Top things to do in winter in Japan 日本最高の冬アクティビティ
The best of winter
In addition to being the season when you will have the best chance to see Mount Fuji thanks to clear weather, winter in Japan has many surprises in store for you. Discover our selection of winter activities!
Discover the winter and Christmas illuminations
From the winter season and the approach of Christmas, Japan lights up! As an art that serves as much to pay tribute as to entertain, illuminations are very much appreciated by the inhabitants, but also by tourists. Once installed, they transform the landscape of parks, gardens, castles, and even the streets of the country.
Every evening, the chosen places are illuminated to create a unique and magical atmosphere.
Here are 5 winter and Christmas illuminations that you must discover:
- The Nabana no Sato illuminations of Kuwana
- Hikari-Renaissance Christmas lights in Osaka
- Ashikaga flower park illumination
- Kobe Luminarie light festival in Kobe
- Shibuya blue cave illuminations in Tokyo
Profiter des onsen
Winter is the perfect season to take advantage of the Japanese natural environment: the mountains, hiking, and onsen! Very popular among the locals, onsen are natural hot springs, heated and particularly rich in minerals thanks to their contact with volcanoes.
These baths can be installed indoors, or outdoors (we talk about rotenburo). One bathes naked, so the pools are separated between men and women. In the open air, the rotenburo offers a unique view of the surrounding snowy landscape. Try the experience for an unforgettable moment of zen and relaxation!
Here is a list (not exhaustive!) of onsen to try in winter:
- Noboribetsu onsen in Hokkaido
- Ginzan onsen in Yamagata
- Shibu onsen in Nagano
Testing seasonal culinary specialties
If winter is the season of pot-au-feu in France, in Japan, it is the season of nabemono! It is a perfect mix between Chinese fondue and pot-au-feu, with many regional variations.
The traditional ingredients are Chinese cabbage, tofu, mushrooms, noodles (udon, kuzukiri, konnyaku noodles), fish, and thin slices of meat (beef, pork), all cooked in a fish or seaweed-based broth.
In addition to nabe, discover sukiyaki, shabu shabu, or oden. Finally, don't forget to accompany it with hot sake, atsukan!
To know more about it, discover our article on winter specialties
Going on a pilgrimage
On the island of Shikoku, the pilgrimage of the 88 temples is one of the most famous paths in the world. The Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine, located in Wakayama Prefecture, has been visited by thousands of pilgrims since the Heian era (794-1185).
For those who prefer a shorter itinerary, the pilgrimage of the 7 gods of luck, Shichifukujin Meguri in Japanese, is made for you! Organized in January, it consists in visiting temples and shrines dedicated to the 7 deities of luck: Bishamonten, Daikokuten, Benzaiten, Ebisu, Hotei, Fukurokuju and Jurôjin.
As a token of good fortune for the New Year, the pilgrimage of the 7 gods has been developed with special circuits in most of the major Japanese cities since the 19th century.
Attend winter festivals
Winter has nothing to envy to summer in terms of festivals! Between festivals and public holidays, without forgetting the events dedicated to snow, it is an ideal time to discover Japan in a different way.
Winter is also marked by several important events, including the time when the year is renewed (oshogatsu) and the end of the school year (the start of the school year is every year in April and not in September!)
Japanese festivals not to be missed:
- January 1: Japanese New Year
- January 2: Greetings from the Japanese Emperor
- February 3: Setsubun, fête du printemps
- February 15-17: Yokote Kamakura, le festival de la neige
- March 3: Hina Matsuri, Girls' Day