• Media & Industry
  • Meetings & Events
  • Select Language 简体中文 繁體中文(香港) 繁體中文(臺灣) India (English) Bahasa Indonesia 한국어 ภาษาไทย Tiếng Việt Singapore (English) Philippines (English) Malaysia (English) Australia/New Zealand (English) Français Deutsch Italiano Español United Kingdom (English) Nordic countries(English) Canada (English) Canada (Français) United States (English) Mexico (español) Português العربية Japan(日本語) Global (English)
  • India (English)
  • Bahasa Indonesia
  • Singapore (English)
  • Philippines (English)
  • Malaysia (English)
  • Australia/New Zealand (English)
  • United Kingdom (English)
  • Nordic countries(English)
  • Canada (English)
  • Canada (Français)
  • United States (English)
  • Mexico (español)
  • Global (English)
  • Fujiyoshida
  • Shimonoseki
  • Ishigaki Island
  • Miyako Island
  • Kerama Island
  • Tokyo Island
  • Koka & Shigaraki
  • Hida Takayama
  • Ginza, Nihonbashi
  • Beppu & Yufuin (Onsen)
  • Ginzan Onsen
  • Nagasaki Islands

travel to japan during winter

  • Kumano Kodo
  • Shikoku Karst
  • Amami Oshima
  • Hachimantai
  • Omihachiman
  • Aizuwakamatsu

travel to japan during winter

  • Diving in Japan
  • Skiing in Japan
  • Seasonal Flowers in Japan
  • Sustainable Outdoors
  • Off the Beaten Track in Japan
  • Scenic Spots
  • World Heritage
  • Home Stays & Farm Stays

travel to japan during winter

  • Japanese Gardens
  • Japanese Crafts
  • Temple Stays
  • Heritage Stays
  • Festivals and Events
  • Theater in Japan
  • Japanese Tea Ceremony
  • Cultural Experiences in Japan
  • Culture in Japan

travel to japan during winter

  • Local Cuisine Eastern Japan
  • Local Cuisine Western Japan
  • Local Street Food
  • Japan's Local Ekiben
  • Japanese Whisky
  • Vegetarian and Vegan Guide
  • Sushi in Japan Guide
  • Japanese Sake Breweries

travel to japan during winter

  • Art Museums
  • Architecture
  • Performing Arts
  • Art Festivals
  • Japanese Anime and Comics
  • Japanese Ceramics
  • Local Crafts

travel to japan during winter

  • Scenic Night Views
  • Natural Wonders
  • Theme Parks
  • Samurai & Ninja
  • Iconic Architecture

travel to japan during winter

  • Wellness Travel in Japan
  • Japanese Ryokan Guide
  • A Guide to Stargazing in Japan
  • Relaxation in Japan
  • Forest Bathing (Shinrin-yoku)

travel to japan during winter

  • Experiences in Japan
  • Enjoy my Japan
  • National Parks
  • Japan's Local Treasures
  • Japan Heritage
  • Snow Like No Other
  • Wonder Around Japan

travel to japan during winter

  • Visa Information
  • Getting to Japan
  • Airport Access
  • COVID-19: Practical Information for Traveling to Japan
  • Anime Tourism
  • Countryside Stays
  • Accessible Tourism
  • Hokkaido Great Outdoors
  • Scenic World Heritage in Tohoku
  • Shikoku’s Nature and Traditions
  • Southern Kyushu by Rail

travel to japan during winter

  • Traveling by Rail
  • How to Travel by Train and Bus
  • JR Rail Passes
  • Scenic Railways
  • Renting a Car
  • Sustainable Travel in Japan
  • Travel Brochures
  • Useful Apps
  • Online Reservation Sites
  • Eco-friendly Accommodation
  • Luxury Accommodations
  • Traveling With a Disability
  • Hands-free Travel
  • How to Book a Certified Tour Guide
  • Volunteer Guides
  • Tourist Information Center

travel to japan during winter

  • Japanese Manners
  • Spring in Japan
  • Summer in Japan
  • Autumn in Japan
  • Winter in Japan
  • Cherry Blossom Forecast
  • Autumn Leaves Forecast

travel to japan during winter

  • Japan Visitor Hotline
  • Travel Insurance in Japan
  • Japan Safe Travel Information
  • Accessibility in Japan
  • Vegetarian Guide
  • Muslim Travelers

travel to japan during winter

  • JAPAN Monthly Web Magazine
  • Arts & Cultures
  • Nature & Outdoor
  • Festivals & Events
  • Insider Blog
  • Things to do
  • Local Guides
  • Food & drink
  • Traditional
  • Hokuriku Shinetsu

JAPAN Monthly Web Magazine

My Favorites

${v.desc | trunc(25)}

Planning a Trip to Japan?

Share your travel photos with us by hashtagging your images with #visitjapanjp

GUIDE Winter in Japan Cold weather and warm spirits

  • Stories & Guides

Cold weather and warm spirits

As winter approaches, a frigid chill engulfs the whole of Japan, and while it rarely snows in most of the country's metropolitan areas, the surrounding mountains and northern regions are regularly covered by fresh blankets of powder.

Pack plenty of warm clothes, then bundle up and head outside to enjoy snow festivals, skiing, and snowboarding, and relaxing onsen resorts.

travel to japan during winter

  • While the harshness of winter varies by location, a warm winter jacket is a necessity regardless of where you're traveling
  • During the New Year's holidays, most restaurants and attractions shut down. Consider planning ahead to avoid any disappointments
  • Enjoy the seasonal cuisine that winter brings, indulging in extravagant nabe hot pots, delicious ramen broths, and other soothing dishes

Where to ski in Japan

As a densely mountainous country, Japan boasts numerous peaks ideal for winter snow sports. Regardless of where you're traveling within Japan, the winter brings ample powder to the nearby mountains, and with it many ski and snowboard enthusiasts.

travel to japan during winter

Visit a temple or shrine on New Years

travel to japan during winter

Winter festivals

Cold weather brings people closer together. Despite the cold air, many traditional festivals and events take place in the winter, transforming the harsh winter days and dark winter nights into a fun and warm celebration.

travel to japan during winter

Warm up in an onsen hot spring

Get out of the biting cold and indulge in a relaxing bath, taking a soak in the mineral-rich waters of Japan's many natural hot springs. With fresh, pure water bubbling out from the volcanic earth below, many towns and villages have sourced this soothing water for hundreds of years, developing a rich culture around public bathing and relaxation. Take a day or two to escape the city and relax. Some locations have outdoor baths, and enjoying the hot water with snow all around is magical.

travel to japan during winter

* The information on this page may be subject to change due to COVID-19.

Did this information help you?

out of found this information helpful.

Thank you for your feedback.

Recommended for you.

Hakuba Ski Resorts

Please Choose Your Language

Browse the JNTO site in one of multiple languages

Asiahighlights logo

  • 2 Weeks for Couple
  • 2 Weeks for Family
  • Thailand Lantern Festival
  • Indonesia(Bali)
  • South Korea
  • China (HK, Taiwan)
  • Itinerary Ideas
  • Asia Highlights Travel Reviews
  • Thailand Travel Reviews
  • Vietnam Travel Reviews
  • Cambodia Travel Reviews
  • Japan Travel Reviews
  • Myanmar Travel Reviews
  • China Travel Reviews

Plan a Japan Winter Trip 2024: Top Experiences & 2 Itineraries

Plan a Japan Winter Trip 2024: Top Experiences & 2 Itineraries

Winter (December to February) in northern Japan is like a white fairy tale world: white snow, colorful Christmas illuminations, and a relaxed atmosphere. Although Japan is cold in winter, it still attracts visitors with its unique winter experiences, fewer travelers, and cheaper costs.

Japan is a great place to spend Christmas holidays with your family: relax in an onsen (hot spring) in a traditional ryokan (inn) while appreciating the snowy scenery in Hakone, ski with your teenage kids at Hokkaido's best powder-snow ski resort, experience dreamy wintry lighting in Shirakawa-go, and see snow monkeys bathe in an onsen in Nagano.

In this article, we are going to look at how to plan a winter travel itinerary, which could be a memorable family holiday.

  • Do I Need a Visa to Visit Japan?

4 Top Japan-in-Winter Experiences

  • Top 2 Winter Itineraries in Japan

Tips for Winter Travel in Japan

Winter weather in japan.

  • How Much Does It Cost?

Do I Need a Visa to Go to Japan?

Japan restored its visa-waiver system from October 11th, 2022. If your country is on the Japan visa exemption list, like Australia, Canada, USA, UK and almost all European nations, you can visit Japan for 90 days (in most cases) without applying for a visa in advance.

Discover real reviews of Highlights Travel Family 's best-rated service across trusted platforms.

Here are four top things to do that you should not miss in Japan in winter:

1) Relax in a Onsen in a Cozy Ryokan in Hakone

Staying at a ryokan with onsens (hot spring baths) is the most attractive experience to be had on a winter's day for many travelers from Japan and abroad.

Hakone is the home of onsens and has numerous natural hot springs, some of them are believed to have healing properties. A ryokan is a traditional-style Japanese form of accommodation where you can sleep on a tatami and enjoy high-class kaiseki (multi-course classical Japanese cuisine).

Nothing is better than to relax in an onsen with stunning snowy trees and mountains around you and your family to create unforgettable holiday moments.

Suggested reading: How Long Should I Spend in Japan

2) Ski with Your Kids in Hokkaido/Nagano

Japan has lots of family-friendly ski resorts offering quality powder snow, perfect surroundings, clear English signage, and excellent service. Japan has the best ski resorts in Asia, but it is still cheaper to ski there than in Europe.

Hokkaido's pistes are definitely some of the top Japan destinations in winter , where world-class ski resorts include Niseko and Rusutsu. Skiing in Hokkaido you can enjoy light and fluffy snow, icy mountain scenery, professional English-speaking skiing lessons for kids, teenagers, and families, and fresh seafood.

Nagano, just an hour and a half from Tokyo, is also a well-known ski resort. Once the main venue for the Winter Olympics, Hakuba Valley is Nagano's best family-friendly ski resort.

Check more details about plan a ski holiday with your family >>>

3) See Charming Winter Lighting in Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go is a UNESCO World Heritage site , a picturesque village known for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, which have steep thatched roofs that are named after 'praying hands'. In recent years, Shirakawa-go has become popular with travelers for its beautiful countryside views and unique farmhouses.

These farmhouses are extremely charming when covered in snow and illuminated at night. The wintry lighting scenes can usually be seen from January to February, but the lighting-up time varies from year to year and stays require advance booking.

Contact our travel advisors and we can arrange it for you.

4) Watch Snow Monkeys Soak in Onsens in Nagano

Nagano is a city surrounded by mountains and is not far from Tokyo. It's well-known for its Hakuba Ski Resort and snow monkeys that soak in hot springs. It is a good place to go for family holidays in winter.

Monkeys (Japanese macaques) in Jigokudani Monkey Park are the only ones in the world who love to soak in hot springs in winter. Watching the snowflakes fall on the monkeys, each of them relaxing in hot springs to keep warm, would be a new and unforgettable memory of the trip.

Winter Itineraries in Japan: The Top 2 Options

Here are two winter itineraries that are hand-picked for families visiting Japan for the first time with two popular lengths of holidays (9 and 14 days) , both including relaxing in hot springs, seeing snow-covered shrines, enjoying a cup of steaming Japanese tea, and the option to go skiing with your kids.

1) The 9-Day Classical Route: Cover Major Highlights in Japan and Ryokan Experience

  • Tokyo–Hakone–Kyoto–Osaka

This itinerary covers the top highlights of Japan: experience kid-favoured anime elements and an attractive Christmas atmosphere and illuminations in Tokyo, soak in onsens at a comfortable ryokan with snow scenery in Hakone, spend family time in Kyoto trying on kimonos and feeding friendly deer.

Here is a summary itinerary for you ( contact us for more details):

  • Days 1–3: Tokyo (samurai, make sushi, anime center, and Asakusa)
  • Days 4–5: Hakone (ryokans with onsens)
  • Days 6–8: Kyoto (snow-covered shrines, geishas, sake, and feed deer)
  • Day 9: Osaka and departure

It's also a great idea to spend an extra 2–3 days having a family ski time in Nagano, which is not far from Tokyo.

Suggested reading: 10 Days in Japan >>>

2) 14-Day Best Winter Experience Route: Skiing, Snow Monkeys in Onsens, Wintry Lighting in Shirakawa-go

  • Sapporo–Otaru–Tokyo–Nagano–Shirakawa-go–Kyoto

You can get the best winter experience in Japan with this itinerary: ski and explore a famous chocolate factory in Sapporo — capital of Hokkaido, take a day trip to Otaru to enjoy a snowy view on the Otaru Canal, see the magical sight of snow monkeys soaking in hot springs in Nagano, and appreciate the wintry lighting in Shirakawa-go.

Here is a summary itinerary for your inspiration ( contact us for further details):

  • Days 1–3: Sapporo (skiing, the most famous local chocolate factory and Sapporo Ice Festival)
  • Day 4: Otaru (Otaru Canal and exquisite glass)
  • Days 5–7: Fly to Tokyo (Tsukiji Market, Tokyo Tower, sumo, and anime)
  • Day 8: Nagano (snow monkeys soaking in hot springs)
  • Days 9–10: Takayama and Shirakawa-go (well-preserved townhouses and snow-covered gassho-zukuri farmhouses)
  • Days 11–13: Kyoto (geisha, tea ceremony, sake, ryokan with onsen, feed deer in Nara)
  • Day 14: Depart from Kansai International Airport in Osaka

How would you travel?

Adults number (age ≥ 18 years old)

Children number

10-17 yrs old

3-9 yrs old

0-2 yrs old

When would you travel?

I prefer to be contacted via:

For a quick conversation, simply reach us via WhatsApp:

asia highlights' wechat code

To create a wonderful winter trip in Japan, here are some suggested tips to help you to avoid unnecessary hassles.

  • Christmas and New Year is one of the busiest times in Japan. It's better to plan ahead and book flights and hotels at least 6 months in advance to reserve your favourite hotel/room.
  • Winter in Japan is cold and snowy. You'd better take thick clothes to keep warm. We recommend you to bring a down jacket, gloves, and waterproof boots.
  • Most ski resorts in Japan have rental shops to rent or sell ski equipment, so you don't have to take heavy ski equipment to Japan. Of course, it's okay to bring your own equipment. You can pay for a delivery service that will ship your skis directly to the ski resort.

Just let us know your interests and requirements , and we can help make it happen.

Winter in Japan is from December to February and the weather is cold and dry.

  • In Sapporo on Hokkaido, the average daily temperature range is from 0°C (32°F) in the warmest part of the day down to -6°C (20°F) at night. While in Tokyo or Kyoto temperatures average above freezing, ranging from 2 to 10°C (36–50°F) on average.
  • The average rainfall per month in winter is low in Tokyo/Kyoto at around 58 mm (2 in), but the average snowfall in Sapporo on Hokkaido is a moderate 104 mm (4 in) — and more snow falls at Hokkaido's mountainous resorts.

December sees the beginning of winter in Japan, with clear skies, and colder and drier weather. Cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Sapporo get into the festive spirit when celebrating Christmas and New Year.

January/February is the best time to ski in the white world of northern Japan. The high-quality powder snow is the most important feature of ski resorts in Japan, which attracts many skiers to come and enjoy it.

How Much Does a Japan Winter Trip Cost?

Japan rivals Europe both in terms of facilities and service standards, which means that travel in Japan costs more than in China or in Southeast Asian countries.

US$350-500 per person per day is the typical cost for a private tour with 4-star hotels, based on a family of 3–5 people. This includes a private guide, private car, full-day itinerary, tickets for attractions, and a local 4-star hotel.

Why Travel with Asia Highlights (98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+)

  • Unique experiences tailored to your interests: Enjoy a premium trip that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.
  • Hassle-free travel and peace of mind: Every aspect of your trip will be carefully planned and organized by your 1:1 travel consultant.
  • Experienced and knowledgeable guides: Your guides will be local and love to work for travelers' smiles.

2-Week Japan Private Family Vacation

  • 7-Day Japan Cherry Blossom Tour 2025: Essential Springtime Mini-Group Tour
  • 7-Day Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka Tour
  • 8-Day Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka Tour
  • 9-Day Japan Highlights Tour
  • 10-Day Japan Cherry Blossom Spring 2025 Mini-Group Tour
  • 10-Day Tokyo, Yokohama, Hakone, Kyoto, Nara and Osaka Tour
  • 11-Day Traditional Japan Tour
  • 12-Day Classic Japan Tour
  • 12-Day Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Osaka and Himeji Tour
  • 2-Week Highlights of Japan in the Cherry Blossom Season
  • 16-Day South Korea and Japan Cultural Adventure Tour
  • 16-Day Japan and China Discovery Tour
  • How to Plan a Trip to China and Japan
  • Plan a Japan Cherry Blossom Trip 2024/2025, Dates and Avoid Crowds
  • Plan a Family Trip to Japan 2024, Well-Selected Experiences & Itineraries
  • How to Plan a Luxury Trip to Japan in 2024/2025
  • Best (and Worst) Time to Visit Japan 2024, Cherry Blossom Time
  • One Week in Japan: Top 5 Itineraries for First-Timers 2024/2025
  • 8 Days in Japan: Top 5 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025
  • 10 Days in Japan: Top 5 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025
  • 12 Days in Japan: Top 4 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025
  • 2 Weeks in Japan:Top 5 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025
  • 3 Weeks in Japan: Top 3 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025
  • How to Plan a 2-Week Itinerary in Japan and South Korea
  • Japan Weather in January: Travel Tips for First-Timers
  • Japan Weather in February 2024: Travel Tips for First-Timers
  • Japan Weather in March 2024: Travel Tips for First-Timers
  • Japan Weather in April 2024, Travel Tips (for First-Timers)
  • Japan Weather in May 2024: Travel Tips for First-Timers
  • Japan Weather in June 2024: Coolest Summer Month, Travel Tips
  • Japan Weather in July 2024: Best for Festivals, Travel Tips
  • Japan Weather in August 2024: Travel Tips for First-Timers
  • Japan Weather in September, Travel Tips (for First-Timers)
  • Japan Weather in October 2024: Travel Tips for First-Timers
  • Japan Weather in November 2024: Best Autumn Month, Travel Tips
  • Japan Weather in December 2024: Travel Tips for First-Timers

travel to japan during winter

The China Highlights and tour of Dali was absolutely wonderful. The tour guide Daisy was so nice, knowledgeable and provided an excellent, memorable experience of Old Town Dali, Erhai Lake, the Three Pagodas and so much more. I have been on many tours and this one was the best, exactly what we were looking for, including the pace, the food, the attention to details, care and professionalism. Everything was positively great!

travel to japan during winter

From the moment we arrived in Shanghai it was an unforgettable experience. The agency and Martín (our guide) made everything possible to had the best experience and were always open to show or teach more if was necessary. We were very happy with the places we saw and the stories we learned thanks to Martín!!! I totally recommend the agency!!

Our family tour with China Travel was absolutely wonderful. The China highlights of Dali was planned with the great care and help from Vanessa, and the actual tour guide, Daisy, who was knowledgeable, flexible, helpful, and provided an excellent, memorable experience for my family. We toured several locations and I especially liked the pace of Old Town Dali, the scenic view of Erhai Lake, and the history of the Three Pagodas, and so much more. I have been on many tours and this one was the best, exactly what we were looking for, including the pace, the food, the attention to details, care and professionalism. Everything was positively great! Highly

My mother and I greatly enjoyed our trip to Dali. Our tour guide was Daisy and she did a wonderful job taking us on an adventure around to everywhere we wanted to go. We even went to some under appreciated areas that we had been interested in! We visited a bit after my mother's birthday and Daisy was kind enough to give my mother a gift!

Our family tour with China Travel was absolutely wonderful. The China highlights of Dali was planned with the great care and help from Vanessa, and the actual tour guide, Daisy, who was knowledgeable, flexible, helpful, and provided an excellent, memorable experience for my family.

Ethan has been my tour guide for my four day trip to Beijing. He has been knowledgeable, polite, and most helpful. I was uncomfortable coming to China for the first time without speaking any Chinese at all. Ethan gave the tours, arranged for shows and literally took me to my seats. He also accompanied me to the train station to help figure my was around and help me find the correct train and car. I would definitely use China Highlights again in the future.

Lily Wong our guide at Guilin was wonderful. Along with all the good qualities like being punctual,courteous, organized,knowledgeable,hard working she is also caring.The scenaries at Guilin is second to none,Lily helped us to take lots of pictures to capture the scenaries as much as possible.With Lily's help I can enjoy the amazing cave and the rafting.At Yangshuo Lily also recommend a Light Show on the river.That was fantastic never saw anything like it. I must mention the unique hotel they put us in.Its called Yangshuo Moondance hotel.My wife is very happy with Lily because she took a lot of pictures for her and took her shopping for a new (Qie Pao,cantonese Cheung Sham).

We were so fortunate to have Kris as our tour guide. He was so kind and helpful with a great sense of humor. He made sure that my parents, who are in their 70s, were comfortable and that we traveled at a good place. Kris had excellent suggestions for restaurants and he helped arrange tickets to the Eras 2 show- like a cirque de soleil type show that was spectacular. I really enjoyed the Yu Garden as well as the propaganda poster museum. I highly recommend Kris and China Highlights!

I have an excellent trip to Guilin and my guide, Gary Wei who works for China Highlights Tour was very professional and knowledgeable in regard to the history of the Guilin and Yangshuo. Gary was remarkable with his recital of a lot of ancient poems. Hence, I had such a good and memorable experience. I do highly recommend China Highlights Tour to anyone who wish to visit China.

Our tour guides Doyle Cheng (Kunming), Daisy Shi (Dali), Martin (Lijiang) were knowledgeable about the local culture and folklore regaling us with many stories, history mixed with witty remarks and jokes.They made us feel safe, comfortable during the many trips feeding us with local snacks, sweets, pastries, fruits. Our shopping list were all taken care off with their well recommended shops and even bargain hunting.They were sensitive and alert to our toilet breaks, flexible to last minute changes and recommended good dinner restaurants.Big thank you to Martin for your extra attention given to our children when they werent feeling well.

More reviews

Get Inspired with Some Popular Itineraries

At Asia Highlights, we create your kind of journey — your dates, your destinations, at your pace. You can have any trip tailor made for your travel.

More Travel Ideas and Inspiration

TrustPilot rating

Sign up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to receive exciting updates, exclusive promotions, and valuable travel tips from our team of experts.

The Asia Highlights Experience

Where can we take you today.

  • Middle East
  • African safari
  • Indonesia (Bali)
  • South Africa
  • Central Asia

China Tours

  • Inner Mongolia
  • Yangtze River
  • Zhangjiajie
  • Tours from Hong Kong
  • Tours from Shanghai
  • Travel Agents
  • Our Differences

Boutique Japan

Top 8 Reasons to Visit Japan in Winter

Even if you don’t love cold weather, it’s hard to resist the magic of winter in Japan, the coziest time of year (with delightfully few tourists).

Japan is well known for the beauty of its seasons. The cherry blossoms in spring . Vibrant fall foliage . Even the lively festivals ( matsuri ) of summer.

Yet winter is often overlooked, despite offering some of Japan’s most sublime experiences — and fewer tourists. (See our full article on the seasons and when to visit Japan ).

Because we love winter in Japan both for its unique experiences and its relative lack of crowds, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite things about this underrated season. Get yourself cozy and read on!

Is Winter a Good Time to Visit Japan?

Weather in japan in winter, 8 experiences that make winter a unique time to explore japan.

Originally written in November 2014, this post was updated and republished on December 6, 2021.

Wooden house winter snow Japan

Most people are drawn to Japan’s peak seasons, spring and fall, so we’re always thrilled when a new client asks us, ​​”Is Japan worth visiting in winter?”

The answer is a resounding yes!

If you can handle a bit of cold weather, and love exploring with fewer tourists around, winter is a great time to visit Japan. As you can read in more detail below, winter in Japan offers amazing sushi and sashimi, heartwarming comfort foods and cozy izakayas , soothing hot springs and gorgeous snow-covered landscapes, and fewer crowds throughout the country.

How cold is Japan in winter? Well, let’s be honest. The weather in most parts of Japan in winter is cold – this much is true. But if you enjoy the art of coziness, you will love the feel of winter here.

When are the Winter Months in Japan?

Winter in Japan generally lasts from early to mid-December until the middle of March, but the duration and intensity vary by geography.

  • In most parts of central Japan (including Tokyo , Kyoto , and Osaka ), winter temperatures range from about 25 to 45 °F (-4 to 7 °C).
  • In mountainous and northern parts of Japan (such as Tohoku and Hokkaido , and the Japan Alps) it can get much colder. These areas experience a longer and more intense winter and are also blessed with abundant snowfall.
  • In southern and western parts of Japan (such as Kyushu, Shikoku, and Okinawa ) it can still get cold, but on the whole, winter tends to be a bit milder.

Japan in December

In early December, it’s already winter in Hokkaido, but in places like Tokyo and Kyoto, it may still feel like late autumn. It’s common to have crisp, chilly weather and blue skies (hence the term akibare , referring to the clear sunny skies common in fall), and not uncommon to have views of Mount Fuji from Tokyo skyscraper hotels (such as Aman Tokyo and Park Hyatt Tokyo, among many others ).

By late December, it’s fair to say it feels like winter throughout Japan, though as usual the parts of the country furthest south and west (such as Kyushu, and especially Okinawa) remain milder.

Japan in January

As the crowds begin to thin following the New Year holidays , and mid-winter begins to set in, expect cold weather most everywhere you go. Even though the ski season starts before January, in most ski areas like the Alps, Tohoku, and Hokkaido, your probability of getting great conditions starts to increase once January rolls around.

For the most part, there are also very few tourists in January, other than at ski resorts. Most travelers use all their vacation time over the holidays, so if you can visit Japan in January you may have popular places like Kyoto mostly to yourself.

Japan in February

By February, most people in Japan are starting to get excited about spring (which usually begins to make itself felt by mid-March), and February can feel cold and dreary for residents. But for tourists, it’s another excellent time to visit, if you don’t mind the cold.

For travelers who enjoy spectacle, consider planning in advance to attend the remarkable Sapporo Snow Festival (Yuki Matsuri) . Held annually in February, Hokkaido’s Yuki Matsuri is one of the world’s great winter celebrations and features awe-inspiring ice sculptures, local cuisine, snow slides, snowball fights, ice bars, and more.

Just keep in mind that any holiday period tends to mean big crowds, and the Chinese New Year period (which often occurs in early February) is also a very busy time of year, with visitors flocking to Japan from throughout Asia.

Technically, winter lasts into March, though by the middle of March the cherry blossom season starts getting into full swing.

Authentic Japanese izakaya

It can be hard for travelers to resist the pull of sakura (cherry blossoms) or fall foliage, but we think even people who normally dislike cold weather should consider visiting Japan in winter.

To help you decide when to travel to Japan, and whether this less crowded time of year is for you, let’s dive into what makes Japan such an appealing winter destination!

1. Fresh Sushi and Seafood

Eating local and seasonal food is nothing new in Japan, where people think little of traveling across the country to sample a local specialty in season. But while food is always a great reason to travel to Japan , winter is in some ways the best time of year for culinary travelers.

You’ll find extraordinary seasonal specialties at top sushi shops in Tokyo , and other sushi meccas such as Kanazawa , Toyama, Fukuoka , and Hokkaido. Hiroshima and Tohoku are just two of many destinations for oysters, where you can savor the bounty of winter paired with local nihonshu (sake) .

2. Japanese Wintertime Comfort Foods

Along with seafood, Japan is also outstanding when it comes to comfort foods. If you’re in Sapporo, on the northern island of Hokkaido, make sure to sample the heartwarming specialties of soup curry and miso ramen .

Winter also marks the appearance nationwide of two wintertime favorites: oden and nabe .

Oden can be found everywhere from oden -specialty restaurants to izakayas (see below) and even convenience stores . Large simmering pots of dashi -based broth slow cook ingredients such as daikon, boiled eggs, tofu, and more.

Nabe are stews (often translated as “hotpot”) composed of any of a wide range of ingredients, from vegetables to meat and seafood. Nabe is traditionally shared with friends or family, and there’s nothing more convivial than gathering around the table to enjoy one, especially in winter!

3. Cozy Bars, Izakayas , and Cafes

Speaking of conviviality, few things are more comforting than warming up at a local izakaya over small tapas-style plates and sake (see our full post on izakayas in Japan ).

An izakaya is typically a neighborhood establishment where locals go both for the food and the drink (it’s often translated as “Japanese-style tavern”). Izakayas have eclectic menus featuring anything from tofu, tsukemono (Japanese pickles), and grilled vegetables, to sashimi, yakitori, and karaage (fried chicken).

Eating and drinking at an izakaya is a great way to mingle with locals, and particularly comforting during winter.

Taenoyu ryokan Nyuto Onsen Akita Japan

4. Luxury Ryokans and Onsen

Without onsen (hot springs), winter in Japan would be beautiful, but perhaps not transcendent. Many countries around the world have pristine hot springs, but in Japan, the art of the onsen experience has been perfected to an extraordinary degree.

Visiting a ryokan (Japanese-style inn) with onsen, particularly in winter, is a quintessential Japanese experience and not to be missed (see more wonderful things to do in Japan ).

When staying at a ryokan with hot springs, you pass the time by soaking in healing mineral waters, contemplating nature, drinking green tea in your tatami -lined room, napping, and partaking in incredible, memorable meals. Yes, food is also an integral part of the onsen experience. A ryokan stay typically includes dinner and breakfast, both of which normally feature a beautiful array of local and seasonal specialties.

The exceptional combination of nature, culture, food, and omotenashi (Japanese hospitality) result in an experience that is both incredibly relaxing and culturally fascinating.

Snowboarding Moiwa Lodge Niseko Hokkaido Japan

5. Powder Paradise: Japan’s Legendary Skiing and Snowboarding

If you love outdoor sports, what could be better than skiing or snowboarding all day, then enjoying a delicious hot meal of local Japanese cuisine and a soak in the onsen ?

Japan is blessed with abundant snowfall throughout its many mountainous regions, and you can find winter resorts around the country, particularly in Hokkaido, Tohoku, and the Japan Alps.

In Hokkaido, snowfall is so plentiful that skiers and snowboarders consider it to have some of the best-quality powder in the world. Niseko is by far Hokkaido’s best-known ski destination and is home to luxury accommodations and a thriving culinary scene. A small handful of Hokkaido’s other notable ski areas include Rusutsu, Furano, and Tomamu.

Tohoku and the Japan Alps are both slightly easier to get to (both are fairly convenient to reach by train , whereas the easiest way to get to Hokkaido for most people is by domestic flight), and can be great alternatives if you’re not attached to the idea of skiing in Hokkaido.

The 1998 Winter Olympics were held in Nagano, in the Japan Alps, and the region’s many ski resorts include Hakuba, Shiga Kogen, and Nozawa Onsen. In the Alps, you’re also within easy reach of the famous snow monkeys (see below). As for Tohoku, it’s one of Japan’s most off-the-beaten-path regions, and in addition to its many ski areas features pristine nature, history, and some of Japan’s best onsen .

While it varies a bit depending on the area, the ski season generally lasts from December to April, though expect the best conditions around January and February (naturally, it can vary a lot from year to year). And for the non-skiers traveling with the powderhounds, enjoy gorgeous snow-covered landscapes, onsen and spa treatments, and warm nihonshu !

baby snow monkey in the snow jigokudani nagano japan

6. Japan’s Snow Monkeys Love Winter

Humans are not the only ones enjoying onsen . Especially in winter, the Japanese macaques of the famous Snow Monkey Park soak in the remote onsen of Jigokudani.

Located in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture in the Japanese Alps, the Snow Monkey Park (Jigokudani Yaen Koen) is especially popular among family travelers , photographers, and of course animal lovers.

The Snow Monkey Park is open throughout the year, but it’s best experienced in the dead of winter, when the landscape is covered in deep snow and the local macaques have good reason to spend time savoring hot springs.

7. New Year’s Celebrations in Japan

While many restaurants and other establishments close for several days around the New Year’s period, which holds great significance in Japanese culture, it can also be a very special time to be in Japan.

Sure, you’ll find countless New Year’s Eve parties at bars, clubs, and restaurants in cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, which have some of the best nightlife on Earth. But while we love a good party, perhaps the real magic of New Year’s in Japan is found in its more old-fashioned side.

This is especially apparent in historic cities like Kyoto and Kanazawa, where locals flock to traditional districts and Buddhist temple bells ring out at midnight, creating an unforgettable, timeless atmosphere. On New Year’s Day, many Japanese people visit Shinto shrines, such as Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo.

Winter snow Otaru Hokkaido Japan

8. Enjoy Fewer Crowds in Winter

If you’re the type of traveler who loves getting off the beaten path, and avoiding touristy times of year, winter may be the ideal time for you to visit Japan.

Apart from the winter holidays, winter is generally a low season. However, keep in mind that this doesn’t quite apply to ski resorts, which tend to be at their most popular throughout the winter.

Ski areas notwithstanding, when speaking with clients who have flexible travel schedules we often ask: would you rather have warmer weather, or fewer tourists around? If you can tolerate a bit of cold, and enjoy feeling like you have a destination almost to yourself, consider bundling up for the chilly weather and travel to Japan in winter!

Snow river Hokkaido Japan

When to Begin Planning Your Winter Trip to Japan

We hope our introduction to the joys of winter in Japan helps you as you plan your adventure!

Depending on your dates and trip priorities, we recommend planning about 6-12 months in advance to ensure you can get your first choice accommodations and experiences.

You can see our real-time availability here, and if you’re curious to learn more about how we design each custom trip, check out our trip-planning process .

More Great Posts

Shinkansen bullet train conductor Japan

Traveler’s Guide to the JR Pass (Is It Worth It?)

The Japan Rail Pass (or JR Pass, for short) can be a good way to get around Japan, but many…

Japanese holidays

Major Holidays and Peak Travel Seasons in Japan

If you’re considering a trip to Japan during one of the country’s peak travel seasons, be aware that things can…

travel to japan during winter

We’re Hiring an Operations Specialist

Do you love travel and spreadsheets? Boutique Japan is hiring a Full-Time Operations Specialist to join our talented remote team.…

Plan Your Japan Trip

Learn more and contact us to discuss your unique trip.

Get Started

  • The Process
  • Testimonials
  • Skip to main content
  • Skip to primary sidebar

travel to japan during winter


  • Plan Your Trip

travel to japan during winter

Japan’s Magical Winter Season

My first trip to Japan in winter was unspectacular—you might even say it was bad. It was late January 2015 and I headed to Hokkaido, but not to ski. Although local tourism authorities had helped me put together an itinerary, I was woefully underprepared, and left Japan the second week February feeling like I’d missed something.

That’s the bad news. The good news? From my 2019 cold weather swing through Tohoku and Hokuriku, to 2023, when I made a second stab at a winter journey around Hokkaido , the magic of this understated, underrated season has steadily revealed itself.

No matter what about Japan snow season attracts you, or where you think you’ll end up traveling, be sure to continue reading. I’ll not only ensure you avoid the mistakes I made during my first Japan winter itinerary—I’ll guide you toward the transcendental experiences that have now define winter in Japan for me.

How Cold Does It Get in Japan?

The weather varies throughout Japan’s winter season—and, not surprisingly, depending upon where in the country you travel. For example, while Japan in January is usually below freezing (especially in Hokkaido, where it can dip below -20ºC, and the Tohoku region ), I’ve found that places like Kansai and Shikoku can be comparatively balmy during this period, with highs around 10ºC or even higher.

In general, the temperature in Japan in February will decrease, and the propensity for snowfall will increase. This is even the case in cities like Tokyo and Kyoto , which in spite of pictures you might’ve seen online, aren’t exactly winter wonderlands. Certain parts of Japan can be cold and snowy well into the spring—the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route just north of the Japanese Alps , for example, doesn’t even open for traffic until mid-April!

Places to Visit in Japan in Winter

travel to japan during winter

For most people planning a winter holiday in Japan, the country’s northernmost island is going to be near the top of the list. However, Hokkaido is not exclusively for skiers, even though it might seem that way on paper, given how many people make a beeline for Niseko . For example, you can enjoy a walk along the icicle-lined Otaru Canal , attend the Sapporo Snow Festival , marvel at the “Penguin Parade” in Asahikawa , see red-crested tancho cranes in the marshlands surrounding Lake Akan near Kushiro or peer down on Hakodate ‘s star-shaped Goryokaku fort covered in snow.

travel to japan during winter

When clients contact me about a Japan winter itinerary, I often tell them they should choose Tohoku (the northeastern part of Honshu island) instead of Hokkaido. The reason I give them? “Tohoku,” I explain, “is Hokkaido’s scenery with the culture of mainland Japan.” To put it another way, you’ll enjoy wild nature but more typical Japanese architecture and traditions. Spend your days amid the “snow monsters” in Yamagata , and your evenings bathing at Zao Onsen . Traipse amid snow-buried warrior homes in the Kakunodate Samurai district, or visit Akita prefecture’s Yokote Castle when locals build kamakura , which are basically Japanese igloos.

Mt. Fuji and The Japanese Alps

travel to japan during winter

Probably the third-most popular destination in Japan in the winter is the Japanese Alps , which are famous for many of the same reasons Tohoku and Hokkaido are—and not just because of the Hakuba ski resort. Here again, skiers aren’t the only ones who can have a good time, even if Nagano prefecture is home to many of Japan’s best ski resorts. I personally love to base myself in the castle city of Matsumoto and take day trips from there, whether to the scenic Chuo Alps , charming towns like Shirakawa-go and Takayama or the historical Nakasendo trading route. You can also do various activities at Mt. Fuji during the winter , although you obviously can’t climb it.

travel to japan during winter

Perhaps the strangest destination option for Japan winter travel is sub-tropical Okinawa , but not for the reasons you’re thinking. To be sure, while seeing Okinawa’s unique species of cherry blossoms is a pretty singular experience, you shouldn’t be expecting beach time on Tokashiki Island or at Kabira Bay on Ishigaki . Of course, it could still be possible, particularly if you choose to visit during early winter (so, Japan in December) or later in the season, in early-to-mid March. Additionally, the chill winter months are the perfect time to enjoy warming Okinawan cuisine, including taco rice and hearty pork Okinawa soba noodle soup.

Japan’s Major Cities

travel to japan during winter

Although the list of things to do in Tokyo in winter is relatively short, this uncrowded season is still a great time to visit the Japanese capital. Likewise, places like Kyoto , Nagoya and Osaka are practically deserted during winter—and are absolutely delightful if you’re lucky enough to get snow. Fukuoka ‘s chilly winter nights provide the perfect justification to gorge yourself on rich tonkotsu ramen, while Hiroshima manages to feel even more solemn when it’s cold.

Things to Do in Japan in Winter (Besides Ski)

Gawk at the incredible beauty around you.

travel to japan during winter

The thing that shocked me most as I executed my Japan winter itinerary was how colorful the country was during this seemingly dead season. From the vermillion gates of Tokyo’s Hie Shrine , to the tangerine glow above Mt. Fuji at sunset, to the turquoise waters of Tsuru no Yu onsen, to the cloudless azure of the skies above Zao Onsen’s pure white snow, Japan is a vibrant rainbow of color in the winter, much to my surprise and delight.

Practice Your Winter Photography Skills

travel to japan during winter

As a result of what I’ve just written, another top choice for what to do in Japan in winter is snow photography , which is more difficult than you might expect. For instance, while scenes without snowfall require slight over-exposure in order to capture the brilliant white carpet before you, you’ll want to turn up your ISO (and speed up your shutter!) in order to get shots of falling snow just right, lest they be blurred. Invest in a good pair of gloves so your hands don’t freeze, and an extra battery of two—they die faster in the cold!

Enjoy Japanese Animal Adventures

travel to japan during winter

Japan in the winter isn’t just for humans—it’s also when many of the country’s cuddliest residents are at their most resplendent. Of course, seeing animals during a Japan winter travel itinerary isn’t without its caveats—in any season. To start with, while a hike to see the snow monkeys of Jigokudani , a bus journey to the red-crested tancho cranes of Hokkaido or a train ride to see the deer of Nara is relatively innocuous, I’d probably think twice before visiting the so-called “ Fox Village ” of Miyagi prefecture . Likewise, there are certain winter animals you should probably avoid, most notably the bears that are endemic in many parts of Japan.

Savor Warming Winter Foods

travel to japan during winter

One of my favorite things about winter time in Japan is eating—and eating everything in sight! To be sure, while certain dishes (like seasonal oden bowls with spicy mustard, piping hot ramen and steaming plates of tonkatsu curry) seem better suited for season, I’m just as likely to tear into a plate of fresh sushi or enjoy whatever local soft cream flavor is hot, especially the gold-covered variety that’s so popular in Kanazawa ! Just make sure to watch your calorie consumption, if you care about that sort of thing—icy sidewalks can make it difficult to run or jog in Japan in winter.

Visit a Ski Resort Anyway

travel to japan during winter

As you search for things to do in Hokkaido in winter (or even Tohoku, as the case may be), the majority of places you find are going to relate to skiing. However, you needn’t be a skier to visit these places. Whether you get loaded at an après ski bar in Niseko , or ascend the aforementioned Mt. Zao in Yamagata to marvel at the towering snow monsters, you don’t need to be on a pair of skis (or even snowshoes) in order to enjoy Japan’s ski season.

Best Onsen for Japan in Winter Travel

Many people email me asking what to wear in Japan in winter (TIP: a trip to UNIQLO once you arrive in Tokyo should put you in contact with most of what you need), but in some cases the answer is surprisingly simple: Nothing at all! In my opinion, winter is the very best time of year in Japan to enjoy onsen hot springs, particularly if you can find a place to bathe outdoors.

travel to japan during winter

As far as the best (or simply my favorite) Japan winter onsen, that’s a bit more difficult to say. Takaragawa Onsen , located in Gunma prefecture a couple hours north of Tokyo, will always hold a special place in my heart—it’s objectively the most beautiful “natural” hot springs hotel in Japan. I find Akita prefecture’s Tsuru no Yo somewhat overrated, on the other hand, while Shuhokaku Kogetsu in Kawaguchiko probably has the best view (SPOILER ALERT: Mt. Fuji reflected in the waters of Lake Kawaguchi), even if it’s prohibitively expensive for the majority of travelers.

Other FAQ About Traveling to Japan in Winter

Is japan worth visiting in winter.

Visiting Japan in winter is absolutely worthwhile, even if you don’t ski. From light crowds even in the temperate cities of Kyushu and Shikoku , to the chance of seeing your favorite attractions in Kanazawa or Kyoto blanketed in snow, Japan is at its most undisturbed during the winter months.

Is Japan cold in winter?

Japan can be very cold in winter, or very mild. If your Japan winter itinerary takes place in Hokkaido or the Tohoku region, you can expect lots of snow and temperatures well below 0ºC/32ºF. Destinations in Japan’s south and west like Shikoku and Kyushu are mild and sunny, while Okinawa can be downright balmy. Major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima can be cool and wet, but rarely get legitimately cold or snowy.

Does it snow in Tokyo in December?

Tokyo almost never sees snow, in December or otherwise. If your Japan winter travel itinerary focuses exclusively on the Kanto region and you absolutely must see snow, consider riding the Shinkansen to Nagano or Nikko , or taking a day trip to hike Mt. Takao if you’ll only be in the Tokyo’s city center.

The Bottom Line

In some ways, I prefer Japan in winter to every other season, though that wasn’t the case until somewhat recently. If you can curate a Japan winer itinerary spotlighting places that interest you and experiences that keep you on your toes, the magic of this underrated, understated season will wrap itself around you like a bamboo stalk dusted with fresh snow. You needn’t ski in order to enjoy Japan at its snowiest, though you might commission a custom Japan winter trip to make sure you can see the best of the rest of what’s on offer, whether you’re contemplating visiting Japan in December, January or February.

Plan Your Japan Trip

travel to japan during winter

Subscribe to email updates!

Words, images and design ©2018-2024 Robert Schrader, All rights reserved. Read Privacy Policy or view sitemap .

  • Things to Do
  • Food & Drink
  • Shopping & Style
  • Restaurants & Cafes
  • Music & Nightlife
  • Neighborhoods
  • Los Angeles


12 most beautiful winter destinations in Japan

From snowy mountains to a white onsen town, there are plenty of places to make the most of the chilly season

Kaila Imada

Sure, Japan is popular for spring cherry blossoms and colourful autumn foliage, but don’t pass up the winter season. Come the cooler months, Japan has many magical spots boasting some of the country’s best scenery.

Whether you prefer to spend your time at a sprawling ski resort , a snowy onsen town or to catch a stunning ice festival, there’s so much to see when the weather cools down. And don’t worry about the cold – you can always warm up after an outdoor excursion by dipping into a hot spring or slurping up a hearty bowl of ramen. If you’re looking for a new place to explore this winter, add these gorgeous destinations to your itinerary.  RECOMMENDED: The best hot spring getaways in Japan

Japan's winter wonderlands

Zao Snow Monsters, Yamagata

Zao Snow Monsters, Yamagata

The Zao Hot Springs Ski Resort  is home to these chilling ice monsters otherwise known as juhyo . These natural formations are actually evergreen trees that become enveloped with snow and make for a stunning winter sight. For the ice monsters to appear, specific climate conditions have to be met, meaning there’s only a limited number of places and times that you can see this natural phenomenon.

Shirakawa-go, Gifu

Shirakawa-go, Gifu

The immaculately preserved Japanese village of Shirakawa-go is a sight to behold during the winter. Also designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site, the village is made up of numerous gassho-zukuri thatched-roof farmhouses that have been converted into hotels, restaurants and museums. The houses are designed to withstand heavy snowfall and make for a whimsical sight when covered in fresh snow.

Kamakura Snow Hut Village, Nagano

Kamakura Snow Hut Village, Nagano

This magical igloo village in Nagano is actually a restaurant , and opens every winter. Restaurant Kamakura Village is made up of 20 pop-up igloos nestled in the snowy Japanese Alps in the small town of Iiyama. Each igloo fits up to four people and you'll be treated to a noroshi nabe, a tasty local hot pot made with miso, pork and local veggies. The snowy restaurant will return this winter from January 20 to February 29 2024.

Yunishigawa Onsen, Tochigi

Yunishigawa Onsen, Tochigi

This magical winter wonderland can be found at the Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival in Tochigi prefecture. The snowy festival takes place annually from late January to early March and showcases hundreds of illuminated mini snow huts known as kamakura . You can stroll through the kamakura, which are set up around the Sawaguchi riverbed at Yunishigawa Onsen. This year the festival is scheduled to be held from January 26 to February 25 2024.

Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano

Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano

Head to this park to meet the Japanese macaques, better known as snow monkeys, who lounge around in its steamy hot spring waters. You’ll find this winter retreat inside Joshinetsu Kogen National Park in Nagano prefecture. The monkeys often bathe in the onsen year round, but if you’d like to catch them with snowy surrounds, head up to the park between January and February.

Nabana no Sato Illuminations, Mie

Nabana no Sato Illuminations, Mie

This festival may not be snow-related, but the light-up at Nabana no Sato is one of the best winter illuminations in Japan . This botanical garden on the small island of Nagashima in Mie prefecture turns into a brilliant display of winter lights, showcasing millions of sparking LEDs forming iridescent rivers, waterfalls and more. The illumination continues all the way through to May, so there’s plenty of time to stop by and see it.

Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido

Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido

Every February, Sapporo turns into a winter fairytale land during its annual Snow Festival . The festival first started back in 1950, when students began building snow statues in Odori Park, and has since become a full-blown week-long event with extravagant ice sculptures taking over the park, the grounds of Tsudome community dome and the city’s Susukino district. For this winter, the festival returns from February 4 to 11 2024.

Otaru, Hokkaido

Otaru, Hokkaido

Hokkaido’s port city of Otaru hosts an annual snow festival every February, and it sure is a showstopper. Known as the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival , the city's streets are illuminated with hundreds of lights and snow statues. We particularly love the view of the floating lights along Otaru’s main canal, which runs near the trendy Warehouse District. Hoping to check it out? Mark your calendars for this season’s festival scheduled from February 10 to 17 2024.

Kenrokuen, Ishikawa

Kenrokuen, Ishikawa

Kenrokuen in Ishikawa prefecture is considered one of Japan’s three great gardens. The well-manicured space is a popular spot to visit year-round, but during the winter, it’s particularly special. When snow falls, a blanket of white covers the grounds and turns the landscape into a truly serene space. The garden is often lit up during winter evenings and sometimes mini concerts are even held at the on-site Uchihashi-tei teahouse.

Ginzan Onsen, Yamagata

Ginzan Onsen, Yamagata

Once a former silver mine, Ginzan Onsen has since been turned into one of the most picturesque onsen resort towns in all of Japan. As a reminder of the past, it’s name literally means ‘silver mountain hot spring’ and the area features numerous ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), which line the river that runs through the town. Ginzan Onsen really is a stunner in winter when fallen snow collects on the rooftops and streets. Best of all, the town centre is pedestrian-only, so you can meander through this picture-perfect spot at your own pace.

Misotsuchi Icicles, Saitama

Misotsuchi Icicles, Saitama

Heading up to see the Misotsuchi Icicles in Chichibu makes for an ideal day trip from Tokyo. Best seen in January and February, this natural phenomenon is the result of spring water from the Arakawa River being frozen to the surface of rocks. The icicles are also worth a visit in the evening as they are lit up in different colours to add to the mystical atmosphere.

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Toyama

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Toyama

This spectacular route through the Japanese alps stretches from Toyama all the way to Nagano prefecture and offers some pretty impressive scenery. Most notable is the staggering snow corridor, where the buildup of snow can reach as high as 20 metres. Due to the danger of collapse, the snow corridor is only open from spring onwards, but you could fool anyone into thinking its winter with a few photos from this spot.

More from Time Out Tokyo

The most beautiful places in Japan

The most beautiful places in Japan

See the real Japan in the peaceful rolling hills of Hokkaido, a Nagano nature reserve dotted with volcanoes, and more

6 best onsen destinations in Japan

6 best onsen destinations in Japan

Warm up as well as rejuvenate your body and mind at these scenic hot spring resorts, easily accessible from Tokyo

The best national parks in Japan

The best national parks in Japan

  • Things to do

[image] [title]

Discover Time Out original video

By entering your email address you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and consent to receive emails from Time Out about news, events, offers and partner promotions.

🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!

  • Terms of use
  • Work for Time Out
  • Time Out Group
  • Advertising
  • Manage cookies

Time Out Tokyo

  • Magazine subscription
  • Digital edition
  • Buy the guide to Tokyo

Time Out products

  • Time Out Worldwide
  • South Africa
  • Philippines
  • New South Wales
  • Northern Territory
  • South Australia
  • Western Australia
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Solomon Islands
  • Itineraries
  • About Travel2Next
  • Hotel Reviews
  • Travel2Next TV
  • Travel Shop

travel 2 next

  • Destinations
  • Things To Do

A Guide To Winter in Japan

Winter in Japan is a white wonderland in Asia.

- This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure.

Winter in Japan is like a fairytale with snow-covered slopes and although it is not the season to see flowering cherry blossoms, there are plenty of other treasures to discover while exploring Japan in winter . Japan’s four islands – Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku – offer plenty of amazing sights perfect for exploring during the colder months.

If you’ve never been to Japan during winter , I’d recommend you seriously consider it. If you’re planning your first trip to Japan, while winter may not be the first season that comes to mind there are many reasons to visit during winter in Japan . Although winter is our favourite season in Japan if you’re planning on seeing a range of famous places, it doesn’t matter what time of year you visit.

1- Japan is beautiful in winter

2- japan is less crowded in winter, 3- the japan snow season is fantastic, 4- winter is the best season to soak in a japanese onsen, 5- winter festivals in japan are amazing, 6- it’s the time of year to see the snow monkeys, 7- japanese food seems to taste better, what are the winter months in japan, 1- niseko , 2- hakuba , 3- shiga kogen , 4- winter in tokyo, 5- winter in kyoto, 6- winter in osaka, 7- winter in takayama, 8- winter in gero, japan winter itinerary .

Tip: Save money on travel around Japan and buy a multi-day JR Pass online or choose a 7, 14 or 21-Day Japan Rail Pass before you arrive in the country. 

Also read: 50 Incredible Things To Do In Japan

Winter in Japan 

  • 1 Day Tour: Snow Monkeys and Snow Fun in Shiga Kogen – an incredible experience with nature in winter.
  • From Sapporo: Winter Wonderland Hokkaido Region Day Tour – a Japan winter experience not to be missed.
  • Nagoya: UNESCO Tour to Shiragawago and Takayama – these charming destinations are perfect in winter in Japan.

What is Japan Like In The Winter?

Mt. Fuji from an airplane in winter in Japan

You’ve probably never thought of visiting Japan in December or even in November, so here are some reasons to consider a trip to Japan during the colder months.

Just about anywhere you go in Japan during winter, you’ll see white wintery landscapes straight out of a picture book. 

Aside from skiers, snowboarders and those who like winter sports, most visitors shun travelling to Japan in winter because it’s cold.

This means you’ll be able to avoid the crowds and tour at leisure. 

Visiting Japan in winter is an opportunity to learn to ski or snowboard and there are excellent winter resorts in the Japanese Alps that are reasonably priced. 

There are many activities for non-skiers too.

Looking for inspiration? Here are some travel with friends quotes to share and bookmark these 100 travel quotes to inspire you to get out and travel. 

There’s no better time to warm the bones than winter in Japan while soaking in traditional Japanese hot springs.

In Japan there is a way of doing everything – they call it ‘the Japanese way’ – and bathing in hot springs publicly in an onsen is no exception.

Winter in Japan is the time to rug up and be dazzled by the winter illuminations of a winter festival and there are many to choose from around Japan. One of the most famous is the Sapporo Snow Festival.

Recommended tour: From Sapporo: Winter Wonderland Hokkaido Region Day Tour

Head to a monkey park and watch these adorable creatures do winter in Japanese.

When the weather is cold outside, there’s nothing like tucking into a bowl of piping hot noodles. Japanese food is tasty and the colder weather makes it the perfect time to fuel up.

For more about Japan, read:

  • 20 Incredible Landmarks in Japan
  • 20 Best Beaches In Japan
  • 25 Things To Do In Tokyo At Night
  • 25 Landmarks In Tokyo
  • A Guide To Winter In Japan
  • 50 Things To Do In Japan
  • Japan Itinerary (10 days)
  • Osaka Itinerary
  • Nagoya Itinerary
  • 12 Things To Do in Takayama
  • How To Use The Toilets In Japan
  • 20 Things To Do In Osaka At Night
  • 20 Things To Do In Hiroshima
  • 20 Things To Do In Yokohama
  • 15 Things Japan Is Famous For
  • 20 Day Trips From Tokyo
  • 3 Day Trips From Osaka
  • The Most Beautiful Japan Tourist Spots
  • Hakuba Hotels
  • Hakuba Ski Resort
  • Japanese Onsen Tips
  • Where To Stay In Kyoto Like A Local
  • Arashiyama Monkey Park
  • Eating and Drinking Matcha
  • Amanemu Review
  • 20 Japanese Drinks
  • 20 Things To Do In Kyoto At Night
  • 20 Japanese Cities
  • 20 Things To Do In Fukuoka

Japan winter months are from December to January and, in general, the weather in Japan in winter is usually sunny and the humidity is low.

  • Japan in December is festive, with holiday decorations in the cities and ski resorts. Japan weather in December is cold and it’s important to dress in layers. 
  • Japan in January is a great time to go to catch some of the vibrant festivals. 
  • In Japan in February, you can expect the temperatures to be around 10ºC (42°F) and it’s a lot colder than this at night. Check the weather here . 

Is Winter A Good Time To Visit Japan?

Yes, because Japan is a fantastic destination for skiers and snowboarders.

Japan’s snow season usually starts in mid-December and lasts until early April, which gives skiers and snowboarders a few months to choose from when planning a Japan holiday on the slopes.

Although Japan’s main cities have plenty of attractions to interest most visitors, Japan also has some of the best powder skiing in the world. 

With more than 500 ski resorts in Japan, there’s plenty of choice for all budgets but the best snow is in northern Japan (Hokkaido and Tohoku) and along the coast (Niigata and Nagano). 

Here are the best resorts for a Japan snow season vacation:

In the south of Hokkaido on the slopes of Mount Niseko-Annupuri, Niseko’s main resorts are Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village and Annupuri. 

You can ski all three, which meet at the mountain top, with the Niseko All Mountain Pass. 

Niseko is famous for its light powder snow, spectacular backcountry skiing off the groomed trails. 

Niseko is in the Shiribeshi sub-prefecture in Hokkaido, Japan. 

where to go in japan in december

Bindings, boards, boots and baths.

Does this list give you a tingling and a craving for the best powder in the world?

If you have ever been skiing in Japan, you know already how wonderful a Japanese winter can be but if you haven’t, a trip to Hakuba in Nagano Prefecture in the south of the country will introduce you to the joys of the Japan snow season. 

Learning to ski is fun and fortunately, the instructors are cool, hip, superbly qualified and they speak English well.

Many instructors follow the snow trail in both hemispheres teaching year-round and will transform you into a Japan winter snow-bunny in no time.

Winter in Japan is a great time to visit with kids too, with plenty of other activities such as ice skating, snowshoeing and sled rides.  

Hakuba has accommodation and activities to suit all styles to choose from including Western-style hotels and Japanese ryokans. 

There are a variety of runs, from black runs to wide open gentle slopes.

Would you ski or snowboard? Snowshoe in silent forests or ski-doo for an adrenaline rush?

As this mighty ring of mountains sits squarely on a steady supply of thermal waters, you will, no doubt, soak in the various onsen for their restorative waters and enjoy a long, soothing soak after a day out on the slopes.

Hakuba is in the Nagano Prefecture and can be accessed as a day trip from Tokyo.

Shiga Kogen Ski Area has 19 ski resorts on the slopes of Mount Yokote (2305m) and Mount Oku Shiga Kogen that can be accessed with one lift ticket 

During the Nagano Winter Olympics, the slalom and giant slalom events were hosted in Higashidateyama Resort.

Shiga Kogen is in Nagano Prefecture. 

Recommended tour: 1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys & Snow Fun in Shiga Kogen

How Cold is Japan in Winter?

Tokyo in December Caretta Shiodome

How cold it is depends on whether you’re visiting the north or the south of Japan. Below are some average temperatures in various places.

The coldest cities are:

It’s one of the best seasons to visit Japan’s largest cities and even though it’s cold, you will be spending time commuting from one place to the other, mainly underground or in well-heated train stations. 

The cities have lots of indoor winter activities and if you’re not planning on hitting the slopes, here’s why you should consider visiting these cities in Japan during the winter. 

  • Tokyo in December: High:12ºC (54°F)/Low: 5ºC (41°F) 
  • Tokyo in January: High: 10ºC (50°F)/Low 2ºC~3ºC (35°F~37°F)
  • Tokyo in February: High: 10ºC~11ºC (42°F~50°F)/Low 3ºC (37°F)

In Tokyo, all buildings are kept at a steamy temperature and I almost found them too hot.

Tokyo Central station is well signed posted and has a travellers’ help office with English-speaking experts who provide maps and explanations on how to get from A to B.

If you, like me, get lost despite expert help there is always a kind person who will show you how to get to where you are going.

There are some pretty crazy things to do in Tokyo Midtown during winter and the best places to visit in Japan in winter are in the Tokyo underground, where you can explore fantastic eateries for amazing food and crazy themed cafes.

From Cat Cafes to Owl Cafes , Ninja Restaurants to fine dining, electronic cities to manga districts, Tokyo is vibrant and full of life.

Tokyo also has one of the best festivals in Japan, the Setsubun Festival sends away winter by throwing beans to the devils while the Kamakura Festival is also very popular leading into spring. 

Seeing Kyoto’s temples, pagodas and shrines covered in snow is a magical sight and the Golden Pavilion looks especially lovely in the snow. 

Kyoto is also a city of festivals and winter is a great time to catch up on culture at the Toshiya Festival (January), when young women in kimonos compete in an archery competition, or the Setsubun Festival (February).

Visit Kitano Tenmangu Temple to see thousands of plum trees blooming in February and participate in a tea ceremony during the Baika-sai festival.

Recommended tour: Kyoto: Top Highlights Full Day Trip

The good thing about this city is the weather in winter is not quite as cold as other cities, making it a good time to visit.

A great time to visit is during the Festival of Lights, where 4 km of the Umeda central district is a festive affair from November to January. 

Winter is also a great time to visit parks and other attractions, such as Namba Park, Tennoji Park and Osaka Castle, where Christmas 3D light shows light up the trees and buildings, just like in a fairytale. 

Recommended tour: Osaka: Deep Backstreets Exploration

winter in Japan - takayama

Another place to visit in Japan in winter is Takayama , also known as Little Kyoto because of its ancient sites and well-maintained Edo period buildings.

Takayama also has special local foods, such as sansai (mountain vegetables), wasakana (river fish) and Hida beef – a rival to Wagyu beef.

You’ll love the local soba noodles and there are quality sake breweries where you can keep warm on your Japan winter holiday.

Hōba miso is a local way of grilling beef or fish on a hōba leaf (from the native Magnolia obovata) or also on an oak leaf.

Takayama has the highest snowfalls and is one of the best cities to visit in Japan in winter for photography.

Picture red-lacquered bridges, framed by red-pines bonsai-ed to please the eye with kimono-clad women, making it a quintessential Japanese winter experience.

As Takayama has always been a salubrious area, the old quarter is dotted with the stunning-looking Kura houses.

A Kura house is a mud-brick, fire-resistant building among the all-wood and paper houses of old, where citizens would store their valuables to save them from the regularly occurring fires.

Today, these attractive storage houses are converted to boutiques, trendy cafes and sake tasting locales.

Recommended tour: Nagoya: UNESCO Tour to Shiragawago & Takayama

winter in japan

Gero practically exists as a place for ‘taking the waters’ as it sits on rich underground currents of thermal waters.

Be brave, undress and slip in the hot water pools but there are a few steps to follow prior to doing so.

It’s one of the best places to visit in Japan in winter to warm up.

The Suimeikan Ryokan has three onsens inside their luxury premises (six if you consider the three become six as they are gender-separate).

My favourites are always the open-air ones.

There is nothing like walking out naked to the outdoor pools (even better if it is snowing) and settling in for a relaxing long soak amongst rocks.

The rocks are artistically displayed among the greenery with backdrops of panoramic views that offer the perfect scenery to enjoy in Japan in winter.

Enjoy the scenery of snowed-covered landscapes, mountains and gushing rivers.

One of the best travel tips I can give you when visiting Japan is that soaking in an open-air onsen is a quintessential winter in Japan experience.

If you’re not a skier or snowboarder and are keen to explore cities, then a five-day Japan in winter itinerary covering three cities would be enough.

If you have more time, I would suggest getting out of the city and visiting other places in Honshu, Hokkaido and Shikoku.

Hokkaido is particularly great at this time of year for its wonderful Sapporo Snow Festival .

Day 1 – Tokyo

Arrive in Tokyo and get acclimatised by walking around the city to admire the winter lights.

Make it a point to go to Shibuya Crossing and keep in mind that the heating inside most buildings can get rather hot, so dress in layers.

Day 2 – Hakone

Take a trip to Hakone, where you will get a view of one of the most famous Japanese mountains, Mount Fuji.

One of the best Japan winter attractions is its hot springs, which Hakone is well-known for, and staying at a traditional Japanese ryokan here is another winter treat. 

Recommended tour: From Tokyo to Mount Fuji: Full-Day Tour and Hakone Cruise

Day 3 – Osaka

Take the bullet train and explore one of Japan’s most vibrant cities to visit during winter. Grab an Osaka 1 day pass , which will give you unlimited rides on the subway and discover the city’s famous castle, Shitennō-ji Temple and the Kita area. 

Day 4 – Kyoto

inter in Kyoto is straight out of a Japanese storybook as its gardens, shrines and temples are a magical white winter wonderland. Although Kyoto can easily be visited as a day trip from Osaka, staying overnight in the city is a lovely experience in winter. 

Day 5 – Tokyo

Back in Tokyo, enjoy a winter’s view of the Tokyo Imperial Palace or warm up in one of Tokyo’s quirky cat, owl, maid, manga or robot cafés.

Japan video edited by InVideo .

20 Places To Visit in Winter in Japan

Editor's Picks

101 travel quotes – inspiring the journey, 60 luxury escapes for your bucket list, 25 australian landmarks, what is japan known for, 20 cities in japan, 20 things to do in yokohama.

travel 2 next

8-Day Japan Winter Itinerary For Less Than S$1.2k — Fox Village, Snow Monkey Park, Gassho Houses

travel to japan during winter

Key highlights include winter must-sees like Zao Fox Village, Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park and the charming snow piled Gassho-styled roofs in Shirakawa-go. Find out how to maximise your JR Pass on a trip to Japan in winter!

Japan is one of those places that’s ideal to visit regardless of the season but after over four trips to Japan , winter is perhaps our favourite — visiting onsen s with Snow Monkeys bathing in them, a village where foxes tumble in snow or curl up for an afternoon nap and experiencing the warm hospitality in a traditional gassho house.

Planning to experience winter in Japan? Here’s how to make the most of Japan during winter with the 7-day JR Pass!

Travelling on a budget with the 7D Whole Japan JR Pass

Update on December 2023: Prices have increased for the JR Pass since October 2023. Find out more in our JR Pass guide .

Whole Japan JR Pass - Japan Winter Budget Itinerary

Travelling with the JR Pass is one of our favourite ways of travelling in Japan. While a round trip from Tokyo to Osaka already exceeds the value of one, we’ve taken the challenge upon ourselves to stretch the value of the JR pass and use it to help us discover beyond Tokyo and Osaka; and all without stretching the budget too much 😛

JR Passes can cost a lot but for the sights we wanted to cover, the Whole Japan JR pass saved us a total of S$330 ( Click here for the breakdown )!

Starting from Tokyo, we did day trips to the Zao fox village , attempted to catch sight of Mount Fuji at Kawaguchigo , chilled out with the snow monkeys in Nagano and even stayed a night in the traditional Gassho houses of Shirakawa-go before heading to Kansai where we took our flight out for under S$1.2k! (Incld. accommodation, exclud. flights)

This may not be the cheapest way to spending 8 days in Japan but for the experiences we wanted to leave with, I think we worked out a pretty fair budget. Hope you find our Japan winter itinerary useful!

Budget Breakdown:

Accommodation: ¥23,100 Transport: ¥49,580 (Incld. 7D Whole Japan JR Pass ) Activities: ¥11,50 Food: ¥15,500 Misc:  ¥3000 (For SIM Card and Lockers)

TOTAL FOR 7D:  ¥102,730 ($1231.77)

Check Flights to Tokyo

We didn’t include flight prices in the budget because they vary depending on your date of travel. To get a better estimate of your total budget, check flights here first:

Check flight prices from Singapore to Tokyo here  if you can’t see the widget above.

First Time to Tokyo?

Tokyo Tower — quirky-tokyo-guide

Tokyo has a plethora of activities ranging from quirky to hipster. If you’re planning to spend a couple of days in Tokyo, ask to activate your JR Pass on a later date when collecting your JR Pass at the JR East office in Narita. Ideally, you should begin when you’re ready to take the pass on consecutive day trips out from Tokyo. To get from Narita Airport to Central Tokyo, purchase the Keisei Airport Skyliner as it’s cheaper than the Narita Express (N’EX).

Robot Restaurant - quirky-tokyo-guide

Check out 24 hours in Tokyo for the quintessential Tokyo experience or our Quirky Tokyo Guide for the fun and bizarre stuff!

If you’re activating your JR pass on your first day like us, make seat reservations for the next N’EX to get to Tokyo station. This train is covered by the JR Pass.

Staying connected:  Don’t forget to prebook your 4G SIM Card . Comes in 1GB (for 6 days), 3GB and unlimited (both for 8 days). If you’re staying longer than 8 days, perhaps a portable WiFi might be more convenient.

Day 1:  Tokyo Day Trip to Zao Fox Village

Accommodation in Tokyo:  Wise Owl Hostel Tokyo (only 1 station away from Tokyo Main station which is perfect for making day trips out of Tokyo) — ¥2,300 for a dorm bed

Fox at Zao Fox Village - Japan Winter Itinerary

2 hours north-east of Tokyo in the Miyagi prefecture is a village where foxes roam. I know that sounds quite dreamy but after visiting for ourselves, I have mixed feelings about the place.

There are 2 parts to the “village”. Right after you purchase your entrance ticket (¥1000), the first thing you see is foxes either tied on a leash or kept in cages of various sizes. Some are kept in because they’re sick but one section of foxes are kept as designated huggers. For ¥400, you can hug, pet and carry one of these foxes; which I personally found quite sad because most of the time they would be tied up or kept in a tiny confined space.

Fox at Zao Fox Village - Japan Winter budget Itinerary

The other part is a lot better although it’s still a fenced up area. Foxes here have more space to roam and you’ll see most of the foxes rolled up into balls of fluff, taking a nap in the wooden crates by the staircase. There’s a lot of space here but foxes aren’t meant to live together by nature so you’ll see a lot of them with injuries on their head or tail from fights.

Zao Fox Village Feeding Platform - Japan Winter Itinerary

There’s a feeding platform where you can bring your ¥100 pack of feed (from the entrance) and you’ll see hoards of foxes crowding below looking up eagerly. It’s an adorable sight, until you throw the food over the ledge and watch the foxes growl and wrestle aggressively over the few morsels you’ve just released.

Foxes fighting at Zao Fox Village - Japan Winter Itinerary

It makes you wonder if their injuries are a result of such proximity or if they would be the same in nature. We did enjoy walking through the areas far from the feeding platform where foxes would playfully take a jab at each other or approach you to chew on your shoe lace (don’t let them! Unless you’re alright walking away with half your shoe lace gnawed off).

Entrance fee: ¥1000 How to get there:  From Tokyo station, take the Yamabiko Shinkansen to Shiroishizao station and take a 20min taxi to the fox village (¥4200). Opening hours:  9AM – 5PM (last entry at 4:30PM)

*Pro-tip:  On the way back, ask the other guests if they would like to share a cab back to Shiroishi-zao station to split the cab fare.

DAY 2:  Tokyo Day Trip to Kawaguchi

Accommodation in Tokyo:  Wise Owl Hostel Tokyo

Chureito Pagoda - Japan Winter budget Itinerary

Another key winter experience is catching sight of Mount Fuji from one of 5 Fuji Lakes. We picked Kawaguchi, a quiet town 2 hours from Tokyo. You can use your JR Pass to get to Otsuki station before transferring to the Fujikyu line to get to Kawaguchi-ko station.

Before you arrive at Kawaguchi-ko station, you might want to make a stop at Shimoyoshida. From the station, there’s a popular lookout point of mount Fuji from the back of Chureito Pagoda which takes 397 steps to get to.

Chureito Pagoda - Japan Winter Itinerary

Unfortunately our luck with the weather was pretty bad on the trip and the elusive Mount Fuji was no where to be seen. Do a quick check on the weather before deciding on this day trip or else a trip here is pretty sad if the weather is bad.

Hoto Fudo Noodles in Kawaguchiko - Japan Winter budget Itinerary

Our only saving grace was probably this hearty bowl of Hoto noodles — a Kawaguchi specialty of springy handmade noodles and probably one of the best dishes to have in winter. The most famous shop is Hoto Fodo located just across the road from Kawaguchiko station.

Hoto Fudo Kawaguchiko - Japan Winter Itinerary

Set in a cosy restaurant, the noodles here are said to be the most traditional version of all and only served in one variation; a miso vegetable soup (¥1080). A common ingredient in all Hoto noodles is a slice of pumpkin which doesn’t stand out a lot but adds a nice touch to the whole dish.

If you like more variety, there’s another restaurant: Hōtō kenkyūjo (ほうとう研究所) located near the Kawaguchi Music forest which has Hoto with a generous serving of seafood including crab and lobster legs (¥1380 – 1980).

How to get there: Take the shinkansen to Otsuki, from Otsuki, switch to the Fujikyu line and get off at Shimoyoshida, then Kawaguchiko station. The JR Pass covers the ride from Tokyo to Otsuki station.

DAY 3:  Nagano

Nagano Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park - Japan Winter budget Itinerary

Host of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games , Nagano is a mountainous region most famous for the snow monkeys who definitely know how to enjoy life. It might be hard to believe at first but the onsen pools here are in fact reserved for the monkeys only.

Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park

Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park - Japan Winter Itinerary

From Tokyo, pack your bags and set out early for Nagano. You can leave your luggage in the many lockers available at the train station. The JR pass covers your ride from Tokyo to Nagano station via the Hokuriki shinkansen (90 minutes). Then hop over to the Nagano Dentsu station where you can purchase the 1 day Snow Monkey Pass (¥3,200) .

Snow Monkey Pass - Japan Winter budget Itinerary

This covers the express bus that will transport you both ways between Nagano station and the Snow Monkey Park in 45 minutes. The pass also includes the entrance fee (¥1000) to the Snow Monkey Park.

From the drop off point, there’s a 20-minute walk to the entrance of the park.

There’s only one main onsen pool and you’ll see lots of monkeys as well as people crowded around.

Nagano Snow Monkeys - Japan Winter Itinerary

The Monkeys here are wild but are totally chilled and don’t really mind if you’re taking photos of them. However, do be a bit more weary of those with babies hanging on them as they tend to be a bit more paranoid and protective of their little one.

Do note that this is only for the monkeys!

Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park - Japan Winter Itinerary

For the humans, you can take a dip in nearby  Kaede no Yu ,  Shibu Oyu , or  Wakuwaku no Yu  onsens for ¥300 – 500.

How to get there: Take Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano (90mins). Purchase a 1 day snow monkey pass for ¥3200 from the Nagano Dentsu station and hop on the Express bus that goes direct to the Snow Monkey Park (45 minutes).

You can stay a night in Nagano at the many onsen resorts but we took our bags from the lockers and continued on to Takayama (2.5 hour train ride).

*Alternative Route to from Nagano:  Take Shinkansen to Kanazawa (60mins), spend the night and take a 1.5hour bus to Shirakawago the next morning. From Shirakawago, it’s a 50 minute bus ride to Takayama. If you’re taking this route, you can swap Day 4 for Day 5.

DAY 4:  Takayama

Accommodation in Takayama:   J-Hoppers Hida Takayama — ¥2,700 for a spacious dorm bed

Takayama Old town - Japan Winter budget Itinerary

One of Japan’s best preserved towns, Takayama is a popular winter destination for it’s charming Edo-style neighbourhood that’s even more charming when covered in snow.

But as our cursed luck with the weather continues, the snow had just melted off about 2-3 days before we arrived. Despite having almost no snow in sight, I still found the place rather enchanting and the perfect stopover before we visited the ultimate winter wonderland — Shirakawa-go.

Morning Markets

Takayama Morning Market - Japan Winter Itinerary

Starting from 8AM, head to either the Miyagawa or Jinya Mae morning market and you’ll see locals setting up stalls by the Miyagawa river.

From traditional snacks like rice crackers to quirkier finds like wasabi chocolate and coffee in a cookie cup, here’s a good place to pick up a gift or two. There’s also seasonal vegetables, wooden crafts and a woman folding really complex origami.

Opening Hours:  8AM – 11AM

Hida Kotte Aburi Sushi

Hida Kotte Takayama - Japan Winter Itinerary

One of the most famous delicacies in Takayama is Hida beef and you can find various beef eateries around the town. But an interesting one is the Hida Kotte snack bar. Beef is partially cooked with a blow torch and served sushi style on a piece of crispy rice cracker. Pick from 3 options: ginger soy sauce, salt or gunkan (warship) style with a raw egg on top. A set of all 3 costs ¥900 but trust me, it’s worth it!

Other recommended beef places to check out: Manpukutei ($), Suzuya ($$) and  Ajikura ($$$).

Cost: ¥600 – 900 Opening Hours:  10AM – 5PM Address:  Kamiyano Town Takayama City Gifu Prefecture 34

Free Sake Brewery Tours

Harada Sake Brewery Takayama - Japan Winter Itinerary

At 3000m above sea level, Takayama’s perpetual cold climate makes it perfect for brewing sake. There are various local breweries around the old city and from 19th Jan – 3rd March, they’re taking turns to run free tours of their sake making facility .

Sake Lees - Japan Winter Itinerary

We were there in the first week and did our tour at Harada Sake Brewery . The tour honestly isn’t much but it was quite cool to find out what they did with the left over fermented sake (Sake Lees).

¥200 Sake Tasting in Takayama - Japan Winter Itinerary

But perhaps our favourite part of all was the sake tasting 😛

There’s a tasting fridge with around 15 different sakes and you can try them all just by purchase a sake cup for ¥200 (yes you get to bring this home). We loved it so much we ended up buying a bottle home too.

Tour timings:  10AM – 12PM, 1PM – 4PM Address:  Various breweries around the old city

Visit Shirakawa-go

Gassho Zukiri Houses in Shirakawa-go - Japan Winter Itinerary

If you aren’t planning to stay the night in Shirakawa-go, J-Hoppers Hostel (where we stayed) offers half day bus tours there for ¥3900. It leaves once in the morning and another in the afternoon. For us, we decided to spend a night in Shirakawago. You can take the highway bus from the Nohi bus terminal right next to Takayama station (¥4420 round trip). Check the timings for the Nohi Highway bus here .

DAY 5:  Shirakawa-go

Accommodation in Shirakawa-go:  Shimizu Inn — ¥9,500 – ¥13,000/pax includes dinner and breakfast

Gassho Zukiri Houses in Shirakawa-go - Japan Winter budget Itinerary

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawago (白川郷) receives quite a bit of snowfall every winter. In order to avoid snow buildup on the roofs, the gasshō-zukuri style homes you find here can be spotted with high straw roofs with steep slopes on each side giving the entire town a dreamy winter wonderland look.

Gassho Zukiri Houses - Japan Winter Itinerary

There really isn’t much to do in the town but a key experience is staying in one of these traditional gasshō-zukuri guesthouses. They’re super popular during the Dec – Feb period so book early if you’re planning to stay.

Meals at the Minshuku - Japan Winter Itinerary

There are no restaurants in the area so your accommodation will usually include 2 meals for each night you’re staying (dinner and breakfast).

Dinner at Shimizu Inn - Japan Winter Itinerary

I loved how homely the meals were with little servings of many varieties. Be careful though, the servings may look small but it adds up and you’d be stuffed before you know it.

Shirakawago - Japan Winter Itinerary

In the day, you can take a shuttle bus (¥200) to the observatory for a unobstructed view of the village.

Leaving Shirakawago:  From the bus terminal you can take the bus to 3 nearby cities: Takayama (50 minutes), Kanazawa (75 minutes) or Toyama (80 minutes).

The train ride to Kyoto is 135 minutes from Kanazawa, 163 minutes from Toyama and 182 minutes from Takayama.

DAY 6: Kyoto

Accommodation in Kyoto:  Wasabi Kyoto Soba Hostel — ¥1,700 for a dorm bed (located 15 minutes from Kinkakuji temple)

Kyoto rarely snows, but it did this year (2018 Jan)! And of course, our poor luck continued and it only snowed when we left.

If it’s your first time in Kyoto, you really should spend at least 2 nights here. Check out our Kyoto budget guide for all the quintessential Kyoto experiences. Below are our all-time top 5:

1) Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest - Japan JR Pass Budget Guide

Entrance Fee:  None Opening hours:  24 hours Nearest Station:  Saga Arashiyama Station, JR Sagano line

2) Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari Shrine - Japan JR Pass Budget Guide

Entrance Fee:  None Opening Hours:  Dawn to dusk Nearest Station:  5min walk from Inari Station (JR Nara line) OR 10min walk from Fushimi Inari Station (Keihan line)

3) Kinkakuji Temple

Kinkajuki Temple - Japan Winter Itinerary

Entrance Fee:  ¥400 Opening Hours:  9AM – 5PM Nearest Station: From Kitaoji Station (Karasuma Line), take bus 204 or 205 to Kinkakujimichi bus stop and walk 400m to Kinkakuji

4) Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market - Kyoto Budget

Opening Hours:  9AM – 5PM Nearest Station:  Shijo Station (Karasuma line)

5) Kiyomizudera

Kiyomizu dera - Kyoto Budget

Cost:  ¥400 Opening Hours:  6AM – 6PM (may vary slightly depending on season) Nearest Station:  Most accessible by bus or by cycling. For bus, take bus 206 from Kyoto Station to Kiyomizu-michi and walk for 10 minutes.

Read more about these in our Kyoto Budget Guide .

DAY 7-8:  Osaka

Accommodation:  J-Hoppers Universal Osaka — ¥2,300 (15 minutes from USJ) Osaka Namba Hostel Miyabi — ¥2,300 (Near Namba Station)

Osaka is best known for 2 things, Universal Studios Japan and FOOD. And that’s exactly what were in Osaka for this trip.

Don’t get me wrong, Osaka too, has many gorgeous monuments and interesting activities. If it’s your first time to Osaka, check out our very first Osaka Budget Guide for all the best things to do, see and eat for under S$70/day including accommodation!

Universal Studios Japan

Cactuar Churros - Universal Cool Japan 2018

If you’re visiting from 19th Jan – June 24th 2018, definitely check out the newly refreshed Universal Cool Japan section in USJ.

Detective Conan Escape Room Game-Universal Cool Japan 2018

Find yourself in an exciting Final Fantasy themed VR roller coaster or stretch your brain at the 4 storey Detective Conan Real Escape Room . These 2 were my favourite experiences at USJ this round.

Read also: Universal Cool Japan 2018 for what to expect in this new section, or our Ultimate USJ guide for tips and tricks to beating the crowds and maximising your time in the park.

Useful USJ Passes to get:

Universal Studios Japan 1.5 day pass — Enter the park after 3pm on the first day and have the whole of day 2.

Universal Cool Japan 3 Express Pass — Express access to 3 popular attraction in the Universal Cool Japan section. You’ll need this to enter the Detective Conan Real Escape Room game.

Namba Food Hunt

Known as THE entertainment and shopping district, Namba is perhaps the most exciting area in Osaka. Here are just some of our favourite food finds in the area; all under ¥1000!

1) Beef Cutlet Takeru

1kg super large size Beef Cutlet Takeru 1kg super Osaka -Japan Winter budget Itinerary

The most famous menu item at Beef Cutlet Takeru is this  1kg super large size beef cutlet rice bowl . For just ¥940, it comes with a miso soup and topped with a perfectly poached egg.

Each cutlet is lightly breaded on the edges and almost completely raw in the middle. In front of you in a mini grill where you can cook each individual piece to your liking.

While this set doesn’t serve 1kg of beef, the serving is pretty generous but basically comes with a mountain load of rice. If you’re not a “rice bucket” kind of person and don’t want to waste food, you can request for less rice (although the price will stay the same).

The catch is, each outlet only serves 5 of these bowls a day — which means you need to queue around 30 minutes before the shop opens to get your hands on one of these.

Beef Cutlet Takeru Osaka - Japan Winter Itinerary

If you happen to miss out, the ¥1,200 set is equally worth it and comes with a free flow bowl of cabbage salad.

Don’t forget to ask for sauces! There are up to 15 different types of dips and sauces to go with the cutlet including Garlic Soy Sauce, Mustard, Ponzu Sauce, Garlic Salt and our favourite of all — freshly grated garlic!

Address:  2 Chome-4-4 Nanbanaka, Naniwa-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 556-0011, Japan (Namba Outlet) Opening Hours:  11AM – 11PM (Everyday)

*Pro-tip:  There are 2 outlet in Namba alone so if the queue looks long on one, try the other just 1 street away!

2) Niku Geikijou

Niku Geikijou Skirt Steak Bowl Osaka - Japan Winter Itinerary

A relatively new brand in the “fast food” rice bowl world (along with Yoshinoya, Matsuya and Sukiya), Niku Geikijou may very well be a new favourite.

It’s a little pricier than the rest (ranging from ¥690 – ¥790) but serves a very generous portion of meat and you can choose from 12 different sauces to have the rice drenched in.

Niku Geikijou Skirt Steak Bowl Osaka - Japan Winter Itinerary

Sauces range from sweet to extra spicy, with garlic, with ginger or with miso. We ordered the skirt steak bowl and asked for the garlic miso sauce which turned out super addictive! Oiishi indeed!

Address:  2 Chome-4-4 Nanbanaka, Naniwa-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 556-0011, Japan Opening Hours:  11AM – 11PM (Everyday)

3) Imai Honten Udon

Imai Honten Udon Osaka - Japan Winter Itinerary

The specialty at Imai Honten is their Kitsune Udon which is fried bean curd cooked in a sweet soup broth for hours until it absorbs all the goodness. It might seem like a plain dish but light and light broth somehow manages to be just tasteful enough for you keep wanted another spoon of it.

Address:  Osaka-shi Chuo-ku Dotonbori 1 – chome 7 No. 22  Opening Hours:  11AM – 10PM

One-stop place to book all your travel essentials

Hogwarts Castle & Hogsmead_Village-Universal Cool Japan 2018

Klook   has become one of the first sites we turn to when it comes to trip planning. From WiFi, to transport, to experiences, they have almost everything we need and at very competitive prices. Here’s what we booked from Klook for this trip:

1) 7 Day Whole Japan JR Pass — Saved us $300+ in value. Click here for JR Pass breakdown 2) 8D 4G SIM Card — Fuss free pick up from Tokyo Airport (Comes in 3GB and Unlimited) 3) ICOCA IC Card —   Comes preloaded with ¥1,500 credits and can be used on all transports in the Kansai region including Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe 4) Universal Studio Ticket — Available in 1, 1.5 and 2 day passes. No printout needed. You can get access just by scanning the QR code on your phone. 5) Nankai Airport Express  — Since we returned on day 8, we could no longer use our JR pass to get to Kansai Airport so this was our next best option! The limited express trains will get you to the airport under 45 minutes but leaves only 2 times every hour so be sure to check the timetable from Kansai airport and to Kansai airport .

All set for your winter adventure? Start securing your flights now:

Can’t see the widget above? Check flight prices from Singapore to Tokyo here  instead!

This post was brought to you by   Klook .

Like what you’re seeing? Follow us on Facebook , Instagram , and YouTube !

  A post shared by The Travel Intern (@thetravelintern) on Jan 25, 2018 at 8:44pm PST


Tokyo Disneysea Mermaid Lagoon

Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea Guide (2024) — Maximise your Tokyo Disney Day with these 12 Tips and Tricks

Featured Image-Ultimate Cherry Blossom Japan Guide

Ultimate 2024 Cherry Blossom Japan Guide — Everything You Need to Know

Featured - Super Nintendo World USJ Guide

The Ultimate USJ Guide and Tips (2024) — Universal Studios Japan

Featured - Japan Budget Guide Tokyo to Osaka

8-Day Tokyo to Osaka Japan Itinerary For First Timers Under S$690

travel to japan during winter

How to Experience Ghibli Magic in Tokyo — a Miyazaki-inspired Adventure

travel to japan during winter

4D3N Non-Touristy Tokyo Itinerary — New Things to Do in Japan 2023


This provides a good overview of places to go in Japan. I find this an interesting express itinerary to cover so many places in Japan over 7 days. I would think in reality I would spend a bit more time at each location, account for waiting time, find my way, etc in order to get from place to place. I guess it would be too stressful for me to cover 7 places/cities in 7 days. Seat reservations on some trains are probably needed when using the JR pass. This was something that put me off when I considered the JR Pass.

Yeah it’s super express as mentioned! mainly for those who wants to do many things in a short period of time as they might have limited vacation leave. For most routes, JR trains are actually ok without the JR Pass if you avoid the usual peak hours. Only for the overnight trains and long distance trains is it more important to make the reservations!

Hi.. How to book accommodation in Shirakawa-go: Shimizu Inn? I cant find it in agoda. thank you very much

We booked via Japanguesthouses.com. you can check for availability here: https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ryokan-single/?ryokan=Shirakawago-Shimizu

Thank you Cherie..

Hi Ms. Cherie.

I have read your itinerary and it is awesome.

I would like to ask, is this a February trip? Is this itinerary advisable for a December trip?

Yes, we did this in late Jan/early Feb but even then, Takayama’s snow happened to have melted on the day we arrived so pretty it’s unpredictable. But if you’re just looking to enjoy the warm houses in Shirakawago then I can imagine December to be a great time too!

Hi I have read this post and it’s awesome . I made small changes in this plan according to my family needs & completed my trip with family between Dec 22 to Dec 31. Below is my itinerary . Day 1 22-12-2018 Singapore to Tokyo and settle in room Day 2 23-12-2018 Hakone ( using Hakone free pass klook pass ) Day 3 24-12-2018 Gala Uzawa ( Activated JR Pass First day ) Day 4 25-12-2018 Nagano (snow Monkey park ( JR Pass day 2)) Day 5 26-12-2018 Shirakawa-go ( Nohi bus ) Day 6 27-12-2018 Nagoya nabana no sato winter illumination ( JR Pass day 4 ) Day 7 28-12-2018 USJ ( 1.5 days pass) ( JR Pass day 5) Day 8 29-12-2018 USJ ( 1.5 days pass) ( Traveled back to Tokyo 8.26 Hikari 2.30 hrs travel ( JR Pass day 6 )) Day 9 30-12-2018 Tagarakawa Onsen ( JR Pass day 7 ) Day 10 31-12-2018 Ueno Park & Pack up back to singapore.

Bought suica card for local subway travel in Tokyo & Nagoya also used this card in vending machines . Traveled with family(Indian vegetarian )bit hectic, but can manage easily .(Me ,Wife,daughter (11) ,son (7) ) Budget 10K )

Thanks a lot for such a wonderful post and keep travelling 🙂

sounds like a great plan. Thanks for sharing!

Hi, I wonder how big your luggage is? We are going to visit Japan next January – February, and we “copied” your itinerary so ours is more or less is quite similar to you. But we wonder if we would be able to do all the stuffs if we carry big sized luggage. Please help 🙁

Believe it or not, we actually did this trip with a cabin sized luggage! It might be a little hard to find luggage space in the trains but the buses usually had a luggage compartment below so that wasn’t a problem!

Hi found your wonderful itinerary. Wanted to travel to Japan end Nov. Is picking up a car to drive advisable?

Hi Chris! If you are comfortable driving, it’s always nice to have some flexibility. We have driven in Hokkaido and around Mount Fuji before pre-covid!

LEAVE A REPLY Cancel reply

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

HP Hagrid - Harry Potter Experience Singapore

Harry Potter Experience in Singapore Starting 3 Feb 2024 — Here’s...

travel to japan during winter

38 New Deals and Attractions in Singapore this February 2024

Featured - Khao Yai Glamping

9 Best Accommodations in Khao Yai — Cold Weather, Mountain Views,...

Tokyo Disneysea Mermaid Lagoon

Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea Guide (2024) — Maximise your Tokyo Disney...

travel to japan during winter

Mount Austin Guide — 13 Things to Do in JB’s Trendiest...

The Travel Intern

  • Terms Of Use
  • Privacy Policy

The Ultimate Japan Winter Itinerary (2 Weeks, 4 Cities)

02/27/2023 by Kristin Addis 2 Comments

When I think of the Japanese winter, I picture that feeling of being in a snow globe, or sitting in a steaming onsen (hot springs), or beautiful views of Mt. Fuji. It’s a tall order, to be sure, but like always, Japan delivered.

We recently spent two delicious weeks there, getting a taste of big cities, tiny villages, some of the most famous sights, and of course, delicious food. Honestly? I think we did a great job.

This is the ultimate two-week Japanese winter itinerary:

Table of Contents

jalan itinerary kyoto

Our journey began in Kyoto and finished in Tokyo. If you can book one-way flights, this eliminates a transit day. You can also consider taking the two-hour bullet train from Tokyo over to Kyoto for the start of your trip.

Though it’s never a guarantee that you will get snow in Kyoto — in fact, it’s a rarity — seeing some of the most famous sites with the white stuff was magical.

Day 1: Bamboo grove

jalan itinerary kyoto

Head to Arashiyama as early as you can to walk through the bamboo forest and check out some of the shrines. The earlier you go, the smaller the crowds should be — however, the bamboo is thick and it can be dark super early in the morning. Though the shrines often have entrance fees that are usually around ¥500, the bamboo is free to walk through and enjoy.

You’ll see busy stands selling snacks close to the entrance, but honestly, they were a bit on the pricey side, and we found better ones elsewhere.

Jet lag took up more of the early part of our journey than intended, but if you are able, try to see the Kinkaku-ji temple, a golden pagoda surrounded by tranquil gardens and a pond. Finish the day with sunset on the famous street leading up to Hokan-ji temple.

Day 2: Kaiseki and torii

jalan itinerary kaiseki

Our second day began with an early journey to Fushimi Inari Taisha, a Shinto shrine dating from 711 CE, with its famous walkways straddled by thousands of torii gates, and is free to enjoy. This and the bamboo forest were the sites I most hoped to see in Kyoto, and it was just as magical in person as I’d dreamed it would be.

It’s open 24 hours, as is the bamboo forest, so heading there early is a great idea. We happened to get there around 8am on one of the coldest, snowiest days of the year in the lowest season, and therefore had it almost to ourselves for a few minutes, but by 9am, busloads of people were showing up.

From there, check out the Kojingamine outlook for an overview of the city, followed by a visit to the Tō-ji temple, the tallest wooden pagoda in Japan dating back to the year 796.

Finish the evening with a stroll through the historic Gion district, or better yet, take a food tour. Ours involved a few hours of walking around, learning about the local culinary history, tasting traditional snacks and spices unique to Kyoto, and finishing with a kaiseki dinner, a ritual meal consisting of several courses created by a team of chefs. Each one features a different cooking style, though you can usually count on a rice dish, miso, sushi, and some kind of dessert. This is the highest level of dining in Japan and should not be missed! (The exact tour we took is no longer available, but you can book something similar .)

Day 3: Tea ceremony and shrines

Have you ever wanted to don a kimono? Participating in a tea ceremony is one of the best ways to get your chance. You’ll have the opportunity to learn the ritual around drinking green tea while wearing this traditional garment, plus get a photo doing so.

Finish the evening with sunset at Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple that is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage site.

Where to stay : Since we have a little one and arrived late at night into Kyoto, I booked a nice, affordable Airbnb near Kyoto Station. We loved our little spot!

(Due to our desire to catch an event that I’ll discuss later on in the post, we could only spend three nights in Kyoto, but it deserved so much more! I’d recommend staying at least three, if not more.)

jalan itinerary takayama

This adorable town full of friendly people is the gateway to the Japanese Northern Alps, as they’re called. We picked this town for its historic feel and famous food, and the likelihood of it being a winter wonderland (it was!).

Day 4: Journey to Takayama, known for delicious Hida beef

jalan itinerary takayama

You’ll spend a good chunk of the day getting to Takayama, which is best accessed on Japan Rail (JR) via Nagoya. The ride there is beautiful, most of it alongside a deeply blue river. (Sometimes there’s also a direct bus, though, so be sure to check! We tended to use Google Maps for our planning, which I suggest doing when weighing your options.)

Spend the afternoon and evening sampling some local Hida beef, which is incredibly flavorful and tender, at Kyoya restaurant, where you cook your meal over a charcoal grill at your table! It was a delicious experience at a place we didn’t even realize was famous — we just stopped by, since it was near our Airbnb. Apparently a reservation is normally essential, so be sure to call ahead.

jalan itinerary takayama

Day 5: Sanmachi and Hida no Sato folk village

Check out the historical houses (pictured below the subheading above) in Sanmachi, a neighborhood with traditional Edo-era architecture dating back to the 1600s through the 1800s. You’ll find small eateries, shops, and houses all along the way.

There’s a morning market along the river as well, where you can find food vendors. It’s perfect for an early stroll.

jalan itinerary Hida no Sato folk village

Spend the afternoon checking out the Hida no Sato folk village, an open-air museum featuring more Edo-era farmhouses. In the summer months, you’ll see grass growing on the thatched roofs, and in the winter, the village is famous for having feet of snow packed to the tops of the houses. It was magical to see them that way! Entrance is ¥700.

(The village also a great primer for the next stop, Shirakawa-go, a larger UNESCO World Heritage village from the same era.)

– Read More –

Traveling in Japan with a Baby

Day 6: Shinotaka ropeway or Gero onsen

Head out of town to the Shinotaka Ropeway (¥3,300 per adult), about a 1.5-hour bus ride each way, or consider heading to the town of Gero, south of Takayama, for a night. It’s one of the most famous onsen towns in Japan, known for its particularly smooth water.

(Due to my tattoos I can’t use most onsen , which I’ll discuss later, but for this reason, we opted to skip Gero.)

Where to eat: In Takayama, we loved the Tori Coffee and Sabou Usagi cafés, as well as Uemura for dinner. The latter is a truly tiny restaurant serving organic food the chef grows himself. I cannot recommend it enough! I messaged him via Instagram to book. Sakurajaya is also a fun experience, sitting at the bar and watching the chef make the food in izakaya fashion (informal, small dishes).

Where to stay : I loved our Airbnb here! It was the cheapest of the trip, at around $90/night, and had its own outdoor bathtub, which was magical with the snow!


Japan itinerary shirakawa-go

Day 7: UNESCO site Shirakawa-go

Light Up Shirakawa-go was the event I mentioned that caused us to leave Kyoto a bit earlier than I normally would have. Each winter, for six Sundays over January and February, Shirakawa-go lights up all of its buildings in the evening. If you are planning way ahead and can snag a reservation to stay overnight, do it, but if not, you can take a bus tour to the event from Takayama.

Tickets for this may sell out, as the number of visitors is capped. I logged on right when they went on sale in November and had to refresh the page for a couple of hours before finally getting through, but I’m happy to say that it was worth it. It truly felt like we were in a snow globe.

If you can’t get tickets for the light-up event, be sure to head there during the day. It is easy to access from Takayama via a bus that runs hourly (the bus costs ¥700, village admission is free). The village and buildings are quaint, there are a few museums you can enter for a couple hundred yen, and there’s an observation deck as well. The village would be delightful in every season, though I loved seeing it so snowy!

Stay: it’s possible to overnight in Shrakawa-go in the traditional houses . They book up well in advance for the light up event, though other times of year or other evenings would be easier. You’re only allowed to stay for one night in each house and they ask that you don’t bring large suitcases as there isn’t room for storage.

Day 8: Journey to Mt. Fuji

This was our longest travel day, making our way down to Yamanashi prefecture. It was so worth the journey, though, as staying on a lake with a view of Mt. Fuji was a highlight for us.

There were dozens of ways we could have chosen to get there, though we opted for the JR back through Nagoya, followed by a bus. (In 2023, the bus that runs between Takayama and Kawaguchiko was not running, but it would be by far the best and cheapest way in the future.)


Japan itinerary kawaguchiko

Wintertime is generally the clearest time of year and offers the best chance to see Mt. Fuji, one of the most famous sights in Japan.

When we were deciding between Kawaguchiko and Hakone, another popular spot an hour south, one of my Instagram followers suggested Kawaguchiko (and Takayama!), and I’m so glad we took her advice. We had gorgeous mountain views over the lake day after day.

Day 9: Chureito Pagoda

Japan itinerary Chureito Pagoda

You can’t visit Kawaguchiko without seeing the Chureito Pagoda, which as one of the most iconic views in Japan.

That said, it was also my biggest heartbreak of the trip, having wanted to see this view of Mt. Fuji for years. The clouds rolled in just as we were getting off the train. C’est la vie!

The pagoda is free to visit. You’ll have to climb quite a few stairs to get there, though, but it’s worth it.

Consider also stopping by Oishi Park, which is easy to access from the sightseeing-loop bus, for another iconic Fuji view.

Day 10: Soak and stare at Fuji

Japan itinerary Mount Fuji

We spent a good chunk of our tenth day hanging out at our hotel, to be honest. I recommend booking a place to stay on the opposite side of the lake from Mt. Fuji (the northern side), so that you can take a day or so to just relax and enjoy the view.

We booked Ubuya , a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn that typically features tatami-matted rooms) that had private hot springs on the balconies. Since I have tattoos, this was the only way that I was going to get to enjoy onsen that are so iconic in Japan in the winter.

Due to tattoos’ association with gang culture, almost all onsen and even hotel spas in Japan ban those with tattoos, unless it’s very small and can easily be covered with a Band-Aid. You can’t cover them up with a swimsuit, either, as one is fully nude in onsen .

This ryokan was definitely a splurge for our trip, but it was worth it! We also ate breakfast and dinner in the hotel, the latter a kaiseki meal in a private room set up for us and the baby.

Day 11: Fuji ropeway and Asama shrine

Are you down for an Insta-famous photo opportunity? There are two big ones in the area, including the Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway. It’s a short journey, so I normally would not feel the ¥1,800 per person round-trip is worth it, since you can get a great view of the mountain from the lakeside. But you can get some pretty cool pictures swinging with Mt. Fuji at a swingset at the top. You’ll have to queue up and pay an additional ¥500 for the photo op, which we didn’t do, but part of me wishes we had.

Next, take the bus bound for the Asama shrine and either walk from there, which is a 30-ish-minute uphill climb, or take a taxi to Tenku no torii. They’ll ask for ¥100 per person at the entrance and there will be another queue, but I loved the photos we got! (pictured at the beginning of the Kawaguchiko section).

Note: The “suicide forest” is also in the Kawaguchiko area, but it’s generally regarded as disrespectful to visit. Please pick other activities instead. There are many other beautiful forests in Japan!

Stay : As mentioned above, we booked Ubuya and loved the experience. If it’s out of your price range, I re commend staying on the same side of the lake and booking another hotel nearby so that you can still get the Fuji view from your room.

Japan itinerary tokyo

Welcome to the largest city in the world! I am usually not a big-city person, but Tokyo is a different animal. It’s one of the most unique places I’ve ever been, and there’s almost a limitless supply of things to do. Though you can only ever scratch the surface, these are some of my favorites:

Day 12: TeamLab and Harajuku

Japan itinerary teamlab

Harajuku is one of the most famous areas of Tokyo — and for good reason. There’s awesome shopping, creative cafés, and some famous local culture to check out. If you’re looking for something more traditional, in the same area, you can walk around the Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine.

From there, pop by the Hie shrine for another opportunity to walk through a smaller version of the Kyoto torii gates, as well as view one of the lovelier shrines in Tokyo, featuring white walls and a green roof.

Finally, do not miss a TeamLab exhibit! This art collective’s immersive art experiences get me every time. They tend to only remain open for a few years; TeamLab Planets should be open for another year or so, and it’s a must-see. I highly recommend going in the hours before closing so as to have fewer people in your photos. Book your ticket ahead of time too: this one somehow let us skip the whole line! Entrance is ¥3200.

Day 13: Nakano, Shibuya crossing, and ramen

Japan itinerary Shibuya

On our second-to-last day, I knew I wanted to do another food experience. There are a couple that I was looking at, including a walking tour in the famous Tsukiji fish market and a six-bowl ramen tasting . The latter just happened to fit better with our schedule, and it was delicious! We visited three ramen shops, all of which featured several unique flavors and styles. Garrett and I also shared each of our bowls, so that we could sample all of the flavors, so we ended up having 12 ramen samplings. Our favorite was the inventive pesto ramen, though I always love the curry version and was surprised by how much I enjoyed the squid ink as well.

Give yourself some extra time to check out Shibuya crossing, where the tour begins, which is the famous all-direction crosswalk that as many as 3,000 people use at a time! It’s quite a sight. If you want to see it from above, the Starbucks is a popular place to check it out.

We followed our ramen tour with a giant ice cream at Daily Chico at the Nakano broadway, pausing to take the photo featured above on one of the adjacent streets, which you can find by glancing to your right as you walk up the broadway.

Day 14: Imperial Palace, Disney, and unique kaiseki in Ginza


On your last day, you’ll have to make a difficult choice about what to see. I have a complete Tokyo itinerary here with a bunch of options. If our son were a bit older, we would have loved to go to Tokyo Disney or Disney Sea. Better believe it’s on the docket for the future!

Since our hotel was near the Imperial Palace, we opted to take a walk around the grounds. Keep in mind that you actually have to take a tour in order to get closer. The gardens are lovely, though, and the trees lining the streets near Tokyo Station are a great winter photo op.

I’d finish your trip with one of the most unique kaiseki experiences, in the high-end Ginza district of Tokyo: Tsurutokame , the only all-female kaiseki restaurant in Japan, featuring not only delicious food but incredible presentation. I was vegan when I visited a few years ago, and they even created a completely vegan menu for me! It was a highlight of all of my trips to Japan. It’s also popular, so book well in advance!

Japan itinerary tokyo

Where to stay : I splurged a bit on this part of the trip as well, booking us at the Prince Gallery Kioicho Hotel . The view from the room made it so worth it! The breakfast was delicious, and the location was central, but the best part about it was definitely the service, which was top-notch.

Although many of you won’t need to worry about this, it was also the only place we stayed in Japan that had a crib!

Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost major island, is important to mention. Many people choose to ski its famous powder (known in the ski world as Ja-pow), during all or at least part of their winter trip.

From Tokyo, you can take the bullet train and be in Hokkaido in about four hours. Although it was under consideration for us, since we are not really ski people (who live in a ski town — it’s weird, I know) and had a baby with us, we passed.

But there’s good reason to visit. Sapporo, the largest city, has a snow festival each year that features massive ice and snow sculptures. It usually only lasts for a week, so plan your trip accordingly if you’d like to see it.

Getting Around

teamlab tokyo japan

Getting around Japan was pretty straightforward using Google Maps. I would sometimes cross-reference with blog posts that specifically discussed the journey between certain destinations, just to be sure, but Google Maps was almost always correct. I also appreciated that it would usually give me the exact platform and even car to use in order to make a quick exit.

That said, both Kyoto Station and Tokyo’s larger metros can be confusing, although there were information desks scattered throughout, and they were super helpful — I would just show them where I was trying to go, and the staff person would point in the right direction.

To Rail Pass or not to Rail Pass?

Should you get the Japan Rail Pass ? Only foreigners are allowed to get this pass, which for a one-time fee gives you unlimited rides on the Shinkansen (bullet train) and Japan Rail lines. If you are going to be taking long-distance trains between Kyoto and Tokyo or Hokkaido, for example, it could make a lot of sense.

We opted not to do it, however, since two of the towns we visited — Takayama and Kawaguchiko — involved bus travel. It didn’t work out to be financially advantageous for us, just barely. We did, however, get the Tokyo metro pass , and I recommend the Hakone pass if you opt to go there.

If you do plan to take trains during the high season, it will probably make sense to get the JR pass and book your seats ahead of time. There are only a few cars on each train that are unreserved, which only worked out for us because we were there during low season. Book highway buses ahead of time as well, either in person at the station or online. I hadn’t realized this was important — we were lucky to grab the last seats on our bus to Kawaguchiko, which would’ve been such a pain to have missed!

Also, be sure to have cash on hand. There are ATMs in most convenience stores and train stations. We found that the ticket machine did not take our foreign credit cards, but if we waited in line for in-person service, we could buy a train or bus ticket with a card. Many restaurants also prefer cash.

Language and other notes

Although I can read a bit of Japanese, thanks to my years studying Mandarin and the similarities between the two, I don’t speak it beyond hello ( konnichiwa ) and thank you ( arigato ). Thanks to Felix, I learned that the word for “cute” is kawaii .

I found that people were always willing to try to communicate, though, since Japanese people are friendly and wonderful hosts. So I highly recommend downloading Japanese on Google Translate before you go. That way you can access it offline if you need to show somebody something or ask a question.

Also keep in mind that people bow as a sign of respect, a greeting, or thank you. Be sure to bow back, fully facing the person.

Japan is easily one of my favorite countries to explore because it’s just so different from anywhere else on earth. You get the opportunity to travel back in time, to feel blasted to the future in the big cities, and the friendliness is incredible.

Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links to the hotels and activities that we participated in. Purchasing through these links supports us at no extra cost to you

About Kristin Addis

Kristin Addis is the founder and CEO of Be My Travel Muse, a resource for female travelers all around the world since 2012. She's traveled solo to over 65 countries and has brought over 150 women on her all-female adventure tours from Botswana to the Alaskan tundra.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

 subscribe to our newsletter

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

06/21/2023 at 11:50 am

Hello! I enjoyed reading about your trip, the photos are amazing. I am starting to come around to the idea of going to Japan during winter. What dates/month did you travel?

Kristin says

07/01/2023 at 10:40 am

This was end of January into February 🙂

The Veiled Explorer

The Veiled Explorer

Solo Muslim Female Traveller | Tech Engineer | #breakingthebias

Japan in Winter: 12 Reasons To Visit And Travel Tips

' src=

Winter is an interesting time to visit Japan. Whilst many people wouldn’t think of East Asia as a tour stop for winter sports, that’s precisely what winter in Japan has to offer. Not to mention the winter festivities, and the fact that this is precisely the best time to enjoy the Japanese onsen.

In this article, I’m going to give you all the reasons why you should visit Japan in winter, the experiences that shouldn’t be missed, and all the top tips to plan a flawless winter getaway.

Contents Page

Winter in japan, what to wear when visiting japan in winter.

  • 12 Highlights Of Winter In Japan To Visit

The Veiled Explorer’s Summary

When is winter in japan.

Like the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, winter in Japan runs from December to February, with temperatures ranging from 12ºC to 3ºC . For those who have only experienced Thailand, or its neighbouring countries, during the winter, this may come as a surprise.

But Japan is very much a winter destination for snowy adventures. And, like with every other season, the Japanese put on an amazing array of events. In fact, even mother nature herself puts on a spectacular show here in the winter.

Japan In December

If you want to enjoy the cold, crisp air whilst still being able to explore, then December may be the best time for you to visit Japan. Winter is only just starting out in December, and the cold air is still mild compared to the coming months.

That being said, you’ll still need a coat and scarf as the temperatures range from 12° C at its warmest to 5° C at its coldest. Though, if you plan on visiting the Japanese Alps it will be significantly colder with temperatures ranging from 6° C to -2° C .

If you want to catch some warmer weather though, then be sure to head to Okinawa where the temperatures range from 20° C to 16° C . Whilst it may not be the summer heat Japan is known for, it does make for a pleasant break from the chilly weather.

Japan In January

January is a very cold time to visit mainland Japan, as this is when the country is experiencing the peak of winter. In January, the temperatures in mainland Japan range from 10° C in the warm afternoons to -3°C come nightfall.

Want to catch Tokyo in the snow? Well, your best chance of seeing a snowy Tokyo will be from January. Though do bear in mind, whilst it does snow in Tokyo, it’s not as heavy as other areas of Japan. Planning on also catching Osaka in the snow? Well, that too can happen in January. Just picture Osaka castle surrounded by snow. Dreamy indeed.

Always dreamed of visiting Okinawa during the quieter, less crowded season? Well, the low season in Okinawa is during the winter period, which begins in January.

Japan In February

February is still in the full force of winter in Japan and very much still requires layers to be worn for a pleasant time. During this time, the temperatures range from 11° C in the warm afternoons to -1°C come nightfall.

For those who are into snow activities, February is the peak season for snowy fun in Japan. So if you are visiting Japan during the snow season, be sure to add it to your itinerary for an epic time.

Is Winter A Good Time To Visit Japan

Except for the incredibly busy travel period that runs between New Year’s Eve and the 4th of January, winter is a perfectly pleasant time to visit Japan. Just make sure you adjust your plan accordingly. With festivals kicking off for the season and snow falling in abundance in the northern regions, there’s lots of fun to be had in winter in Japan.

One of the most important things to plan when visiting Japan (if not the most important), is to choose your outfits wisely. Having the wrong outfits when visiting Japan in winter can literally break your holiday.

For everyday exploration, consider wearing layers so that you can strip down or layer up where required. I would recommend wearing at least three layers, with the first being a thermal/base layer. This is designed to both insulate you and wick away any moisture.

For the outermost layer, especially when visiting the Japanese Alps or heading to the northern regions, you may want to consider wind and waterproof clothing.

NOTE: You may also want to wear an additional layer over your base layers, such as a long sleeve T-shirt and leggings.

What To Pack For Japan In Winter

  • Thermal / Base Layer
  • Thermal Socks
  • Long Sleeve Tops
  • Knitted Tops
  • Jumper Dresses
  • Thick Abaya
  • Thick Hijab
  • Waterproof Coat
  • Windproof Coat
  • Smart Wool Coat
  • Ski Clothes
  • Hiking Boots
  • Walking Shoes
  • Walking Boots
  • Lip Balm: To prevent your lips from becoming chapped
  • Sunscreen: Just because it’s winter, it doesn’t mean that the sun won’t be out. Especially if you plan to undertake snow sports.

Outfit Inspiration For Winter In Japan

Jumpers & knitwear, highlights of winter in japan.

Now that’s we’ve established what Japan is like in winter? Why you should still visit? And what to wear when visiting? We’ll now turn our attention to the best experiences and things to do in Japan come winter. From celebrations to activities and must eats, this section will cover it all.

1. New Year’s Eve Celebrations

Since adopting the Gregorian calendar in 1873, Japan has been celebrating New Year’s Eve aka shogatsu on the 31st of December across the country. And like the rest of the world, New Year’s Eve is a big cause for celebration in Japan.

  • For a cultured New Year’s Eve in Tokyo: You can head to the Zojo-ji Temple outside the Tokyo tower for the New Year’s Eve countdown. From around 10pm you’ll see the crowd start to gather and at the stroke of midnight, you’ll hear the monk ring a bell 108 times.
  • For a traditional New Year’s Eve in Tokyo: Head to the Shibuya Crossing, where the roads will be closed to cars from 9pm and revellers will wait for the New Year’s Eve countdown together.

NOTE: If you’re staying in an Airbnb or walking past local businesses on New Year’s Eve, you may notice a huge clean out to welcome a happy and prosperous new year ahead.

2. Winter Illuminations

Winter illuminations are one of the top winter attractions in Japan for both locals and tourists alike. Given its popularity, they have now popped up all over the country, and you’ll find them incredibly popular with couples on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

Popular winter illuminations in Japan:

  • Tokyo – Marunouchi Illumination
  • Tokyo – Caretta Shiodome
  • Hokkaido – Sapporo White Illumination
  • Tokyo – Country Farm Tokyo German Village
  • Kanto – Sagamiko Illumillion
  • Gotemba City – Toki no Sumika
  • Nagoya – Nabana No Sato

3. Winter Landscapes

One of the best things to do in Japan is to visit the scenic nature locations that adorns this beautiful country. And winter is no exception, as you’ll find most places are either covered in snow or frozen over, making it a unique time to view the winter landscapes in Japan.

Unmissable Scenic Winter Landscapes In Japan

  • Zao Snow Monsters In Yamagata – On the mountaintops of the Zao Ski Resort you’ll find fir trees covered in thick gigantic layers of snow that resembles snowy monsters. If you’re visiting in late January, be sure to time your visit with the Zao Snow Monster Festival.
  • Okhotsk Sea Drift Ice In Hokkaido – Every winter, a large amount of ice drifts in from Russia’s Amur River from mid-January to March, making it a spectacular that everyone tries to see. Whether you want to take a walking tour or a boat tour, the tour operators in Hokkaido’s got you covered.
  • Shirahige Falls In Hokkaido – The Shirahige Falls is a majestic waterfall with piercing blue waters that freezes over in winter to form one of the most striking landscapes. And for a bonus, the waterfall and the nearby blue pond are both lit up from dusk till 9pm.
  • Tadami River Bridge No. 1 In Fukushima – For a picture perfect wintery view from the train, this is the train ride to make in Japan. Here you’ll find an icy blue-green river surrounded by frosted green trees covered in snow.
  • Mount Fuji, Kawaguchiko – Winter is the best time for chance of catching a glimpse of Mount Fuji and the shores of the 5 lakes in Kawaguchiko is one of the best places to view it from.

4. Winter Sports

If you thought Europe was the only hot spot for winter sports, well think again. As Japan is the go-to destination for those with an appetite for winter thrills in Asia. Whether you’re after ski jumping, skating, downhill skiing, snowboarding or any other snow activity, you’ll find it here.

Popular Winter Sport Activities And Destination In Japan

  • Niseko, Hokkaido – Best for beginner and intermediate skiers. Here you’ll find powdery snowfall, Niseko Annupri International Ski resort, apres ski activities and onsen. Niseko is famed for its ski resorts and is a favourite with international skiers and snowboarders.
  • Furano, Hokkaido – Best for beginner and intermediate skiers. With 24 slopes on offer, everyone will be able to find a slope to ski on here. And for those looking for something different, you can even go on banana boat rides here. Yes, apparently it’s now also a winter activity!
  • Hakkoda Ski Resort, Aomori – Best for intermediate and advance skiers and for those wanting to view the Snow Monsters.
  • Zao Onsen Ski Resort, Yamagata – Best for all levels. There are 40 ski lifts here but the main attraction (for me anyways) are the snow monsters.

5. Snow Festivals

Like with every other season that arrives in Japan, the good Japanese people put on a festival full of merriment come winter. And lucky for you, you don’t even have to be into winter sports to enjoy the festivals.

Popular Snow Festivals To Visit In Japan

  • Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido – The Sapporo Snow Festival is one of the most popular snow festivals around the world that attracts over 2 million visitors each year. It’s held in early February and during this time you’ll be able to view sculptures made of snow and ice. And if you’re visiting at night, you’ll be able to see them all lit up.
  • Asahikawa Winter Festival , Hokkaido – The Asahikawa Winter Festival is the second most popular festival in Japan and given that it’s also located in the Hokkaido region, it tends to attract over 1 million visitors each year. Most who come also attend the Sapporo Festival, especially as they both run at the same time. However, in addition to viewing the sculptures and light, you’ll also find firework shows and other events here.
  • Yokote Kamakura Festival, Akita – The Yokote Kamakura Festival is the largest traditional Kamakura Festival in Japan. Kamakura are igloo like snow huts that are built in all sizes to honour the water deity. During this time, you’ll find the city decorated with lanterns and large Kamakura that you can enter. Once inside the snow huts you’ll find traditional winter food including sweet treats such as mochi and amazake (a sweet fermented rice drink).

6. Ryokans and Onsen

If there is one thing that you absolutely must do in winter in Japan, it’s to stay at a ryokan with an onsen or visit an onsen for a day visit.

If you aren’t familiar with a ryokan, it’s a traditional hotel that can be as small and intimate as an inn or as big and luxurious as a hotel. But they both typically offer a very traditional Japanese stay that comes complete with tatami mats and all.

If you happen to be staying in a hot spring town, it’s very likely that the onsen at your ryokan will be filled with water from the local hot spring. And if you didn’t know, it is commonly acknowledged that these hot springs have a number of health benefits in addition to soothing your tired muscles.

Even if you aren’t into any of the traditional winter activities, we can all agree that a relaxing steaming hot bath with potential healing properties in the midst of winter is definitely a good reason to visit in Japan.

NOTE: If you opt to visit a communal onsen you should know that whilst men and women are segregated, both genders bathe in the nude and swimsuits/shorts will be seen as odd. If you’re uncomfortable with this, you should opt for a Ryokan where you’ll have a private onsen in your room.

7. Japan’s Snow Monkeys

If you were looking for a heart melting cute reason to visit Japan, this is it. Away from all the winter activities in the Japanese Alps live these adorably cute snow monkeys that you’ll find bathing in their very own onsen. Yup you read that right, in Japan even the monkeys take hot baths.

Famed for their mischievousness and their cool lifestyle, if you ever wanted to see these snow covered monkeys, winter is the best time to view them in their natural habitat.

8. Shirakawago Japanese Alps

Shirakawago is one of those traditional villages that looks postcard perfect all year round. It has over 180 farmhouses that come complete with thatched straw roofs in traditional Japanese architecture. It is a quaint and isolated town that comes to life upon the arrival of the tourist buses every morning, whereby you’ll find tourists walking up and down the streets thereafter.

But if you want to truly enjoy this small town, it’s highly recommended that you stay the night to truly appreciate it.

9. Japanese Wintertime Comfort Foods

If there’s ever a good reason to travel, food is it. And Japan has no shortage of comfort food to warm the cockles of your heart in the depth of winter. From hot broth based dishes to sweet treats, there are lots of dishes to choose from.

Popular Winter Food In Japan

  • Oden: A popular one pot dish that contains various seafood and hearty vegetables that has been sold at street food stands since the Edo period.
  • Okayu & Zosui: They are both popular hot pot porridge dishes cooked in either a water or broth base and topped with various toppings.
  • Yudofu: A Buddhist vegan friendly silken tofu dish that’s cooked in a kombu-flavored dashi broth.
  • Yakiimo: This is simply a humble roasted sweet potato that’s sold roasting hot from street vendors.
  • Shabu Shabu: This is a hot pot dish that’s traditionally made with hot water and kombu seaweed and topped with toppings of your choice. This can range from meat, tofu, vegetable or rice cake toppings, making for a hearty meal.

NOTE: For the Muslim travellers abiding by a Halal diet, please note that a lot of broth based dishes are usually made with pork or meat. Even the vegetarian ones. The sweet treats are not always a safe option either, as they could be made with gelatin or alcohol. So I would highly recommend asking for an ingredient list where possible, especially if you aren’t familiar with a dish.

10. Fresh Sushi And Seafood

Japan is the go-to destination for fresh sushi and seafood , and winter is no exception. If you’re visiting in winter, some popular catches are putter fish, crab, yellowtail, oysters, bluefin tuna, and sea bream, so there’s bound to be something for every seafood lover.

11. Red Crowned Cranes

For the bird watchers that want to view a winter bird migration, Hokkaido is the place to head to. After a survey was conducted by the government in Hokkaido, it became clear that the number of red cranes was reducing. In a (successful) attempt to prevent their extinction, a conversation was launched.

Today when visiting Hokkaido in the winter you’ll be able to view around 300 red crowned cranes fly in to feed at the conservation sanctuary.

12. Hijab Friendly Weather

For those who are conscious of travelling to the far east in their hijab (though trust me you don’t need to be) winter could be the best time to blend in. You can easily dress up your hijab with a beanie on top and a scarf for extra warmth, and no one will bat an eye at you.

You May Also Be Interested In

  • Best Things To Do In Japan In Summer Time
  • Ultimate 4 Fun Happy Days In Tokyo Itinerary
  • 42 Best & Fun Things To Do In Mauritius
  • Loch Ness To Urquhart Castle, Your Complete Guide

So there we have it. What to expect when visiting Japan in the winter? What to pack and wear when visiting Japan in the winter? And finally, 12 awesome reasons and things to do when visiting Japan in the water.

With so many things going on during winter in Japan, what are you looking forward to most? Leave me a comment down below to let me know.

Want to be friends?

Japan in Winter: 12 Reasons To Visit And Travel Tips

Things To Do In Singapore At Night

The ultimate halal travel guide, 18 beautiful south italian towns that you must visit, the best epping forest walks & hikes trail guide.

  • Work With Us
  • Blogging Bootcamp

Two Wandering Soles

  • Campervan Life
  • Van Conversion Academy
  • Campervan Shop
  • Campervan Rentals
  • Plan a Trip
  • Itineraries
  • Destinations
  • Responsible Travel
  • Family Travel
  • Budget Travel
  • Scuba Diving
  • Travel Credit Cards
  • Digital Nomad
  • Teach English Abroad
  • Blogging Resources
  • Income Reports
  • Travel Shop
  • Meet Katie & Ben
  • About Two Wandering Soles
  • Personal Stuff
  • Portfolio & Press

Best Time to Visit Japan: When to Go & When to Avoid!

Home » Blog » Travel Tips » Best Time to Visit Japan: When to Go & When to Avoid!

Choosing the best time of year to visit Japan can be downright overwhelming. Each of Japan’s 4 distinct seasons has its draws and drawbacks (some more than others!). We’re going to break down exactly what to expect during winter, spring, summer, and fall so you can choose the best time to visit Japan based on your travel style and interests.

This is Japan in August… can you feel the humidity just by looking at the picture?! Because I sure can!

Japan has four distinct seasons: You’ve got the famed cherry blossoms in the spring, festivals in the summer, vibrant foliage in autumn, and powdery snow come wintertime.

So this begs the question: 

What time of year is best to visit Japan?

In short, you’ll have the best chance of comfortable weather and fewer crowds in early spring (March – early April) and in autumn (late October – November). Our personal pick would be to visit Japan during November; but more on that later…

Dotonbori neighborhood Osaka Japan

Let me backup… Truthfully there is no correct answer, as each season has its own unique draws (and drawbacks too).

But we’re not going to just leave ya there, hangin’.

We’re going to go over the pros and cons of visiting Japan during each season to help you decide which time of year is ideal for YOU.

Just staying in Tokyo? We have another article about the best time to visit Tokyo , specifically!

Answer these questions to get started:

  • Do you mind hot weather?
  • What about cold weather?
  • Are you easily bothered by crowds?
  • How much of your time do you want to spend outdoors?
  • Which would you rather see: cherry blossoms or colorful fall foliage?

Thinking about your answers to these questions is going to help you start to determine when to visit Japan.

Best time to visit Japan guide

Our experience, japan geography overview, weather in japan.

  • Rainy season in Japan
  • Typhoon season in Japan
  • Best time of year to view Mt. Fuji
  • Seasons in Japan
  • Holidays and festivals in Japan
  • Best to travel based on activity
  • What to pack for Japan

Overall BEST time to visit Japan

Want a quick recommendation? Jump down to see our personal advice for the best time to visit Japan. Plus, we’ll share what times of year we’d avoid visiting!

  • Our Recommendation…

Japan Packing List Mobile Banner - old

The ultimate Japan packing list

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, we have the ultimate resource for you!

This  FREE   PDF download  includes  everything  you’re going to want to pack for your Japan trip, including what NOT to bring, plus tons of insider tips!

Sign up for our  ultimate Japan packing list  now and get a copy sent straight to your inbox.

We visited Japan in summer, fall & winter

best Japanese cuisine

When: mid-August (2019) 

Our experience:

  • Very hot and humid in most places
  • Lots of Japanese tourists and international travelers in the popular places
  • We had a few days of typhoon weather
  • Mount Fuji wasn’t on our route, but she was only visible for a handful of days of our trip, due to clouds.
  • Felt too hot to be able to enjoy onsens as much as other times of the year

Would we recommend visiting Japan in August? 

It wouldn’t be my top recommendation, honestly. I found it very hot and muggy, and I would much prefer visiting when the temps are more comfortable.

Autumn in Japan momiji

When: mid-November (2023) 

  • Comfortable temperatures and no humidity
  • Colorful foliage in some areas (it differs quite a bit throughout the country)
  • During our 3-week trip, we had a little light rain , but not much
  • Clear views of Mount Fuji
  • Perfect weather for soaking in onsen
  • Crowds in popular areas for foliage viewing, but nothing overwhelming

Would we recommend visiting Japan in November? 

Absolutely! Autumn is perhaps my all time favorite time to travel anywhere — and Japan is no different. I think autumn will always be my favorite time to visit Japan!

Things To Do in Japan | Two Wandering Soles

When: early February (2015)

  • Mild winter temperatures (we’re used to very cold winters, and this wasn’t bad for us)
  • Snow in the mountains was magical
  • Even though winter is said to be the best time to view Mount Fuji , she was covered in fog when we visited
  • Onsens were very enjoyable (we had a private outdoor onsen while it was snowing, which was amazing!)
  • Obviously the cities are still busy (because they’re highly populated), but the amount of tourists was lower than other seasons
  • Good deals on accommodation since it was outside of peak season
  • We saw a few plum blossoms in Tokyo that were blooming early, which was a pleasant surprise!

Would we recommend visiting Japan in February?  Yes! I think winter is one of the best times to visit Japan and it’s very underrated. Next time we visit in the winter, I want to add more outdoor onsens and a snowboarding trip in the legendary Japanese powder!

Things to do in Japan Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

While not a large country exactly, Japan spreads more than 1,800 miles (2,900+ kilometers) north to south, from the island of Hokkaido in the northeast all the way down to the island of Okinawa in the southwest.

A distance that large means the weather from north to south varies quite a lot. Hokkaido can be freezing while the subtropical island of Okinawa can be experiencing a beach day.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll mostly be discussing the weather on the island of Honshu. 

Located in the middle of the country, Honshu is where Tokyo , Osaka and Kyoto are all located, and is where most international travelers will start and end their trip, especially if it is your first time in Japan .

Another thing to take into consideration is that Japan is a very mountainous country. Common sense tells us that when you venture to higher elevations, you’ll find colder temperatures.

Fun Example: We went up into the Japanese Alps in August and found a drastic temperature swing: 95°F (35°C) at sea level to 65°F (18°C) in the mountains. This same area has snow until as late as early July. Crazy, huh?!

Psst! If you’ll be traveling more throughout the country, be sure to check out our bucket list of crazy fun things to do in Japan !

Fun Facts about Japan Okunion Cemetery Koyasan

Let’s chat about the sun, the snow, the rain, and those dreaded typhoons. We’ll go over what type of weather you should expect throughout the year and describe our experience with a typhoon.

We’re also going over some important information if you are interested in viewing Mount Fuji.

Spoiler alert: You won’t be able to see this iconic mountain for much of the year.

Stats on Japan weather & seasons:

  • Hottest month in Japan: August (average 80°F/41°C)
  • Coldest month in Japan: January (41°F/5°C)
  • Rainiest months in Japan: June and September
  • Driest months in Japan: December and January
  • Most crowded month in Japan: late April – early May (aka “Golden Week”, explained in the section about Spring )
  • Least crowded months in Japan: January – early March are the least popular times to visit, which can mean cheaper prices and less crowds
Note: Again, these stats are for the central island of Honshu. If you are planning to visit the northernmost island of Hokkaido, or Okinawa in the very south, be sure to look up their specific weather, as they vary from the rest of the county.

Rainy season in Japan: Early Summer

Best Time to Visit Japan Rainy Season

The majority of the country experiences a rainy season from June through mid-July.

The good news is that during the rainy season, there’s a roughly 45% chance of precipitation each day (data from Tokyo), meaning you’ll have some dry days too! Some of those rainy days will be heavy, while others will be sunny before or after the rain.

Interesting Fact: Tokyo is one of the rainiest big cities on earth! In fact, it has more than double the amount of annual rainfall as London. Say whaaaat?!

Despite rain, you’ll find life goes on as usual in Japan, as locals are used to it. Do as the Japanese do and buy an umbrella to stay dry!

Typhoon season in Japan: Late Summer

Late May through October is known as typhoon season in Japan, with the majority of typhoons occurring in August and September. Data from the last 30 years show that an average of 11 typhoons approach the coast per year.

What is a typhoon?

A typhoon is a tropical cyclone. They are formed in the same way a hurricane forms, and the only real difference is the location at which they occur .

What is a typhoon like in Japan?

We visited Japan during the month of August, which as you now know is the peak of typhoon season. And one typhoon made landfall during our visit.

So how bad was it, really?

This was our experience: 

The entire day leading up to the typhoon was sunny with blue skies, and we both had this feeling that it wouldn’t be that bad.

But everyone was talking about it and how strong it would supposedly be. There was talk about trains shutting down, and we had a food tour cancel on us because restaurants were closing up shop.

But it’s beautiful outside, we thought naively. We put on rain jackets, grabbed our one umbrella and headed into town just as a drizzle began to start.

Soon, the winds increased and the rain started really coming down. But the trains still ran, and we decided to go catch a movie. By the time we got out of the show, the streets were mostly empty and the rain was really pounding, so despite our umbrella and rain jackets, we got completely soaked.

By the next morning, blue skies started peeking out from behind clouds and by the afternoon you would never know what had happened the previous night.

What to expect: Heavy rainfall and high winds, canceled and/or delayed trains, canceled tours. In some cases, it may only interrupt a day or two, and in others it might have longer-lasting effects. You should expect some plans to change since Japanese people take typhoons very seriously.

Best time of year to view Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji Japan

Many visitors to Japan will want to glimpse the country’s most famous mountain, and for good reason — it’s absolutely stunning. Well, we think it is. We’ve only seen her beauty in photos.

One thing many first-time visitors to Japan may not realize (ourselves included) is that Mount Fuji is notoriously shy. This means there is much of the year where your chances of seeing her are rare. Instead, this shy mountain will stay cloaked behind clouds and haze, only occasionally peeking through.

So what time of year will you have the best chance of seeing Mount Fuji?

  • Best chances of seeing Mount Fuji: Based on data from years past, you will have the highest chance of seeing Mount Fuji between the months of November and February.
  • Worst chances of seeing Mount Fuji: Alternatively, between April and August, you will have a slim chance of glimpsing this iconic mountain.

That said, nothing is promised when it comes to weather. 

We visited Japan for the first time during early February, when we should have had a good chance of seeing Fuji. We spent the night in Hakone and bought the (not so cheap!) Hakone Day Pass to get close to the mountain, yet we only saw WHITE FRICKIN’ CLOUDS.

Best Time to Visit Japan Viewing Mount Fuji

And on the other hand, we’ve known people who have seen Fuji peek out during July and August, supposedly bad months for viewing the mountain.

But if you’re looking to get that iconic shot of a clear sky day and the mountain towering in the background in her famous symmetrical grandeur, late autumn through early spring will be your best bet at capturing this sight.

Psst! Check out our list of the most beautiful places in Japan you’ll have to see to believe!

Japan’s seasons at a glance

Japan has 4 distinct seasons: The winter is cold and the summer is hot. If either of those would bother you, it’s easy to eliminate a season right off the bat.

Spring is famously known for stunning displays of cherry blossoms around the country . But when we say famous, we mean it. Japan gets very busy this time of year with domestic and international travelers, so if crowds bother you, this is another easy elimination.

Fall comes with spectacular autumn foliage , and while not as crowded as cherry blossom season, it’s not an unpopular time to travel.

Jump to the season you’re interested in to read more about what to expect:

Winter in Japan

Spring in japan, summer in japan.

  • Autumn in Japan

We’re going to go over what to expect during each season in detail so you can better plan your trip to Japan.

But before we dive in…

Did you know there are 72 “seasons” in Japan?

The traditional Japanese calendar was split up into 24 sections, and each of those were further divided into 3 subsections, creating 72 “micro seasons” .

These micro-seasons last 5 days, and the names of some of them are poetic:

  • Frogs start singing (May 5th – 9th)
  • Great rains sometimes fall (August 3rd – 7th)
  • Dew glistens white on grass (September 8th – 12th)
  • Insects hole up underground (September 28th – October 2nd)
  • Maple leaves and ivy turn yellow (November 2nd – 6th)

While this isn’t necessarily something people go by in modern times, it’s a good reminder that the weather and atmosphere changes very often in Japan and it’s important to be prepared for it all.

Best Time to Visit Japan Winter in Japan

During the winter months, major cities like Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto tend to enjoy mild temperatures, but you can find snow and colder temps in the mountains and on Hokkaido (the northernmost island in Japan).

Crowds tend to be fewer during the winter season, except for at the ski resorts where outdoor enthusiasts will be spoiled with some of the best powder in the world.

Winter comes with sunshine and blue skies that are statistically the clearest they’ll be all year long.

While winter may not be the first season you think of traveling, there’s actually a ton to do, and we think it is a great time to visit Japan .

  • When is winter in Japan?  December – February
  • Typical weather in Japan during the winter:  Dry, cold, & sunny
  • Average winter temperatures:  35 ° F – 55 ° F (Tokyo) (2 ° C – 13 ° C)
  • least crowded season
  • Japan has great snow for skiing and snowboarding
  • great time for onsens, snow monkeys and seeing scenic landscapes & villages dusted in snow
  • cold weather, averaging around 43°F (6°C)
  • some outdoor activities, like hiking and biking may be more difficult in the winter

Winter months at a glance

  • December:  Third coldest month of the year, lots of Bonenkai (“forget the year”) parties and celebrations. Ski season begins in Sapporo.
  • January:  Coldest month of the year, clear and sunny skies, snowy in the northern part of the country, best month for skiing and winter activities.
  • February:  Second coldest month of the year, still great for skiing in the mountains, yet you can start seeing spring plum blossoms further south in the country.

Best things to do in the winter in Japan

Best Time to Visit Japan Snow Monkey Hot Spring

We have a huge list of all the best things to do during winter in Japan , but here are some highlights:

  • Go skiing or snowboarding
  • Visit traditional villages like Shirakawa-go , which is stunning after a fresh show
  • Go to the Sapporo Snow Festival (held for one week in February)
  • Soak in an onsen (natural hot spring)
  • Fill your belly with hot ramen noodle soup
  • See “snow monkeys” at Jigokudani Monkey Park
  • View Mount Fuji
  • Photograph famous sights with a blanket of snow
  • Check out some of Tokyo’s best activities that take place indoors

Best times and places to ski in Japan

  • Sapporo:  December – March
  • Nagano:  January – February

Winter is the best season to travel to Japan if…

  • …you don’t mind colder temperatures
  • …you want to ski or snowboard
  • …you want to avoid the crowds
  • …you want to save money and travel during off-peak season

What to pack for winter in Japan

  • Lots of layers, including a versatile jacket, gloves and a hat
  • Warm and comfortable footwear and socks
  • Sunglasses (remember, this season has the sunniest days!)
  • Hand warmers (you can buy these pretty much everywhere in Japan)
  • Ski gear (if needed)

Nakasendo Japan

With stunning  sakura  (cherry blossoms) popping up all around the country and temperatures warming, it should come as no surprise that spring is a popular time to visit Japan. A  very  popular time, indeed.

If you travel to Japan in the spring, you’ll be rewarded with comfortable temperatures, beautiful blossoms, and  crowds .

  • When is spring in Japan?  From March – May
  • Typical weather in Japan during the spring:  Nice during the day, but chilly at night. Mostly sunny days with a more showers near the end of May.
  • Average spring temperatures:  40 ° F – 70 ° F (Tokyo) (4 ° C – 21 ° C)
  • comfortable temperatures
  • beautiful cherry blossoms
  • crowded (make travel plans far in advance!)
  • things may be more expensive since it is peak season

What is Golden Week in Japan?

“Golden Week” is a series of four national holidays that all fall within the same week from April 29th – May 5th every year.

  • April 29, Showa Day:  birthday of Emperor Showa, who ruled the country during World War II.
  • May 3, Constitution Day ( Kenpo kinenbi ):  called  ,  this is the celebration of the Japanese constitution ratification in 1947.
  • May 4, Green Day ( Midori no hi ):  similar to Earth Day, this holiday honors the environment.
  • Pssst! For everyone else out there wondering why they don’t include young girls in this, there is a “Girls’ Festival” (Hina Matsuri) on March 3rd.

Many Japanese people have holiday from work during this time, so it is a popular time to travel for both international and domestic visitors.

If your trip falls during these dates (or even a bit before and after), you’ll have the unique opportunity to see some celebrations and mingle with lots of Japanese travelers.

But be warned, you should start booking your accommodation well in advance because rooms sell out in popular places, like Kyoto, for example. You’ll also want to reserve seats on trains ahead of your trip, otherwise you’ll be out of luck.

Should you avoid visiting during Golden Week in Japan?

I’m going to be honest, I don’t think we would travel to Japan during Golden Week because of the insane crowds.

If you want to see Cherry Blossom but aren’t excited about the prospect of crowds, we’d urge you to avoid Golden Week, and instead travel to Japan during early March.

When and where can you see cherry blossoms?

Best Time to Visit Japan Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms are only in bloom for roughly one week per location. They bloom at different times throughout the country, so if you want to extend the length of time you can view them, it’s best to travel south to north so you can see them for a longer period of time.

We have an entire guide to how you can see the cherry blossoms during Spring in Japan , but in short, here are some of the best times to go:

  • Fukuoka: Late March – Early April
  • Hiroshima: Late March – Early April
  • Kyoto: First Week of April (very popular)
  • Osaka: First Week of April (very popular)
  • Tokyo: Late March – Early April (very popular)
  • Kanazawa: 1st – 2nd week in April
  • Matsumoto: 2nd- 3rd week in April
  • Sapporo: Late April – Early May

Spring months at a glance

Shirakawa-go Japan

  • March:  Temperatures are still cool, but it noticeably warms throughout the month. Skiing season in the mountains is starting to wind down, and toward the end of the month the first cherry blossoms start to reveal themselves.
  • April:  This is the prime month for cherry blossom viewing, though many Japanese people have a whole week off from work (Golden Week), so most major cherry blossom sites will be incredibly crowded.
  • May:  Very nice weather during the month of May — warm temperatures and sunny skies. Though it is technically the start of typhoon season, strong storms are very rare during the month of May.

Best things to do in the spring in Japan

  • Head to Kyoto to photograph sakura (aka cherry blossoms) of course!
  • Catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji
  • Try some interesting new foods in Japan
  • Take a day trip from Osaka to Hiroshima to check out some of the city’s super important historical sites

Spring is the best season to travel if…

  • …you don’t mind crowds
  • …you want comfortable temperatures (not too cold or too hot)
  • …you want to see the famous cherry blossoms
  • …you can make your bookings well in advance
  • …you don’t mind paying a bit more for hotels and tours during peak season

What to pack for spring in Japan

  • Thicker layers if traveling in March
  • Light jacket for April and May
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Hiking attire if you plan to hit the trails

Best Time to Visit Japan Summer in Japan Swimming

Summer in Japan is the time for festivals and celebrations. The summer spans from June to August, with August being the busiest travel month because school is out and many Japanese people travel over the Obon holiday (August 13-15).

(Unlucky for us, we unknowingly decided to visit Japan for our second time in August…whoops!)

Be prepare on ways to beat the humidity because it can get pretty sticky. Also it’s rainy season and the start of typhoon season, so don’t forget your rain jacket and umbrella

  • When is summer in Japan?  June – August
  • Typical weather in Japan during the summer:  Hot, humid, sticky, and rainy. But not as bad as everyone makes it out to be.
  • Average summer temperatures:  70 ° F – 90 ° F (Tokyo) (21 ° C – 32 ° C)
  • Festivals throughout the country during the summer months
  • Prime season for outdoor activities like hiking
  • great time to try scuba diving in Japan
  • can get very humid
  • rain is common at the beginning of summer (June – mid-July), and typhoons are common at the end of summer (August – September)

How bad is the heat in summer, really?

Best Time to Visit Japan Summer in Japan Hiking

Over the last few years, I’ve realized I don’t handle extreme heat very well. I get tired and crabby much more quickly in the heat. Needless to say, I was very nervous about traveling to Japan during August — the hottest month of the year!

So what was it like?

Well, it did get pretty hot, like 98°F hot (37°C). And it did rain on us a few times but typically it would only last for 20-30 minutes and the rain would stop.

Some days were worse than others. After a rain, for example, it was actually pretty comfortable.

We’ve heard that summer in Tokyo is similar to summer in NYC, hot and humid. And Osaka in summer is similar to Washington D.C. in the summer, which is even more hot and humid. 

Knowing what to expect is half the battle , and this way you can prepare yourself for it.

All of our accommodation (even in tiny villages) had strong AC, so we never had an issue with being comfortable at night.

Summer months at a glance

  • June:  The beginning of the month is quite nice, comparable to the weather in May. However,  tsuyu  (rainy season) starts around mid-June and last for about a month. It’s not rainy all day but there is a June gloom feeling that hangs around. Temperatures get warmer and the humidity increases as the month progresses.
  • July:  Starts out rainy because of  tsuyu  (rainy season), this only lasts until mid-July. Temperatures and humidity continue to rise as this is typically the second hottest month of the year. Great time to see festivals including Kyoto famous Gion Matsuri festival.
  • August:  The hottest month of the year in Japan. August is a good time to venture into the mountains to escape the heat. Many Japanese have August 13th-15th off because of Obon holiday, so try to avoid this time because it can get busy.

Best things to do in the summer in Japan

Best Time to Visit Japan Summer in Japan

  • Check out Tokyo’s digital art museum on a day that’s too hot or rainy to be outside
  • Enjoy festivals including Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri and Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri
  • Go hiking through the Japanese Alps or venture up to Hokkaido
  • Scuba diving (apparently the diving is actually really good in Japan!)
  • Head to the beach
  • Watch a baseball game
Ever thought of going  scuba diving in Japan ?  Being an island nation, the diving in Japan is actually quite good, and being an off the radar scuba destinations means less crowded dive sites! If you are visiting Japan in the summer time, you’ll have the best conditions for diving all over the country.

Summer is the best season to travel if…

  • …you don’t mind humidity and a bit of rain
  • …you like outdoor activities like hiking and biking
  • …you want to experience cultural festivals

What to pack for summer in Japan

  • Anti-chafing cream
  • Hand-held fan (you can buy these all over and they make a nice Japanese souvenir )
  • Deodorant, finding quality deodorant in Japan is very difficult (we switched to natural deodorant several years ago and will never go back!)
  • Light, loose clothing that wicks sweat
  • Umbrella for rain and shade

Fall in Japan

With typhoon season peaking at the beginning of September, the start of fall in Japan is typically rainy depending on where you are. However, the weather starts to clear up in October and by November the leaves are changing.

We visited Japan in November 2023 and put together this guide to autumn in Japan that’s full of useful info.

  • When is autumn in Japan?  September – November
  • Typical weather in Japan during the autumn:  Rainy in September and beginning of October because of typhoon season
  • Average autumn temperatures:  50 ° F – 80 ° F (Tokyo) (10 ° C – 27 ° C)
  • nice temperatures
  • beautiful fall foliage in countryside
  • September can be a pretty humid and rainy month, but it starts to get better in October

When can you see fall foliage in Japan?

The colorful leaves peak a bit later than other places in the Northern Hemisphere, like North America and Europe. The best display of autumn colors can typically be seen toward the end of November and even through the beginning of December.

You can find past and current reports of fall foliage here .

Autumn months at a glance

  • September:  peak of typhoon season in the southern prefectures, there can be airport and train delays. But it is the month with the least amount of visitors so it will be less busy.
  • October:  rainy in the beginning of the month but the temperatures start to drop making going outside more manageable.
  • November:  cool, crisp and dry time of year. Autumn foliage peaks near the end of November

Best things to do during the fall in Japan

Nara Japan

  • Hike the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail
  • Sneak some views of Mount Fuji
  • See the fall foliage on the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
  • Eat sweet treats like deep fried maple leaves in Minoo Park
  • Travel to Osaka for leaf peeping in the parks

Autumn is the best season to travel if…

  • …you are seeking comfortable temperatures
  • …you would like to see (and photograph!) fall foliage
  • …you want to explore the major cities
  • …you like to avoid crowds
  • …you enjoy cool and crisp air

What to pack for fall  in Japan

  • Umbrella just in case it rains
  • Light jacket for November

Holidays & festivals in Japan

Where to stay in Tokyo | Asakusa Tokyo Japan

It’s a good idea to check the calendar before booking your flight to Japan, as there are many national holidays that can affect your travels.

Some of these festivals will be fun to observe, but they can also mean trains book up quickly and hotels mark up their rates for peak times.

Here are some of the (not all!) big holiday dates to know:

  • January 1:  New Year’s Day (people often travel on the days before and after)
  • February 11:  Foundation Day
  • Around March 20 – 21:  Vernal (Spring) Equinox Day
  • April 29 – May 5:  Golden Week
  • 3rd Monday in July:  Marine Day
  • August 11:  Mountain Day
  • August 13 – 15 : Obon
  • 3rd Monday in September:  Respect for the Aged Day
  • Around September 22 – 23:  Autumn Equinox Day 
  • October 1:  Citizens Day 
  • 2nd Monday in October:  Health and Sports Day
  • November 3:  Culture Day
  • November 23 : Labor Thanksgiving Day 
  • December 23:  Emperor’s Birthday

Festivals in Japan

In Japan, festivals are called  matsuri  and they take place all year long. This is a list of some of the more unique festivals in Japan.

  • Jan 15:  Nozawa Fire Festival , in Nagano, Japan
  • Feb 5-12:  Sapporo Yuki Matsuri  (Snow Festival), Sapporo, Hokkaido
  • Late March:  Sumo Wrestling Spring Basho , Osaka
  • Early June:  The Kaiko Kinenbi , Yokohama Port Opening Ceremony (Boat Races)
  • July:  Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Matsuri  (Star Festival), Hiratsuka
  • Late July:  Tenjin Matsuri  (Festival of the Gods), Osaka
  • October:  Warai Festival  (Laughing Festival), Wakayama

Best time of year to travel to Japan based on activity

Check the list below to find the activities you’re most interested in doing while in Japan. See what time of year is best to help you decide when to plan your trip.

  • Photography:  Spring or Fall
  • Beating the crowds:  Winter
  • Hiking:  Spring, Summer or Winter
  • Skiing/Snowboarding:  Winter
  • Onsens:  Winter, Spring or Fall
  • Scuba Diving:  Summer
  • Beach Hopping:  Summer
  • Spotting Mount Fuji:  Late Fall, Winter, early Spring
  • Festivals and Celebrations:  All year!

In our opinion…

Us wearing Yakata that was provided by our guesthouse.

We’ve traveled to Japan in both the summer and the wintertime, and each had its own pros and cons.

Summer was hot and humid—like really humid—so we found ourselves sweating through our shirts daily. But we’ve been in hot and humid climates before, so honestly, it wasn’t anything we hadn’t dealt with before. But still, it wasn’t all that pleasant, and it wouldn’t be our season of choice.

The wintertime was picturesque in the countryside where the snow stuck to the ground. And in the big cities, we actually got many sunny, blue sky days which was a surprise. The cold temperatures made it fun to pop into cozy noodle shops or soak in hot onsens, whereas those activities were not quite so pleasant in the August heat.

We preferred winter over summer, because the crowds were fewer and we’re accustomed to cold weather, so we found it to be quite mild actually.

However, if we were able to choose, we would without a doubt, travel to Japan in the fall: early November, specifically.

November has a smaller chance of rain than October, and more comfortable temperatures than December.

The temperatures will have cooled off from the crazy summer humidity, yet it wouldn’t be too cold for hiking. It wouldn’t have quite the same crazy crowds as cherry blossom season brings. And fall foliage in Japan is something we’ve been dreaming about seeing!

Alternatively, early March would offer the beginnings of cherry blossom season, comfortable weather, and less crowds than those you’ll find late April and early May during Golden Week.

What to pack for traveling to Japan

Mt Fuji Japan autumn

We know it can be overwhelming packing for a trip to a new destination. That’s why we spent hours creating this super helpful PDF just for you.

In this FREE Japan packing list PDF download , we’ve provided packing checklists for everything from clothing and toiletries (for both women and men!) to what shoes to pack and extra stuff you may want to have on-hand just in case.

Plus, we’re sharing tons of packing hacks and tips for traveling in Japan that you won’t find anywhere else!

Japan Packing List PDF download | Two Wandering Soles

Other resources for planning your perfect trip to Japan

  • Japan Rail Pass: Where to Buy & Is It Worthwhile?
  • Trip to Japan Cost: Tips for Budget Travel in Japan
  • Japan Pocket Wifi vs. Japanese SIM Card: Review & Comparison
  • Best Japan Travel Apps
  • Essential Japan Travel Tips & Fun Facts
  • Ultimate Japan Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know for Your First Trip to Japan

Are you planning a trip to Japan?

We have TONS of resources on travel in Japan and destinations throughout the country. Check out our  Ultimate Japan Travel Guide  for all the answers to your most burning questions, or read some of our favorite articles below.

  • How to Purchase a Japan Rail Pass Ticket
  • Fun Foods to Eat in Japan: Guide to Japanese Cuisine
  • Best Things to Do in Tokyo
  • Crazy & Fun Things to Do in Japan

Save this article to Pinterest for later!

Best Time to Visit Japan | Two Wandering Soles

We’d love to hear from you!

What season sounds best to you? Why? Do you have any more questions after reading this article? We’ll try our best to bet back to you!

Comments (10) on “ Best Time to Visit Japan: When to Go & When to Avoid! ”

Such a nice article. Thanks for sharing

Thanks, buddy, I really want to visit Japan, and your post makes me more excited about the Japan tour

Thank you so much!! Love the recommendations and help!! Will Use this to Plan my trip

It was a nice post. Pictures were overwhelming !!!!!!

I want to travels Japan

Thanks for sharing

Awesome tips! 👌 My question would be, is there any pro or cons going the last week in May to beginning of June. Looking at 2 weeks. Fukuoka & Tokyo. 😊 TIA!

Want to visit Japan for a conducted tour of 15 days and am thinking of mid September to early October.

Very well article. Thank you very much. This is the first article I read for the trip we are planning. The details were amazing. 🙂

Where was the picture under “summer months at a glance” (with Katie walking up the steps) taken? It’s absolutely beautiful, and I’d love to go there when I visit!

At first, all your pictures are Wonderful. Nice interpretation?

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

10 Best Things to Do in Tokyo in Winter

Tokyo Station with snow

Bryce was born in California, and raised near Seattle, Washington! He’s been living in Japan for about 5 years now, the first 3 spent studying at Temple University Japan. His main passion in life is writing and producing music, more specifically EDM if anyone is curious! He is very fond of snowboarding, cooking, traveling, playing video games; all of which he’d ideally enjoy with the company of his great friends. 

This post may contain some affiliate links. When you click through and make a purchase we may receive some commission, at no extra cost to you.

When you consider Tokyo ’s vibrant synergy of old traditions and futuristic elements, the city is already an everyday phenomenon – and during the holidays it becomes a wild and unique display of all things wintery. Among mesmerizing light displays, festivals , fireworks and Christmas markets, there is certainly no shortage of ways to enjoy the colder season. No matter what your idea of winter fun is, you’ll surely find something entertaining to do in Tokyo!

1. See the Illuminations 

2. visit tokyo disneyland & disneysea, 3. shop at christmas markets, 4. relax at an onsen, 5. do hatsumode: first shrine or temple visit of the year, 6. go ice skating, 7. take advantage of the sales, 8. watch fireworks with an amazing backdrop, 9. warm up with some ramen, 10. visit the asakusa hagoita fair, find the other tours, other articles you might be interested in.

travel to japan during winter

Illuminations are a wonderful part of Japan’s winter culture. Many westerners are accustomed to neighborhoods being lit up during the holidays in their home countries, but Japan takes illuminations to a whole other level! From gardens and tree-lined streets to tall towers and other prominent landmarks, Tokyo illuminations see no limit! There are even entire theme parks, like Yomiuri Land , that partake in the illumination festivities. The city’s magnificent light displays will be hard for you to miss if you plan to venture anywhere in Tokyo during winter.

travel to japan during winter

Christmas in Japan is celebrated quite differently than what is custom in western countries! Rather than focusing on religion or on sharing food and opening gifts with your family, Christmas in Japan is about spending time with your significant other. Christmas is easily one of the biggest holidays in the world, but it’s enjoyed in many different ways, and Disney is one such place to celebrate the season. Head to Tokyo Disney Resort between November 8th and December 25th for a very Christmassy experience!

Christmas market shiba park

Get an authentic taste of Germany at one of Tokyo’s Christmas markets ! These bustling events are usually full of stalls selling German delicacies such as sausages, sauerkraut, glühwein (hot wine), pretzels and much more! They’re also a pretty good place to pick up some Christmas gifts, especially the market at the Red Brick Warehouse in Yokohama . This market is probably the most well-known in the Tokyo area, but others, like the ones at Hibiya Park and Yebisu Garden, offer a similar array of fun!

Woman in onsen

The perfect pairing: chilly weather and a hot bath. Onsen are probably the most relaxing part of Japanese culture, and certainly not a something to be missed in winter. Onsen are basically natural hot springs, which can be found all across Japan. Onsen facilities can be extremely luxurious – traditional ryokan accommodations might even offer sleeping quarters with a private in-room onsen. Some onsen are open-air, boasting incredible views and soothing aesthetic designs. This is the ultimate Japanese way to get warm after a cold day out!

travel to japan during winter

A wholesome, spiritual tradition at the beginning of the year, hatsumode is held at Shinto shrines , and even sometimes Buddhist temples , across the country. The main idea is to show gratitude for the previous year’s good health and successes, and to pray for their continuation in the year to come. You will have no issues finding a place to perform hatsumode as there are many shrines scattered around Tokyo. Some shrines are huge and some extremely popular, but there’s also plenty of quieter, local ones. Whatever your preference is, ring in the new year with a feeling of gratitude and wishes for good fortune in the year to come.

travel to japan during winter

Ice skating can be done at quite a few locations around tokyo! Remember that Christmas market at Red Brick Warehouse in Yokohama? Well, there’s a great ice rink there as well, and it’s super popular and fun! The rinks are usually near some of Tokyo’s great attractions such as SkyTree , Midtown and Meiji Jingu . If you love ice skating, you’ll surely be able to add it to your Tokyo itinerary without having to go out of your way!

travel to japan during winter

Not everyone likes holiday shopping, but for those of you who do, Tokyo is no exception when it comes to seasonal shopping hype! In general, Tokyo is an incredible place to shop, with pretty much everything you could ever imagine, for sale here. Get the perfect gift for your friends, family, or even yourself, with this great list of holiday shopping options ! There are plenty of sales and seasonal bargains up for grabs, so make sure to do your homework so you don’t miss out!

Rainbow bridge tokyo fireworks

Odaiba is a unique neighborhood constructed on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay, and one great thing about December is that fireworks are set off near Odaiba’s Rainbow Bridge every Saturday. The Rainbow Bridge is an impressive sight in itself, which only gets more epic against a backdrop of fireworks. If you didn’t know already, Japan takes its firework displays very seriously, making every show an amazing experience. The Japanese have a knack for being pretty meticulous, which is emphasized beautifully in these works of art!


Ramen , originally a Chinese delicacy, has developed its own culture here in Japan. In fact, many people now seem to associate ramen with Japan rather than China, and either way, you definitely have to try it during your trip. Ramen is a tasty, filling noodle dish with incredibly flavorful broth and delicious toppings. There are many different varieties, with some of the main ones being shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), tonkotsu (porkbone) and miso (fermented soybean paste). Ramen can be found in every Tokyo neighborhood, and there are even some Michelin-starred ramen restaurants if you want to try the best of the best!

travel to japan during winter

Head over to Asakusa from December 17th to December 19th and check out the Hagoita Fair! Hagoita are wooden paddles with handles that were originally made for a game similar to badminton, but at the fair, they are usually elaborately decorated with images of kabuki actors, movie stars and other celebrities. The hagoita are more decorative than functional nowadays, but they are supposed to bring good luck, so the fair is well-visited. If you go, remember that it’s customary to clap your hands along with the merchant when a sale is made.

Find out the top 10 tours in Tokyo▼

travel to japan during winter

Japan Wonder Travel Tours in Tokyo

Japan Wonder Travel is a travel agency that offers guided tours throughout Japan.  From private walking tours to delicious Food and Drink tours, we can help organize the best tours just for you! If you want to explore Japan and learn more about the history and backstories of each area you are traveling in, our knowledgeable and friendly guides will happily take you to the best spots!  In addition, we can provide you with any assistance you may need for your upcoming trip to Japan, so please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or need some help! 

▶ Tokyo Fish Market Tour @Tsukiji – Enjoy Local Food and Drink Explore the most lively and popular fish market in Tokyo, where you will have the chance to try some of the local’s favorite street foods and sake along with your friendly English-speaking guide! 

tsukiji tour

▶ Tokyo 1–Day Highlights Private Walking Tour (8 Hours) There’s no better way to explore an area than taking a tour with a knowledgeable local guide. You will have the chance to learn about the history and interesting background stories of Tokyo, as well as discover some hidden gems which can be hard to do without a guide.

Asakusa Tokyo private tour

▶ Shinjuku Bar Hopping Tour: Experience Tokyo’s Nightlife in Izakaya Check out the best spots in Shinjuku while bar hopping through the lively and vibrant area. Try some delicious local food and drink as you explore the narrow yet photogenic alleys that the town has to offer. Experience Japanese izakaya culture and drink in Shinjuku like the locals!


▶ Tour Packages If you want to make travel easier, we suggest you look into tour packages.There are a wide range of tour packages out there to suit the accomodate for each traveler needs. Click the button below to find the best tour package from various Tour Operators!

travel to japan during winter

Follow us on  Instagram ,  Facebook ,  Twitter , and  TikTok  for more travel inspiration. Or tag us to get featured!

Happy traveling!

Stay informed of the best travel tips to Japan, the most exciting things to do and see, and the top experiences to have with the Japan Wonder Travel Newsletter. Once every two weeks we will introduce you to our latest content.

travel to japan during winter

  • Popular destinations
  • Hidden places in Japan
  • Tours and workshop
  • Food and drink in Japan
  • Itinerary in Japan
  • Places to visit in Tokyo
  • Food and drink in Tokyo
  • Seasonal events
  • Tours & workshops
  • Tokyo This Week
  • Day trip from Tokyo
  • Itinerary in Tokyo
  • Places to visit in Kyoto
  • Food and drink in Kyoto
  • Itinerary in Kyoto
  • Day trip from Kyoto
  • Travel tips
  • Accommodation
  • Cultural tips
  • Transportation
  • Kimono Rental
  • Tokyo Food Tours
  • Kyoto Food Tours
  • Tokyo Private Tours
  • Kyoto Private Tours
  • Fukushima Tours
  • Mount Fuji Tours
  • Tour Package
  • Media Kit(English/日本語)

10 Best Places to Visit in Japan in Winter 2023-2024

Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Japan during Winter

travel to japan during winter

Planning a trip to Japan? Are you wondering which season to visit??

Visiting Japan in winter is one of the greatest options as you can enjoy numbers of seasonal attractions and activities only this time of the year!

From snow events to winter illuminations, the winter in Japan offers some of the most spectacular scenery that you may wanna see once in your lifetime!

Check out my picks of the 10 best places to visit in Japan during winter 2023-2024 and find where to go in Japan in winter!

1. Abashiri Drift Ice

Winter phenomena: Drift Ice can be seen in Hokkaido

Hokkaido is the coldest city in Japan, and various kinds of spectacular winter phenomena and scenery can be captured in this northernmost land during the cold season. The drift ice is one of them (Ryuhyo in Japanese). The Sea of Okhotsk along Abashiri City, Hokkaido is known as the southernmost point see drifting sea ice just like in the Arctic.

Visitors can take the ice breaker sightseeing ship and watch the dynamic drift ice in close for the limited time of the year.

Related link: https://ms-aurora.com/abashiri/en/

2. Sapporo Snow Festival

Sapporo Snow Festival at night

Winter in Hokkaido is really cold, yet it’s definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world. The world’s famous Sapporo Snow Festival takes place in the capital city, Sapporo for 2 weeks and turns the whole city into the dreamy winter wonderland.

Over 2 million visitors attend the event every season from Japan and overseas and they are indulged with spectacular snow and ice sculptures.

More info: Sapporo Snow Festival

3. Ginzan Onsen

Ginzan Onsen: one of the most scenic Onsen towns in Japan

Winter is arguably the best season to enjoy Onsen (hot spring bath) as there is nothing better than soaking up our bodies in a hot bath when it’s cold outside. Moreover, to enjoy it in even better way could be in snow. There are hundreds of Onsen towns in Japan, but if you wish to enjoy snowy Onsen experience, definitely head to north.

Ginzan Onsen in Yamagata Prefecture is one of the most historical and picturesque Onsen towns in Japan. The town offers an amazing preserved nostalgic townscape from 19th century and has been featured on numbers of medias in past. It was chosen as “Japan’s most charming winter village” by CNN.

More info: Ginzan Onsen: Nostalgic Hot Spring Town from 19th Century

Illuminated snow monsters in Zao

Winter phenomena can be captured in Japan, not only in Hokkaido, and one of them can be seen at a popular ski resort in northern Japan. Zao’s ice trees (Juhyo) is one of the most unique and spectacular snow arts made by nature.

Hundreds of snow monsters covered the slope at Zao Ski Resort, and visitors can actually enjoy skiing and snowboarding passing by the trees. At night, the snow monsters are lit up and displays mystical winter scenery.

More info: Zao Onsen: Meet the Snow Monsters

5. Kamakura Festival

The row of small Kamakura in Yunishigawa Onsen

Besides Sapporo Snow Festival, numbers of snow events are held in the northern part of Japan during winter. Kamakura is one of the traditional winter items in Japan which is a dome shaped snow sculpture in various sizes. Yunishigawa Kamakura Festivals is held annually at Yunishigawa Onsen Town in Tochigi Prefecture.

The event features countless small Kamakura domes lightened up dreamy during the night. The event runs for a month from February to March and offers several fun snow activities to visitors.

More info: Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Festival

6. The Icicles of Misotsuchi

The natural art in winter: icicles of Misotsuchi

Another winter phenomena in Japan, and this one is more accessible from Tokyo. The icicles of Misotsuchi is gigantic icicles created by flowing water over the cliffs upstream from the waterfall in Chichibu area in Saitama Prefecture, which is located next to Tokyo.  During the peak season, the special light-up event is held and lightens up the icicles mystically.

More info: The Icicles of Misotsuchi: Take a Winter Day Trip from Tokyo

7. Jigokudani Monkey Park

travel to japan during winter

Besides Mount Fuji and Cherry Blossoms, one of the most iconic and unique scenery of Japan is the Snow Monkeys. The sight of wild monkey bathing in hot bath surrounded by white snow can be captured at Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano Prefecture.

The snow monkeys literally live around the park so you can meet them through the year, but the best season to visit is definitely winter. It’s located in Yamanouchi Town, in the Shiga Kogen Highland on the Japanese Alps.

More info: Meet the Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park

8. Nabana no Sato

travel to japan during winter

Numbers of illumination events are held across the country through winter, and it’s now a top tourist attraction in Japan among locals and tourists. One of the most spectacular and popular winter illuminations is held at Nabana no Sato, the amusement park in Mie Prefecture.

Approx 8 million LED lights are used to create the stunning arts of lights at the vast park including the famous the “Tunnel of Lights”. The illumination event runs from mid autumn till early spring annually.

More info: Nabana no Sato: Spectacular Winter Illumination

9. Shirakawago

travel to japan during winter

Shirakawago Village is a charming and rustic traditional Japanese village located in Gifu Prefecture, the Central Japan. The village displays the beautiful scenery in each season collaborating with the surrounding nature.

In winter, the snow covers the whole village and creates a wonderful view. The special light-up events are held several times during winter.

More info: Shirakawago: the Best Time to Visit

10. Kifune Shrine

The approach of Kifune Shrine covered by snow

Kyoto is the top tourist destination in Japan through the year, and there are hundreds of historic sites to visit. Kifune Shrine is one of the best hidden gems in Kyoto. The shrine can be enjoyed all year around but winter could be the best time to visit. The light-up event is held at night during January and February only when it snows.

More info: Kifune Shrine: New Travel Destination in Kyoto

How did you enjoy the list? For more beautiful places in Japan in other seasons, please check out listed articles!

travel to japan during winter

▽Related Articles▽

17 Coolest Places to Visit in Tokyo

▼Editor’s Picks▼

15 Most Beautiful Places in Japan

  • Things to Do

Two Monkeys Travel Group

The Best Places to Visit in Japan During Winter [Japan Winter Destinations]

If you’re planning to have an aesthetic and wonderful winter experience, you should go to Japan . Japan has some of the best winter locations you could find.

Best Locations to Visit During Winter Season in Japan

Japan is one of those countries that you can visit any time of the year since every season in this country offers different experiences for tourists. Aside from the cherry blossom season during spring, and the Fireworks festival during summer, the winter season in Japan offers the same excitement and lovable experience. And for that reason, we created an article that would give you an idea of what to do and visit during the cold season. So if you’re planning to visit Japan during winter, expect to have a unique experience!

  • Best Cat Cafes in Tokyo, Japan [ With Tips and Rates Included]
  • How to Apply For A Single Entry Japan Tourist Visa with Your Philippines Passport
  • How to Teach English in Japan – English Teacher Jobs in Japan
  • Things To Do in Shibuya, Japan – Tokyo’s Special District
  • How to Apply For A Japan Multiple-Entry Tourist Visa with Your Philippines Passport

Table of Contents

Winter Locations in Japan that You Must Visit

1. shirakawa-go, gifu.

Best Locations to Visit During Winter Season in Japan

The Shirakawa-go Village in Gifu is a must-visit in Japan, especially during the winter season. It is a  charming small village that literally looks like a painting that came to life. Listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawa-go Village has Japan’s unique “gasshou-zukuri” structured houses. Some of these houses are more than 250 years old. During the winter season, the snow covers the whole village that makes it really picturesque. There are also special light-up events held during this time of the year.

Suggested Tour: Takayama and Shirakawa-go Day Trip from Nagoya

2. Abashiri Drift Ice, Hokkaido

Best Locations to Visit During Winter Season in Japan

It is not new to most of us that Hokkaido is the coldest city in Japan. And what can be seen in this city aside from snow during the winter season? That’s the drift ice (‘Ryhuhyo’ in Japanese) that float atop the ocean surface on the Sea of Okhotsk in Abashiri City. This phenomenon occurs around mid-January until March, but only a limited time to really see it in action. To witness this, you can take one of the Aurora sightseeing ships that depart from Abashiri Port.

Suggested Tour: Hokkaido Enjoy Pass

3. Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido

Best Locations to Visit During Winter Season in Japan

One of the popular cities in Hokkaido, Sapporo is another place in Japan that you should visit during the winter season. The ever-popular Sapporo Snow Festival happens in 2 weeks, from early to mid-February and it makes the whole city looks like a winter dreamy wonderland. This event attracts more than 2 million visitors every year (both local and foreign tourists). Seeing magnificent ice and snow sculptures is one of the things you shouldn’t miss while you’re in Japan during the winter season.

4. Ginzan Onsen, Yamagata

  View this post on Instagram   A post shared by VOYAGED by 9GAG (@voyaged) on Feb 23, 2020 at 1:41am PST

‘Onsen’ or hot spring bath is one of the best things someone could visit during the cold season. And Ginzan Onsen in Yamagata Prefecture is absolutely the best winter locations in Japan that you could go to. This onsen in Yamagata is one of the most historical and beautiful Onsen towns in Japan. This town was founded 600 years ago and offers an amazing preserved townscape from the 19th century. If you’re familiar with the world-famous animated movie “Spirited Away”, Ginzan Onsen was the inspiration of the movie’s mythical town.

Suggested Tour: Ginzan Onsen Experience with Hojuzan Risshaku Temple Visit

5. Kobe City, Hyogo

Best Locations to Visit During Winter Season in Japan

If you want to enjoy spectacular seasonal illumination, Kobe City is the answer. The Kobe Luminarie is the city’s yearly celebration of the festival season. Yes, Tokyo is indeed the home of out of this world LEDs, projection mapping, and fairy lights illumination but the one in Kobe is not to miss as it is also dedicated to the lives of thousands who died during the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995. These lights are believed to symbolize hope, renewal, and recovery.

Suggested Tour: Naruto Whirlpool, England Hill, and Kobe Full Day Tour from Osaka

6. Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano

Best Locations to Visit During Winter Season in Japan

If you’re not aware, Japan’s one of the most visited and unique scenery is the Snow Monkeys. These wild monkeys bathing in natural hot springs at the base of Mt. Fuji surrounded by white snow can be seen in Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano Prefecture. You can actually visit them all year round as they literally live in the park. However, to capture their best moments, you should go here during the winter season.

Suggested Tour: Nagano Snow Monkey Park and Zenko-ji Temple Day Tour with Sake Tasting

7. Nabana no Sato, Mie

Best Locations to Visit During Winter Season in Japan

Plenty of illumination events are held in Japan every year. And it attracts millions of tourists. One of those beautiful illuminations is held at Nabana no Sato in Mie Prefecture. Nabana no Sato is an amusement Park and a Botanical Garden in Mie. About 8 million LED lights are lit up to create amazing arts of lights. When you go here, don’t miss the chance to walk through the popular display of the “Tunnel of Lights.”

Suggested Tour: Nabana no Sato: Spectacular Winter Illumination Ticket in Kuwana with JPY1000 Coupon

8. Kifune Shrine, Kyoto

Best Locations to Visit During Winter Season in Japan

Another winter location in Japan that is surely not to miss. Kifune Shrine in Kyoto is one of the best-hidden gems of the said city. The shrine can be enjoyed all throughout the year but winter is the best time to visit. At night and only when it’s snowing, a light-up event is held on the Shrine and turns everything so dreamy.

9. Zao Ski Resort, Yamagata

  View this post on Instagram   A post shared by JAPAN PRIVATE TOUR Co., Ltd. (@japanprivatetour) on Nov 26, 2017 at 7:56pm PST

One of the best winter locations in Japan that you should visit is the Zao Ski Resort in Yamagata Prefecture. Its unique natural phenomenon called “Juhyo”, which means snow monsters are its main attraction. Hundreds of snow monsters cover the slope at Zao Ski Resort, these “monsters” are actually trees covered in snow and it gives them a ghostly image. Aside from admiring these snow monsters, you can also enjoy skiing and snowboarding passing by these trees.

10. Tokyo’s Winter Illuminations

  View this post on Instagram   A post shared by Tori Yamashita (@toriyamashita) on Jan 10, 2020 at 7:22pm PST

As mentioned earlier, Tokyo is the home of spectacular illuminations. During the winter season, Japan’s capital holds numerous winter illumination displays. Some of the most popular are the ones at Marunouchi and Tokyo Station. These places brighten up that feels so dreamy that only Japan’s innovation can produce.

This is our list of the best winter locations in Japan that would make your next winter experience extra special. If you’ve been to any of these places or if you’re thinking of going here, share with us what you think!

Line seperator

Are you on Pinterest? Pin these!

The Best Places to Visit in Japan During Winter [Japan Winter Destinations]

About the Writer

Fatima Turla2

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: Many of the articles on Two Monkeys Travel Group are guest posts by a number of Approved Contributors and are hosted by Two Monkeys Travel Group. Approved Contributors control their own work and post freely to our site. This includes all text and images that they use within their own work. All contributors are instructed to follow internationally recognised copyright and intellectual property guidelines. Two Monkeys Travel Group takes its own responsibilities very seriously, so if you feel that any part of this work is abusive in any way, please send us an email so that we can investigate - [email protected]

DISCLOSURE: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links. So when you make a purchase we sometimes make a small commission, at no extra cost to you. The cost to you remains the same, sometimes even cheaper if we have negotiated a special deal for our readers.We use all of the companies we have listed here and that’s why they are in this list, but of course we need to keep Two Monkeys Travel Group running as well as it can, which is exactly what you’re helping with if you do decide to buy or book something through an affiliate link! If you have any more questions about the companies we use or any other companies you’re looking at, just email us and we’ll be happy to help. Please see our full disclaimer page for more information.

Written by Fatima Turla

Fatima is a full-time writer of Two Monkeys Travel. Her first major trip was in 2016 and got really interested in traveling. She also enjoys learning languages and other country’s cultures. She has a goal to visit at least one country each year and share her experiences with other people through writing or blogging. Witness her journey by following her on Instagram.

Becoming the First Filipino to Travel the World at Age 77

6 best things to do in nisyros, greece [with suggested tours], 10 best things to do in folegandros, greece [with suggested tours], 10 best things to do in syros, greece [with suggested tours], the 10 best camping sites in luzon that we recommend, related posts, diy travel guide series: land travel from ho chi minh to siem reap, 13 different types of insurance policies in the philippines, yotelair airside – your best choice to sleep during your istanbul layover, visita iglesia in albay, philippines – 7 church in 7 days itinerary, previous post, how to get an eritrea tourist visa in london for british citizens, how to get a cameroon tourist visa in london for british citizens, subscribe to our newsletter.

Receive tips on how you can live a sustainable long-term travel lifestyle!

  • First Name *
  • Name This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Japan Winter Packing List

Ultimate Japan Winter Packing List (2024 Guide)

Disclaimer: This page may contain affiliate links and I may get a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you.

Are you trying to figure out the Japan winter packing list?

Continue to read on because you have come to the right site!

Consisting of five main islands, Japan is a beautiful four-seasoned country with many fascinating attractions, stunning natural splendours , delicious food, and rich culture. 

Thanks to these aspects, you can expect Japan to be visited by foreign travellers all year round including the non-peak travel period in winter. 

But if you are first-time visitors or travellers who originated from tropical climates , chances are you might get slightly overwhelmed when it comes to packing winter wear and accessories for Japan travel.  

I guess the only time one ever needs a down jacket in a tropical country is visiting a snow-themed attraction park. 

Worry not; I have got your back!

Here is the detailed article that I put together on the list of must-have items to bring and handy Japan winter travel tips that you can refer to for a cosy, toasty travel experience.

So let’s dive right in.

Related Articles:

  • Takayama in Winter: All You Need To Know (2023 Guide)
  • Japan Ski Packing List: What To Pack & Useful Tips
  • Best 13 Onsen Ryokan In Kanazawa (For All Traveller Types!)
  • Best 17 Ryokan With Private Onsen In Hakone (2023)
  • Top 23 Snacks In Japan To Try (And Where To Get Them)
  • 16 Best Apps For Travel To Japan (2022 Guide)

Winter Packing List For Japan

  • Wheeled Luggage 
  • Travel Backpack
  • Long Sleeves Top
  • Down Jacket
  • Gloves 

what to wear in japan december snowing

Planning to replace your old winter wear with newer, better models through online shopping at Amazon ?

Sign up for a Amazon Prime 1-WEEK Trial at a mind-blowingly low fee to get your hands on exclusive deals, additional member perks, benefits, and savings!

What Should I Pack For Japan In Winter

1. wheeled luggage.

If you are in the team luggage when travelling overseas, get yourself high-quality wheeled luggage like this classy-looking Samsonite Double Spinner Wheels .

travel to japan during winter

Chances are you are going to bring multiple layers to keep your body warm when visiting Japan in winter. 

And all the little things add up and your luggage gets heavy . 

So, navigate around with a breeze while rolling the wheeled luggage along until you reach your destination in Japan. 

2. Travel Backpack

If wheeled luggage is not your thing, then buy yourself a travel backpack to keep your winter wear. 

Some reliable travel backpacks to opt for include TETON Sports .

travel to japan during winter

Travel tip: Make sure to use packing cubes to pack the thick winter wear to have more space in your backpack. 

3. Thermals

Be sure to include thermals on your Japan winter packing list too. 

Being the base layer, thermals help in conserving the body heat and keeping you warm as you are having fun exploring Japan during the cold season. 

If you are planning to get a complete set of thermals, check out  Thermajane Women’s Thermal  or  Thermajohn Men’s Thermal .

travel to japan during winter

4. Long Sleeves Top

Of course you can’t miss out on some long-sleeved tops when planning your Japan winter itinerary.

These tops can offer an additional layer of warmth against the cold winter breeze while walking down the Japanese cities.

You can get plenty of stylish long sleeves top online, such as Cuddl Duds’s .

travel to japan during winter

If you are not a big fan of the cold season, be sure to include several comfy sweaters on the Japan winter packing list.

Typically made with thicker material, sweaters perform better when it comes to body heat retention and against the chilly wind . 

Among the top sweater choices that you can consider getting are Kingfen Women’s Sweater or Hanes Male’s Sweatshirt . 

travel to japan during winter

6. Long Pants

After getting the upper body part warm and toasty, it is time to move over to the lower limbs. 

One major turn-off while travelling in winter is having cold, wet pants after walking in snow-prone regions. 

So it is always recommended to look for waterproof and breathable long pants lined with fleece. 

For a casual style, consider buying Camel Crown Women’s Fleece Pants or Free Soldier Men’s Cargo Pants .

travel to japan during winter

7. Down Jacket

A down jacket is definitely one of the must-have items to bring on your Japan winter packing list. 

Typically made with duck or goose feathers, wearing a down jacket helps to retain heat and provide warmth for as long as you are wearing it. 

If you are looking to boost your style,  Columbia Women’s Down Jacket   or  Columbia Men’s Down Jacket could be a good fit.

travel to japan during winter

Apart from keeping your head from excessive heat loss in winter, a beanie can be a great fashion prop too!

Get yourself a cute beanie like Furtalk Beanie .

travel to japan during winter

9. Wool Scarf

Wool scarves help to retain heat and keep the neck-chest area warm and cosy against the cold wind and snow. 

Also, wool scarves are more durable and breathable—not to mention more affordable too. 

Check out these stylish wool scarves like Ohayomi Women’s Wool Scarf or Alpine Swiss Men’s Winter Scarf to complement your overall winter while you are looking for the answer to “What to wear in winter in Japan”.

travel to japan during winter

10. Earmuffs

If you have been wondering what other items to include on the winter Japan packing list, earmuffs are one of them. 

Apart from being a cute fashion accessory , earmuffs help keep your ears warm and toasty during winter in Japan. 

travel to japan during winter

Gloves are a crucial winter accessory to have when visiting Japan in winter. 

Be sure to look for touchscreen-friendly gloves so that you can use your phone at ease without taking out the gloves.

travel to japan during winter

12. Wool Socks

Another must-have item on your Japan packing list winter is wool socks . 

As you are exploring the country during the cold season, keep your toes and soles warm and comfy by putting on wool socks.

So get yourself a few pairs of great quality wool socks before going to Japan in winter. 

travel to japan during winter

13. Snow Boots

During winter, the amount of snow produced in Japanese cities varies depending on its location.

Nevertheless, be sure to pack a pair of walking boots so that your feet are always warm and dry when you are walking around. 

The last thing that you want while being in cold weather is to have freezing wet feet, especially in snow-heavy regions. 

The important qualities of walking boots to have are waterproof, lightweight, and comfy. 

So check out  Columbia Women’s Snow Boots  or   Columbia Men’s Snow Boots if you are looking for one.

travel to japan during winter

What To Pack For Winter In Japan: Other Items

1. portable phone charger.

The last thing that you want is to have your phone run out of juice when you are taking nice scenery photos or posing your iconic pose at the Instagrammable spots in Japan. 

Make sure to include a portable phone charger on your packing list Japan winter. 

travel to japan during winter

2. Travel Camera

Want to brush up on your photography skills ? 

Or keen to take spectacular photos of Japan that can make your followers go “Awww. What a nice photo!”?

Regardless of which answer you pick, this comprehensive Canon travel camera bundle seems like a good fit for your Japan trip. 

travel to japan during winter

3. Headphones

Chances are you are going to spend hours travelling from the departure country to Japan. 

Or getting on the shinkansen train services using JR pass hopping around major cities like Tokyo , Osaka , Kyoto , and others.

So fill your journey with your fav music with Anker Soundcore Life Q20 .

travel to japan during winter

4. First Aid Kit

It is always good to have a basic first aid kit when you are travelling overseas. 

5. Lip Balm

Winter conditions in Japan can leave your lips dry and flaky . 

So bring along your trusted lip balm and apply generously after the Japan touchdown. 

6. Toiletries

Don’t forget to bring along your preferred brand of toothbrush, toothpaste, and other toiletries before flying into Japan. 

If you want to organise everything neatly and prevent missing out on any must-have toiletries, get yourself this sleek travel toiletry bag .

travel to japan during winter

7. Laundry Bag

Separate your dirty clothes from the clean ones by using a laundry bag . 

This item is particularly useful when you are planning to stay and explore Japan for 3 weeks or more.

8. Japanese Phrasebook

If you prefer to read a book to kill time, you might consider buying a Japanese phrasebook to learn some basic Japanese words. 

Some shinkansen rides can take up to hours when getting from one Japanese city to another, so have a read, learn a little, and impress the locals with your simple vocab!

Here are some of the recommended phrasebooks : 

  • Lonely Planet Japanese Phrasebook & Dictionary
  • 2000 Most Common Japanese Words in Context
  • Conversational Japanese Dialogues

travel to japan during winter

  • Day Trip To Nara—The Ultimate Nara Itinerary One Day
  • 1 Day Itinerary Osaka—The Best Itinerary To Explore Osaka In 24 Hours
  • The Perfect Kyoto 2-Day Itinerary—Epic Guide To Explore Kyoto
  • Best Day Trip To Hakone From Tokyo: The Ultimate Guide
  • Off The Beaten Path Japan—Top 18 Places That You Need To Discover
  • First Time To Japan: 45 Useful Travel Tips For First Time Traveler
  • What Japan Is Known For: 33 Famous Things To Discover

Essential Japan Travel Tips In Winter

Prepare your japan winter travel packing list earlier .

So now you know what you need to pack for the winter trip. What happens next? 

Make sure to prepare the packing list and decide on what to wear in Japan in winter at least a few weeks before your flight! 

With early planning , you will have enough time to buy the necessary winter wear for the Japan trip. And sometimes at a lower price too. 

Travel tip: Don’t worry if you forget to bring some items—you can get them in the local stores after reaching Japan. 

Use Packing Cubes

The main function of winter wear is to provide or retain warmth against the cold weather. 

And so you can expect most winter wear and accessories to be bulky and thick. 

To save space , make sure to use some packing cubes when you are packing the items.

Pack Slip-On Shoes

The majority of the temples and shrines in Japan require their visitors to remove their shoes before entering the traditional buildings.

For convenience, it is recommended to wear slip-on shoes before heading over to these fascinating religious sites.  

travel to japan during winter

Use Japan’s Luggage-Forwarding Service

If you are bringing lots of luggage when travelling to Japan in winter, consider using the local luggage-forwarding service. 

This reliable service helps users to send their belongings from one place to another at an affordable cost. 

So you don’t have to spend much energy lugging bulky luggage across the airport or through the jam-packed public transportation systems. 

Among the most popular luggage-forwarding service companies in Japan is Yamato Kuroneko .

Travel tip: If you plan to ski in Japan during winter, you can opt for this service to send your heavy ski gear directly from the airport to your ski resort!

Also, don’t forget to bring some Japanese yen before visiting Japan. 

Some establishments in rural areas are only accepting cash as transactions. 

Keep all your travel cards and cash securely using  Lewis N. Clark   RFID Travel Wallet .

travel to japan during winter

Buy Travel Insurance

Of course you shouldn’t miss out on getting travel insurance while you are travelling overseas. 

Disclaimer: World Nomads provides travel insurance for travelers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link . We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.

Rent Pocket Wifi

Want to stay connected with your friends and family members no matter wherever you are in Japan? 

Or perhaps you want to post your beautiful Instagrammable pictures immediately to your social media accounts? 

Then be sure to rent a pocket Wifi device for your Japan trip! 

Travel tip: You can choose to claim the device at the airport or have it sent to your accommodation site.  

packing list japan winter kyoto street

Leave Some Luggage Spaces For Your Japan Shopping Haul

If you are a shopaholic , chances are you are going to have plenty of shopping haul to bring home from Japan! 

So leave some spaces in your luggage to keep the new clothes or bring in additional packing cubes . 

Buy Heat Packs

If you are not a big fan of the winter season and need additional warmth against the cold weather, consider getting yourself some heat packs . 

Locally called “Kairo”, this useful item can be found in most convenience stores or retailers in Japan, including 7-11 and Don Quijote .  

Unmissable Things To Do In Japan During Winter

1. watch the beautiful winter illuminations.

Japan is famous for its beautiful winter illuminations that attract both local and international travellers.  

Get ready to be dazzled by the pretty light displays that lit up buildings, trees, man-made sculptures, and others!

packing list for winter in japan winter illuminations

2. Go For Skiing

Japan is popular among skiers and snowboarders too thanks to the ideal snow conditions for these thrilling outdoor activities. 

Some of the recommended Japanese regions to hit the slopes include: 

  • Niseko in Hokkaido
  • Hakuba Valley in Nagano
  • Naeba in Niigata

Check out my detailed Japan ski packing list if you are keen to experience skiing in winter while you are exploring the country. 

3. Visit Mount Fuji

Do you know that it is not common to see the peak of Mount Fuji even during the day? 

Thanks to the cooler weather and low humidity, this iconic mountain offers greater visibility and plenty of photo opportunities in winter . 

packing for japan winter mount fuji

4. Visit Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park

Another unmissable thing to do in winter in Japan is to visit the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park . 

With the layers of snow covering the surrounding mountain, the stunning backdrop offers great photo spots with the playful monkeys dipping around the park’s natural hot spring.

Travel tip: The monkeys may look cute and friendly. But remember don’t touch or feed the them while you are there. 

5. Have A Dip At Onsen

What’s better than having a relaxing dip in the local onsen to escape the winter chill in Japan? 

Though onsen is popular all year round, visiting one in winter offers a slightly more stunning experience as you get to enjoy the magical snow-filled landscape while having the soak.

Travel tip: Read through the Japanese onsen etiquette to learn more about the local culture and the dos and don’ts .

6. Sign Up For A Food Tour

Reward your palate with the mouth-watering local cuisine by signing up for a food tour while you are in Japan during winter. 

Different Japanese seasons boast different food types. So make sure to experience the tasty must-try winter meals and immerse into the local culture under the guide’s guidance. 

Check out these highly-rated Japanese food tours :

  • Tsukiji Outer Market: 3-Hour Food & Drink Walking Tour
  • Tokyo: Ramen Tasting Tour with Local Ramen Guru
  • Kyoto Nishiki Market Food Tour
  • Osaka: Eat Like a Local Street Food Tour

Japan Winter Packing List food store

FAQs: Winter Packing List Japan

1. best luggage to take to japan .

The public transportation system in Japan is typically crowded, particularly in the major cities. There are limited luggage storage areas on the trains too. 

It is recommended to bring small to medium-sized wheeled luggage or a travel backpack . You can also add on a small messenger bag a duffel bag . 

2. When Is Winter In Japan ?

Japan’s winter duration and intensity depend on the region’s geographical location. Typically, the season starts in early December and ends in mid-March. The temperature of cities located in the centre’s region like Tokyo and Osaka during winter is ranging from 2 to 10 degrees Celsius.  

winter packing list japan tokyo

Japan Winter Packing List: Conclusion

Here you go—a comprehensive article on the Japan winter packing list that you can rely on for your upcoming trip!

Is there any other winter-related apparel or gear to pack that I missed out on? If yes, please let me know. I would really love to hear from you. 

And if you find this article useful, I would appreciate it if you share this with your friends and family members. 

Have fun chilling!

Asian Countries Travel Expert - Sam Lee Travel

Sam Lee, founder of Sam Lee Travel, is a seasoned traveler with over 10 years of experience exploring various Asian countries. Having lived in Singapore for almost a decade, Sam has developed a deep understanding of the culture, customs, and attractions in the region.

With a passion for outdoor travel adventures and water sports, Sam has helped over 25K readers per month plan their trips around Asia, including off-the-beaten-path destinations, offering helpful travel tips and unfiltered personal travel experience.



Places to Visit in Japan During Winter

What to Pack for Winter in Japan: The Ultimate List

Last Updated on November 22, 2021 by hungryoungwoman

Japan is mostly known for its Cherry Blossom season, but what is winter in Japan like? There are quite a few interesting things to do that would be perfect for your winter Japan trip. And I lay exactly that along with this ultimate guide for what to pack for winter in Japan. 

When is Winter in Japan?

Winter in Japan starts from December to February. The temperatures usually range from 3° C – 10° C (37.4° F – 50° F) and rarely drop below 0 degrees. Take note that as you explore the north regions, it is cooler there than it is in the Southern regions. Like Kyoto and Osaka during Japan winter season are usually cooler than Tokyo.

What to Pack for Winter in Japan

What to Pack for Winter in Japan

Since I am from probably the hottest place on Earth (United Arab Emirates), temperatures like 3 degrees really make me cold. Whenever I have to go packing for winter travel, I always keep in mind that I need to make use of space in the best way possible.

Tip: Read the 8 Worst Japan Travel Tips

It is not always feasible to carry your luggage with you at all times and sometimes fitting in heavy jackets might just result in an extra load. I will show you how to pack light for winter travel so when you’re planning places to visit Japan in winter, you won’t have to drag a heavy suitcase between cities with this Japan packing list!


Suitcase organizer.

travel to japan during winter

I extremely love how there are lovely color alternatives available. In case you are feeling dressy, I think this blue number looks stunning. Check it out here!

travel to japan during winter

To complement the color for women, I found these Winter Boots for men that are also available in a range of colors. Find them here.

travel to japan during winter

Fleece Lined Thermal Tights

travel to japan during winter

Extra Comfy and Warm Socks

travel to japan during winter

Now, you don’t want to forget something and have a bad start to your Japan winter holiday. These socks are super comfortable that you might never want to take them off. Here’s how you can get them!

Japan Winter Vacation Necessities:

Toiletries organizer.

travel to japan during winter

I have found this little organizer so important for me, I feel every traveler should have it for themselves especially if only carry-on opportunities are available. See also my gifting guide where I mention this, it has all the best travel gifts for this festive season!

If you like more compartments, this toiletries bag gives you 2 big compartments so you can keep things separate; for example, toiletries and makeup. Really convenient and you don’t have to actually find for stuff when you are in a hurry. Look at the organizer here.

Portable Battery Charger

travel to japan during winter

A powerbank is a MUST in your Japan winter vacation packing list. The reason I absolutely love this portable battery charger is that it can charge 2 devices simultaneously! Click here to see it.

Camera – Canon 750D

I would strongly suggest you carry a camera with you to capture and make memories of visiting Japan in winter. I currently use this camera and it is my favorite since it is not too complicated to shoot and gets decent pictures. It is really my go-to when I see something that sparks my interest and want to photograph it. Click here to see its details.

Japanese Phrasebook

It is always good to make yourself aware of the language and culture of the country you are planning to visit. The Japanese do speak English but there are times when you are going to be in places where it can get difficult for you. Lonely Planet is a trusted guide that has different phrases in Japanese that you might need to speak with the locals in Japan. This book is easy to use and not too complicated.

Find attached a map of the Metro Stations in Tokyo. You might find it overwhelming at first but once you get there, it will be easy to learn and understand how it works.

Holiday Gift Guide Inspiration? Click right here to get the best gifts to impress travelers!

Skiing in Japan during Winter

What to do in Japan in Winter:

I’m sure you must have researched way in advance before your trip, but I have curated a special list of places to visit in Japan during winter so you enjoy the most of this season!

  • Experience Frozen Winterfall and Winter Illumination Show: The best things about traveling during the Japan winter months are the beautiful snow-covered trees and winter illumination shows. I especially like how this tour covers both my favorite spots with even a chance to see the winter waterfall! It’s almost a 12-hour tour but they provide a delicious lunch with a tour guide who can speak in English, Chinese, and Japanese.
  • Watch Mount Fuji as you ski:   It would be a shame to not enjoy the snow by skiing at the Fujiyama Snow Resort Yeti. This tour has a great view of Mount Fuji, an active volcano located in Tokyo. There are coaches for the attendees whether you are a beginner or advanced in skiing. All costumes are provided in addition to transfer between the meet-up point and the Yeti Resort.
  • Watch snow monkeys in the onsen: Next on the list of best things to do in Japan in winter is to take a tour to the Jigokudani Onsen and watch the snow monkeys there play in the snow and bathe in the hot waters. This tour is of one-day duration with lunch, bus fare, and tour guide provided.
  • Take a food tour:   Visiting a country and not doing a food tour would be missing out on an amazing experience! Japan has some of the best foodie cities in Asia so it is a must to experiment with the food culture there. Read this useful guide on best Osaka food tours or if you’re heading to Tokyo, try this tour out.

Where to stay in Japan: 

The hotels in Japan are known for their cleanliness, hospitality, and great service. These are some of the important criteria that most travelers worry about when traveling to a new country. See some of the hotels that you can check out before planning your Japan in winter trip:

  • Toshi Center Hotel: Known for being one of the best-rated hotels in Tokyo, Toshi Center Hotel is perfectly located within a 3 minute walk from Nagatacho Subway Station. You can visit here for more details about the hotel and popular tourist landmarks situated near it.
  • Hyatt Regency Osaka: If you are planning a trip to Osaka and do not mind splurging on the hotel, I’d recommend Hyatt Regency. Apart from the familiar name, Hyatt Regency is conveniently located just a 15-minute drive from Universal Studios Japan and a 3-minute walk from Nakafuto Subway Station. The views are beautiful and the quality of service unmatchable.
  • Hotel Cordia Osaka: Looking for a great hotel that doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket? Hotel Cordia Osaka is just a 5 minute walk from Yodoyabashi Station. Other than all the facilities provided inside the hotel, there is also an onsite restaurant if you’d like to grab breakfast before a day of sightseeing. Click here for more details.

Visiting Kyoto? Here are the best restaurants in Kyoto for your palate! 

What to Pack for Japan in Winter

What to wear in Japan in Winter? 

If you’re faced with this question, I hope this guide has cleared all your doubts about what to wear and what to pack for Japan so you have a wonderful time there. If you have any more items that you think would do on this list, let me know!

Interested in more packing guides? Check these out!

  • What to pack for Dubai
  • What to wear in Italy
  • What to bring on a trip to Europe

Until then, happy traveling! xx

P.S. If you want to save and read later, here’s a pinnable version 🙂

What to Pack for Winter in Japan

Share some love:

travel to japan during winter

13 thoughts on “ What to Pack for Winter in Japan: The Ultimate List ”

  • Pingback: Japan's Sacred Kumano Kodo Walk in Winter | Spiritual Travels

Great list! Japan is actually my next big trip (hopefully), looks like a great time!

Wow! All the best! 🙂

I was unpacking some boxes last week and found one with all my Winter clothes. The first thought that came to mind was ‘when will I wear these again’. There are lovely knitted tops and winter skirts that I will have no use for in Dubai. I had never considered Japan as a winter destination but now I am intrigued.

It’s lovely there during the winters

I LOVE japan. This is such a great list of what to pack. I haven’t been in winter but I would love to go. Definitely will need a warm jacket. I would love to see the snow monkeys!

Yes, Japan is beautiful and each city is so different with things to do!

I never thought of visiting in winter! Thanks for the tips 🙂

Glad I could change your mind 🙂

Everyone always talks about visiting Japan during cherry blossom season, but I think it would be pretty awesome to see it in the winter. I don’t know how to ski but skiing Mt. Fuji would be awesome.

  • Pingback: 15 Best European Destinations in February - hungryoungwoman
  • Pingback: What to Bring to a Trip to Europe for Any Season - hungryoungwoman
  • Pingback: 13 Best Restaurants in Kyoto to Try this Year - hungryoungwoman

I'd love to know your thoughts! Cancel reply

The Points Guy

The best times to visit Japan

There are many reasons visitors flock to Japan , the Land of the Rising Sun.

Here, you can immerse yourself in ancient traditions intertwined with modern innovation while appreciating majestic temples that coexist with bustling city streets. Each season paints a different picturesque landscape, creating something new to admire with every visit.

Given all the unique aspects of this captivating country, deciding on the best time to visit Japan can seem daunting. Fortunately, there are several times that stand out, whether you wish to witness the magical cherry blossom season, visit Tokyo Disney Resort or take advantage of flight and accommodation deals .

Here's everything you need to know about the best times to visit Japan so you can plan a memorable trip based on your priorities.

When to go to Japan for good weather

Japan's weather pattern exhibits four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. Each season offers its own unique attractions and experiences to enjoy.

Spring (March to May) is renowned for its cherry blossoms and comfortable temperatures. With most days hovering between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you'll generally find perfect conditions for outdoor activities like hiking and biking.

Japan's summer (June to August) can be hot and humid, often exceeding 80 degrees. Even with the heat, the season draws visitors keen on trekking the country's stunning mountains and lounging on its beaches. Also, summer's long daylight hours allow ample time to get outside and experience all the country has to offer, including numerous vibrant festivals.

Autumn (September to November) brings a refreshing break from summer's humidity. The temperatures range from 50 to 70 degrees, making it possible to comfortably enjoy various outdoor activities. The changing colors of fall foliage , known as koyo ("red leaves" in Japanese) or momiji (the Japanese word for the red-tinted maple leaves in the fall), transform Japan's landscapes into riotous red, orange and gold hues.

Lastly, winter (December to February) can be cold, especially in the northern regions with heavy snowfall. Despite the chilly conditions — average temperatures sit between 40 and 50 degrees — winter illuminations and opportunities for snow sports in Japan's world-class ski resorts make the season a worthwhile time to visit.

While temperatures vary widely from season to season, each time of year brings noteworthy opportunities. The best time to visit for superb weather ultimately depends on your interests and preferences.

Related: Reader success story: How this couple used travel rewards to cover an epic $50,000 anniversary trip to Asia

Best times to witness Japan's festivals

Japan's festivals, known as matsuri, are colorful, vibrant affairs that provide unique insights into the country's cultural and spiritual life.

One of Japan's most renowned festivals takes place every summer in Kyoto. Gion Matsuri, a monthlong celebration in July, features elaborate processions with traditional yama and hoko floats.

If you're a fan of lively dance, the Awa Odori festival, held every August in Tokushima on Shikoku Island, is a must-see. It's one of Japan's most prominent dance festivals and is part of the Obon season, a Buddhist event that honors the spirits of ancestors. Thousands of dancers fill the streets to perform the characteristic Awa dance while spectators cheer, creating infectious joy and excitement.

As autumn begins, visitors head to Osaka to attend the Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri. Held annually in Kishiwada, this September festival is among Japan's most thrilling. It is known for its danjiri (ornately decorated wooden floats), which local teams pull through the city streets at incredible speeds. This daring festival is a heart-stopping spectacle that symbolizes community strength and unity.

The Takayama Festival, a charming event in the mountainous city of Takayama, is another one you won't want to miss. Taking place twice a year in October and April, the festival showcases traditional Japanese puppet theater, mikoshi processions and stunning lantern displays.

For winter visits, time your arrival around the Sapporo Snow Festival in February. This spectacular event in Sapporo showcases massive snow and ice sculptures, attracting millions of visitors.

Or, end the year with a flourish by partaking in December's Chichibu Night Festival. A fantastic winter event in Chichibu, just 90 minutes northwest of Tokyo, this celebration is considered one of Japan's top festivals featuring floats — and for a good reason. The dazzling floats adorned with intricate woodwork, detailed tapestries and gilded decorations are a sight to behold. Additionally, the festival includes a spectacular fireworks display, adding a sparkling finale to the year.

Best time to see cherry blossoms in Japan

Japan's cherry blossom (or sakura) season is a treasured time when landscapes transform into romantic canvases splashed with delicate pink hues. Sakura season typically begins in late March and runs through early April, though the exact timing varies from year to year and from south to north.

Popular cherry blossom viewing spots include Ueno Park and Chidorigafuchi in Tokyo, Maruyama Park in Kyoto and Hirosaki Park in Aomori. Hanami parties, where people gather under blooming sakura trees for picnics and celebrations, frequently occur during this time of year and shouldn't be missed.

Flower-watching celebrations happen across Japan from mid-March through early May, though peak bloom dates vary slightly depending on location. For 2024, the earliest peak bloom dates are expected by March 26 in Kochi, with peak bloom estimated for March 30 in Tokyo and April 1 in Kyoto. For estimated dates for more than 1,000 viewing locations, see the Japan Meteorological Corporation's 2024 forecast.

Related: The best places to see cherry blossoms around the US

Best time for skiing in Japan

Japan's winter sports scene is internationally recognized thanks to its powdery snow, top-notch facilities and stunning mountain scenery. The onset of snowfall typically occurs in mid-November on the northern island of Hokkaido, resulting in the first ski resorts — usually Niseko, Rusutsu and Kiroro — beginning to open during the third week of that month.

Related: How (and why) to plan a ski trip to Niseko, Japan, with points and miles

The powder snow, renowned in Japan, is usually abundant from December to February. For those seeking optimal powder conditions, January and February are the recommended months to visit. On Honshu, Japan's main island, Nagano — the host of the 1998 Winter Olympics — also offers excellent skiing opportunities at resorts like Hakuba.

Related: Why it might be cheaper to fly abroad to ski

Best times to visit Tokyo Disney Resort

Visiting Tokyo Disney Resort, home of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, is a magical experience for all ages, with thrilling rides, enchanting parades and a chance to meet beloved Disney characters.

The parks are open throughout the year, but if you want to avoid the largest crowds, consider visiting between mid-January and mid-March or between mid-September and mid-November. The weather is generally comfortable during these periods, with fewer local and international tourists.

To truly bypass hordes of tourists, avoid visiting during Japan's major holiday periods, such as Golden Week (late April to early May) and Obon (mid-August), as these are peak times for domestic travel and can result in overcrowded conditions.

Related: A beginners guide to visiting Tokyo: Everything you need to eat, see and do

Cheapest times to visit Japan

For budget-conscious travelers, visiting Japan during the shoulder seasons — late May to early June and late November to early December — can be more economical. These times fall right after Golden Week in spring and autumn's koyo season but before the busy summer and winter holidays. You'll find fewer tourists, so flight prices can be significantly cheaper, costing up to 18% less than the average yearly prices, according to Skyscanner. Hotel rates also historically take a dip in these slower seasons.

In addition to the shoulder seasons, winter is an excellent time to visit when sticking to a tight budget. Japan becomes notably affordable once you steer clear of the holiday season. Moreover, from mid-January to mid-March, you can relish the added benefit of experiencing a less congested environment while out and about.

Related: The best ways to travel to Japan with points and miles

Bottom line

Ultimately, the best time to visit Japan depends on your interests and the experience you wish to have. Whether you want to view the ephemeral sakura, ski down powdery slopes, immerse yourself in vibrant festivals or witness the magic of Tokyo Disney Resort, Japan always has something to offer.

Each season and festival has its unique charm and allure, inviting you to uncover the multifaceted beauty of this incredible nation.

Related reading:

  • 2024 cherry blossom forecast announced for Japan
  • Peak bloom date announced: Best time to see DC's cherry blossoms in
  • The 11 best hotels in Tokyo for your next Japan getaway
  • Teppanyaki: Norwegian Cruise Line's take on the art of Japanese grilling (with menu)
  • The best ways to travel to Japan with points and miles

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Portrait of a Happy Woman on the Streets of Tokyo


  1. 7 Best Ways to Enjoy Japan in Winter

    travel to japan during winter

  2. Hokkaido: Best Things to Do in Winter

    travel to japan during winter

  3. Japan In The Winter

    travel to japan during winter

  4. Japan Kinkaku-ji Kyoto Temple In Lake With Snow During Winter HD Travel

    travel to japan during winter

  5. 10 magical places to see winter in Japan

    travel to japan during winter

  6. Hokkaido: Best Things to Do in Winter 2019

    travel to japan during winter



  2. Just a normal Sunday in Japan during winter #justathome

  3. Winter Ski Snow Resort in Gala Yuzawa #shorts #travel #japan


  1. Winter in Japan

    Visit a temple or shrine on New Years As December comes to an end, the Japanese take a well-deserved holiday, returning to their hometowns and reuniting with their extended families to see in the New Year. On the first day of the year, many locals head to a temple or shrine to pray for good fortune and success in the coming year.

  2. Plan a Japan Winter Trip 2024: Top Experiences & 2 Itineraries

    Winter in Japan is from December to February and the weather is cold and dry. In Sapporo on Hokkaido, the average daily temperature range is from 0°C (32°F) in the warmest part of the day down to -6°C (20°F) at night. While in Tokyo or Kyoto temperatures average above freezing, ranging from 2 to 10°C (36-50°F) on average.

  3. Top 8 Reasons to Visit Japan in Winter

    Winter in Japan generally lasts from early to mid-December until the middle of March, but the duration and intensity vary by geography. In most parts of central Japan (including Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka ), winter temperatures range from about 25 to 45 °F (-4 to 7 °C).

  4. 10 Best Winter Destinations in Japan 2023-2024

    Winter can be really fun in Japan. You can find many tourist attractions such as ski and snowboard, festivals, illuminations, and gorgeous snowy sceneries. Here are the best things to do! blog.japanwondertravel.com 2021.01.11 Table of contents 1. Hakodate (Hokkaido) 2. Monkey Onsen (Nagano) 3. Ginzan Onsen (Yamagata) 4. Kinkakuji (Kyoto) 5.

  5. Want to Visit Japan in Winter? Start Here.

    2.1 Hokkaido 2.2 Tohoku 2.3 Mt. Fuji and The Japanese Alps 2.4 Okinawa 2.5 Japan's Tourist Trail 3 Things to Do in Winter in Japan 3.1 Gawk at the Incredible Beauty Around You 3.2 Practice Your Winter Photography Skills 3.3 Enjoy Japanese Animal Adventures 3.4 Savor Warming Winter Foods 3.5 Visit a Ski Resort Anyway

  6. Most beautiful winter destinations in Japan

    12 most beautiful winter destinations in Japan From snowy mountains to a white onsen town, there are plenty of places to make the most of the chilly season Written by Kaila Imada Monday 27...

  7. A Guide To Winter in Japan

    1- Japan is beautiful in winter 2- Japan is less crowded in winter 7- Japanese food seems to taste better What Are The Winter Months In Japan? Is Winter A Good Time To Visit Japan? 1- Niseko 2- Hakuba 3- Shiga Kogen How Cold is Japan in Winter? 4- Winter in Tokyo 5- Winter in Kyoto 6- Winter in Osaka 7- Winter in Takayama 8- Winter in Gero

  8. Winter in Japan: Things to Do + Why It's a Great Time to Visit

    2. Prices are cheaper in the wintertime. Since fewer people are visiting Japan during the wintertime, prices of hotel rooms tend to drop to reflect this. So if you're looking to travel to Japan on a budget, winter is a great time to visit this notoriously expensive destination.

  9. 8-Day Japan Winter Itinerary For Less Than S$1.2k

    Planning to experience winter in Japan? Here's how to make the most of Japan during winter with the 7-day JR Pass! Travelling on a budget with the 7D Whole Japan JR Pass. Update on December 2023: Prices have increased for the JR Pass since October 2023. Find out more in our JR Pass guide.

  10. The Ultimate Japan Winter Itinerary (2 Weeks, 4 Cities)

    Day 4: Journey to Takayama, known for delicious Hida beef. You'll spend a good chunk of the day getting to Takayama, which is best accessed on Japan Rail (JR) via Nagoya. The ride there is beautiful, most of it alongside a deeply blue river. (Sometimes there's also a direct bus, though, so be sure to check!

  11. Japan in Winter: 12 Reasons To Visit And Travel Tips

    Noor Updated on May 17, 2022 Winter is an interesting time to visit Japan. Whilst many people wouldn't think of East Asia as a tour stop for winter sports, that's precisely what winter in Japan has to offer. Not to mention the winter festivities, and the fact that this is precisely the best time to enjoy the Japanese onsen.

  12. 14 Best Places to Visit in Japan During Winter Season

    Japan is definitely a popular destination in the winter. From magical winter villages to steaming onsens, there are numerous things to see and things to do exclusively during this season, all across the country. With so many amazing places to visit, you might be wondering which cool places of interest are must-visits.

  13. Japan Winter Itinerary: Unforgettable Experiences and Must-Visit Spots

    1. Kanazawa, Ishikawa Kanazawa is a historic city famous for its well-preserved Edo-period architecture. In winter, you can enjoy the snow-covered Kenrokuen Garden, one of Japan's top three gardens. Don't miss the Kanazawa Castle and the charming Higashi Chaya district as well. 2. Nikko, Tochigi

  14. Japan Winter Adventures: Your Guide to Winter in Japan ...

    Here are 8 activities that will keep you cozy and entertained during winter in Japan. From hot springs to indoor performances, explore the best ways to stay warm and make the most of your trip to Japan. Some of the most beautiful onsen towns you have to visit include Arima Onsen, Ginzan Onsen, Kinugawa, and Kusatsu.

  15. 10 Best Ways to Enjoy Japan in Winter

    1. Go skiing in Nagano or Hokkaido 2. Visit Sapporo Snow Festival 3. Illumination festivals 4. Go temple hopping in snow 5. Visit the snow monkeys 6. Soak in open air onsen hot spring 7. Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route 8. Enjoy ice skating 9. Visit Christmas Markets 10. Experience New Year's traditions Japan Wonder Travel Tours

  16. Best Time to Visit Japan: When to Go & When to Avoid!

    In short, you'll have the best chance of comfortable weather and fewer crowds in early spring (March - early April) and in autumn (late October - November). Our personal pick would be to visit Japan during November; but more on that later… Let me backup…

  17. 10 Best Things to Do in Tokyo in Winter

    1. See the Illuminations 2. Visit Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea 3. Shop at Christmas Markets 4. Relax at an Onsen 5. Do Hatsumode: First shrine or temple visit of the year 6. Go Ice Skating 7. Take Advantage of the Sales 8. Watch Fireworks with an amazing backdrop 9. Warm Up With Some Ramen 10. Visit the Asakusa Hagoita Fair

  18. 10 Best Places to Visit in Japan in Winter 2023-2024

    Visiting Japan in winter is one of the greatest options as you can enjoy numbers of seasonal attractions and activities only this time of the year! From snow events to winter illuminations, the winter in Japan offers some of the most spectacular scenery that you may wanna see once in your lifetime!

  19. Best Places to Visit in Japan During Winter [Japan Winter Destinations]

    The Shirakawa-go Village in Gifu is a must-visit in Japan, especially during the winter season. It is a charming small village that literally looks like a painting that came to life. Listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawa-go Village has Japan's unique "gasshou-zukuri" structured houses. Some of these houses are more than 250 ...

  20. 13 Best Ways to Experience Winter in Japan

    Breathe in the crisp, fresh air and soak in the magical winter wonderland around you. Make sure to bring your camera to capture the beauty of Lake Aoki! Book Lake Aoki Night Snowshoeing Experience Tickets - Best price guarantee. 8. Experience Matsumoto City. Matsumoto Castle, one of the most famous castles in Japan.

  21. Ultimate Japan Winter Packing List (2024 Guide)

    Travel tip: Make sure to use packing cubes to pack the thick winter wear to have more space in your backpack. 3. Thermals. Be sure to include thermals on your Japan winter packing list too. Being the base layer, thermals help in conserving the body heat and keeping you warm as you are having fun exploring Japan during the cold season.

  22. What to Pack for Winter in Japan: The Ultimate List

    Winter in Japan starts from December to February. The temperatures usually range from 3° C - 10° C (37.4° F - 50° F) and rarely drop below 0 degrees. Take note that as you explore the north regions, it is cooler there than it is in the Southern regions. Like Kyoto and Osaka during Japan winter season are usually cooler than Tokyo.

  23. Top 10 Things To Do in Japan in Winter

    All the coolest things to do in Winter in Japan within the Hokkaido and Tohoku regions!Check out my blog post for the details of the things I did in this vid...

  24. The best times to visit Japan

    For budget-conscious travelers, visiting Japan during the shoulder seasons — late May to early June and late November to early December — can be more economical. These times fall right after ...

  25. Sapporo in Winter: Festivals, Attractions & Activities

    Welcome to the enchanting winter wonderland of Sapporo, where the snowy landscapes and festive spirit create a magical experience like no other. As the capital of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, Sapporo transforms into a snowy paradise during the winter months, especially during January and February.

  26. Are Boeing 737 Max planes safe? This travel agent lets you ...

    Following the Alaska Airlines incident involving a Boeing 737 Max 9 plane on 5 January, the company says there was a 15-fold increase in use of the setting recorded between 6 and 10 January ...