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Top Things to Do in Japan in Winter

In search of the top things to do in Japan in winter? Japan is spectacular 365 days a year, but it’s also a different vibe in the winter season. From snow festivals to snow activities, Japan is not just a sight to behold but a wonderful experience to remember. If you’re curious about what to see in Japan in winter, here are the best things to do in Japan in winter:

1. Winter Illumination

Winter Illumination in Nabananosata

Winter Illumination is one of the best things to do in Japan in winter when tourist attractions, private establishments, and streets across the country light up at night. Winter Illumination events usually start in November and end around December 25, but many spots will continue to be lit up through the winter season. Whether you are in Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka, you can enjoy Winter Illumination in Japan.

2. Snow Activities

Tourists snowshoeing at Mt. Monbetsu in Hokkaido | Image courtesy of Robert Thomson / Flickr

Japan is a haven for snow activities, and that’s why many foreign tourists come by from December to March to experience skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and even snowshoeing. Hokkaido, in particular, is a popular destination for snow activities. They have many ski resorts with freshly-fallen, uncompacted powder snow. If you don’t want to go far, there are also many ski resorts in Fujiyama accessible from Tokyo.

3. Snow Festivals

Spectators watch gigantic snow sculptures at the Sapporo Snow Festival | Image Courtesy of David McKelvey / Flickr

If you love snow, you’ll be having a field day in Japan as it doesn’t end with snow activities. Many snow festivals take place during winter, especially in the northern part of Japan. Whether it’s snow ice sculptures to natural snow events, you’ve got so many things to do in Japan in winter that you’ll never forget. The annual Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido happening for about a week in February is expected to be over 2 million visitors. Still in Hokkaido, the Lake Shikotsu Festival happening from late January until mid-February where ice attractions made from Japan’s clearest lake take centerstage. The annual Kamakura (which means ‘snow huts’) festivals feature Kamakura lanterns and statues. The biggest Kamakura festivals in Japan are the Yokote Kamakura Festival in Akita and Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Festival in Tochigi.

4. Cherry Blossom Viewing

Early showing of cherry blossoms in Kawazu

Sakura, or cherry blossoms, in Japan thrive approaching the spring season. But as early as the January, cherry blossoms become visible in many parts of the country, making early viewing one of the best things to do in Japan in winter. Some of the top places to have an early viewing of cherry blossoms include Kawazu and Shimogamo Onsen in Shizuoka, Mt. Matsuda Herb Garden and Kumatsugaiki in Kanagawa, Mt. Yae in Okinawa, and Sakuma Dam in Chiba. Visiting Tokyo in Spring? Check out our Sakura Photo Spot Guide in Tokyo!

5. Outdoor Onsen in the Mountain

Tourists enjoy a hot spring bath at Maguse Onsen in Hokkaido

Onsen, or hot spring, is a pretty popular attraction in Japan. Outdoor Onsen in the mountains is one of the best things to do in Japan in winter to combat the winter chill. You’ll hundreds of Onsen resorts across the country from north to south. One of the best outdoor Onsen in Japan includes Maguse Onsen in Nagano as it gives you a panoramic view of the Japanese Alps. Lake Kawaguchi Onsen in Yamanashi is a perfect spot to view Mt. Fuji.

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