scenery: Shirakawago etc.
- Drift Ice in cold sea: Abashiri, Shiretoko etc.
- Experience Onsen (Hot Spring) in the world of snow
- Experience the winter life in Japan
Enjoy Japan in December, January, February
I gathered articles for each month on Japanese winter. If you want to know such details, please look at the slide below and click the month you are planning to visit. If you want to know what kind of clothes the Japanese are wearing in winter, I also wrote articles on this subject.
In December, Japan gets cold all at once. At this time of year, Japanese cities are beautifully colored by Christmas illuminations. There are few Christians in Japan, but Japanese people love events, so they enjoy the Christmas atmosphere. If you visit Japan in December, you can enjoy these beautiful illuminations and atmosphere. Of course, snow begins to fall in some areas, so you can enjoy snowy landscapes. Table of ContentsInformation of Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido in DecemberExperience of snow scenery Information of Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido in December If you plan on going to Tokyo, Osaka or Hokkaido in December, please click the image of the slider below to see more information. illumination Huis Ten Bosch = Shutterstock In major Japanese cities, Christmas illuminations are beautiful in December. Many street trees have a lonesome atmosphere as the leaves have all scattered. Illuminations change that lonely atmosphere and makes our hearts bright. Christmas songs can be heard around the city. It may be strange to people from Christian countries but for Japanese people, Christmas is an important time. Japanese people give presents to each other, including their families, and have a good time. Lovers share a special time at a beautiful restaurant colored with Christmas decorations. The above picture shows the illumination held in December every year at Huis Ten Bosch Theme Park in Kyushu. Every year, Tokyo Disney Resort and Universal Studios Japan in Osaka have similarly beautiful illuminations prepared. Please take a look at these Christmas illuminations by all means. When Christmas is over, people in ...
In early January, many Japanese people take a New Year holiday. Temple and shrines are crowded at this time, so please be careful. In January, snow begins falling down not only in Hokkaido but also on the Japan Sea side of Honshu and mountainous areas more frequently. If you go to such an area, you will be able to enjoy the snowy nature of Japan. After the latter half of January, some temples and shrines have the usual winter festival. It is also recommended to attend them for yourself. Table of ContentsInformation of Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido in JanuaryTemple and shrines are very crowded in early JanuaryGo for a real snow sceneRepresentative winter festivals to be held in January Information of Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido in January If you plan on going to Tokyo, Osaka or Hokkaido in January, please click an image on the slider below for more information. Temple and shrines are very crowded in early January In early January, New Year events are held every year in Japan. People often visit a temple or a shrine to pray that they can spend the year well. If the temple or shrine you choose to go to during this time is big, you can expect millions of people to come visit during the New Year Period. You will often be surprised at the number of people visiting all at once. If you don’t mind congestion, you can observe Japanese people walking very orderly to main shrines and temples. Go for a real snow scene ...
February is the coldest time in Japan. Except for a few areas such as Okinawa, you need a coat or jumper when walking in the city. At this time, ski resorts are at their best conditions. In snowy areas, you can see the beautiful snowy scenery that you might see on a guide book. In addition to these things, there is another fun thing when you travel in February. Winter festivals are held in various parts of Japan. On this page, I will mainly introduce these winter festivals. Table of ContentsInformation of Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido in FebruaryWinter festivals held every February Information of Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido in February If you plan on going to Tokyo, Osaka or Hokkaido in February, please follow a link below for more details. Winter festivals held every February Here are the winter festivals I would like to recommend to you. Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival First of all, let me start with the famous festival held every year in Yokote, Akita Prefecture in northern Honshu. In mid-February every year, locals hold the "Yokote Kanakurasa Festival" as seen in the top photo. A "Kamakura" is a small dome made of snow. Since there is a lot of snow every year in Yokote City, people harden the snow and cut through it to make "Kamakura". During this festival period, in Yokote City, 100 "Kamakura" with a height of about 3 meters are made. As can be seen in the picture below, there are also many small "Kamakura”. In a Kamakura local people may ...
When traveling Japan in winter, what kind of clothes should you wear? If you do not experience a cold winter in your home country, you may wonder what you should wear. On this page, I will introduce you to some helpful information about clothes for when you travel in Japan in winter. I also prepared photographs of winter clothes below. If you are going to Hokkaido, please refer to the following article. Table of ContentsYou better wear a coat or jumper in winterExamples of clothes to wear in Japanese winterHokkaido is especially cold, so be careful! You better wear a coat or jumper in winter In general, Japanese living in Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku are wearing coats or jumpers from December until late February. Meanwhile, when we are in a warm building, we take off our coat and are wearing a jacket such as a sweater over our shirt. Japanese people living in Hokkaido will wear coats or jumpers by November. In December they are wearing a slightly thicker coat than Japanese people of Honshu. When it is cold, such as in the evening, they wear a wool cap or wear gloves to keep warm. On the other hand, in Okinawa, there are a lot of people who do not wear coats even in winter. Every summer, the Japanese archipelago will be quite similar in temperature everywhere (hot everywhere!), but in winter the temperature will vary considerably depending on the location. In winter, I recommend that you prepare the most suitable clothes according to the ...
From here on, I will introduce the tourist spots I can recommend when traveling Japan in winter. I added a lot of videos and images on this page for you to enjoy the winter atmosphere in Japan.
Snowy mountains: Experience skiing and snowboarding
As a winter destination, I recommend mountain areas such as the Hokkaido, Tohoku region, and Chubu regions.
· Niseko (Hokkaido)
· Tomamu (North Sea layer)
· Zao (Yamagata prefecture, Miyagi prefecture)
· Hakuba (Nagano Prefecture)
· Tsugaike Plateau (Nagano Prefecture)
· Kusatsu Onsen (Nagano Prefecture)
· Naeba (Niigata Prefecture)
These destinations have large ski resorts. Here you can enjoy skiing and snowboarding. There are also courses for beginners, so even those who have never skied or snowboarded can enjoy. Skis and ski clothes can be rented at these resorts.
There are gondolas and lifts in the ski resorts so you can easily go to the top of the snowy mountains. The snowy landscape that you can see from the top is really amazing.
When it is sunny and the temperature is very low, if you're lucky you can see the diamond dust as in the first video above. Water vapor in the air turns into ice crystals and it looks shiny.
The second video was taken at the ski resort of Hakuba (Nagano Prefecture). Hakuba is an attractive ski resort comparable to Niseko in Hokkaido.
These large ski resorts also have places where children can play in the snow.
Because Kusatsu Onsen and Naeba are all representative hot springs in Japan, you can also experience hot springs. Regarding hot springs, I will provide more information later.
If you want to easily experience snowy areas, I recommend Karuizawa (Nagano Prefecture). From Tokyo to Karuizawa it is about 1 hour by Hokuriku Shinkansen. Karuizawa is a luxury resort area representative of Japan.
In Karuizawa there is not much snow, but there is a ski resort using artificial snow. There is also one of Japan's leading outlet mall and luxury spa hotels, so your family will be pleased as well.
Conversely, if you want to climb a real snowy mountain, the mountain area around Matsumoto city in Nagano prefecture is recommended. The second picture above was taken at the snowy mountain near Matsumoto. However, even veteran climbers in Japan may find it difficult. It might be difficult if you are not a person accustomed to climbing a snowy mountain.
Large cities in Hokkaido and Tohoku : Enjoy snow festivals and more!
If you feel that skiing is not for you then I recommend you to visit the big cities of Hokkaido.
I also recommend the big cities of the Tohoku region, and some Central regions (Nagano prefecture, Niigata prefecture, Ishikawa prefecture, etc.)
If you are a person who has not seen much snow, it may be fun just walking in the cities. In winter, sushi and crab dishes are very tasty, eating can put you in a very happy mood.
In many of these large cities, festivals are often held in winter. If you go there at that time, you will be able to enjoy a world of fantastic snow and ice.
Cities that are especially recommend are listed below.
· Sapporo (Hokkaido)
· Asahikawa (Hokkaido)
· Yokote (Akita Prefecture)
However, because there are many tourists during the festival period, you may not be able to book the hotel. You should prepare and make reservations well in advance.
Traditional Japanese snow scenery: Shirakawago etc.
In winter, traveling to visit a Japanese village with heavy snowfall is very popular. For example, a large number of tourists visit Shirakawago of Gifu prefecture appearing in the above video.
People living in the heavy snow area have made various efforts such as making their roofs diagonal and making snow hard to pile up. In this way, they are able to overcome the harsh winter. When you visit during this time you can see such traditional Japanese living.
Even in big cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, snow falls occasionally. In those big cities, if snow falls even a bit, transportation will be delayed and confusion will arise.
However, as snow falls on sightseeing spots, you can enjoy beautiful scenery that is different from the usual. The pictures below are taken of Kifune shrine (Kyoto) and Kinkakuji (Kyoto). You cannot come across these snow scenes easily.
If you are traveling in Kyoto and it snows, you are very lucky. I would recommend going to see it early in the morning when snow falls in the night.
If you want to experience a really cold winter, it is also advisable to visit ice floes in northern Hokkaido (Abashiri, Monbetsu, Shiretoko Urotro Rausu).
From the beginning of February to around the middle of March, you can see ice drift from Siberia on the coast of northern Hokkaido every year.
What I would like to recommend most is to take a dedicated sightseeing boat to see the ice.
In Abashiri etc., you can also look down on drift ice from a hill. When the sea is covered with drift ice and the waves are calm it is very quiet. The majestic, fantastic scenery will fascinate you.
However, the temperature drops to between freezing point and 20 degrees so it is very cold. Especially when the wind is strong, you can experience a very cold winter if you wish! Please make sure to wear a lot of clothes!
Experience Onsen (Hot Spring) in the world of snow
If you are going to travel Japan in winter, I also recommend that you experience hot springs. Your body will probably get very cold in the cold outdoors. The hot springs will warm your body.
On the Japanese archipelago, hot springs are gushing here and there. Go to the famous hot spring resorts and stay in a hotel or traditional Japanese accommodation (inn) and enjoy the hot spring.
In snowy tourist areas of Hokkaido and the Tohoku region, you can also enter the hot spring while watching the snow fall. I certainly think it will be a wonderful memory.
In Nagano prefecture and Hokkaido, you can see wild monkeys in the outdoor hot spring in winter.
The monkeys really enter the onsen and leave with a comfortable feeling. Even if you only want to take pictures, please visit nearby.
Experience the winter life in Japan
If you visit the northern part of Japan in winter, please observe how the Japanese live with snow.
In the rural areas, when the snow piles up, people rise up to the roof and remove snow. I call this "a snowfall."
In large cities such as Sapporo, we have a large aisle in the basement so that even if snow falls it will not have a big impact on our lives.
Children in Japan play with snow when it snows. I also want you to look at the smiling appearance of children.
I appreciate you reading to the end.
Bon KUROSAWA I have long worked as a senior editor for Nihon Keizai Shimbun (NIKKEI) and currently work as an independent web writer. At NIKKEI, I was the editor-in-chief of the media on Japanese culture. Let me introduce a lot of fun and interesting things about Japan. Please refer to this article for more details.