The best Japanese winter scenery   日本の冬の景色

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Shirakawago village in the snow

Shirakawago village in the snow

Scenes of snowy Japan

Visting Japan in winter? Enjoy some traditional scenery: snow-capped Mount Fuji, a traditional mountain village, a beautiful Japanese garden or monkeys bathing in hot springs: here are some places to visit for beautiful scenes of Japan in the snow.

Mount Fuji

Without a doubt, this is the number one image we all have in mind, frequently pictured in magazines, reports and paintings that present Mount Fuji with its snowy hat.

A first trip to Japan without seeing it seems unthinkable. It is the symbol of Japan, the sacred sloping mountain, yet an active volcano 3776 meters high that could wake up one day! From November to June, there is always snow at its peak, but to be able to admire it, it is best viewed in winter in the early morning on a clear day.

Located between Yamanashi and Shizuoka, it has inspired so many artists for centuries with its solemn and grandiose look, the master of the woodblock print Hokusai especially comes to mind.

View of Mount Fuji topped with snow

The village of Shirakawago

Located in Gifu Prefecture (50 minutes by bus from Takayama), the traditional village of Shirakawago, surrounded by mountains, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.

Its appeal lies in the appearance of its ancient wooden houses with steep thatched roofs, a style called gassho-zukuri specific to the region, which are designed to withstand the large amounts of snow that accumulate throughout the winter. Preserved for 250 years by the inhabitants, these houses are the soul of an ancient Japan, much sought-after today, with nocturnal illuminations (note that as of 2019 advanced reservations are mandatory), like something out of a fairy tale. The best way to experience Shirakawago is to spend a night in one of the houses.

Kenroku-en Garden

Kenroku-en in Kanazawa is one of Japan's three most famous gardens, along with Mito's Kairaku-en and Koraku-en in Okayama.

Japanese gardens are famous around the world for the care given to every detail of plants, cut trees and pathways.

From November 1st the "yukitsuri" takes place in Kenroku-en, a Japanese technique which is a symbol of winter, when gardeners protect the trees with ropes in anticipation of the damage that could be caused by heavy snowfall. More than 500 trees are prepared by hand before the first snow, by highly experienced gardeners who take the reputation of the garden most seriously. At nightfall, illuminations magnify this impressive garden.

Ginzan Onsen

In Yamagata Prefecture, a former silver mine has become one of the most popular hot spring baths in winter, Ginzan Onsen (ginzan meaning "silver mine" in Japanese).

The unique atmosphere of this village has something for everyone, with its traditional wooden buildings built under the Taisho era (1912 - 1926) until the beginning of the Showa era (1926-1989). What was very modern at the time, appears sweetly nostalgic today. As night falls, gas lamps light up to spread a beautiful light on the freshly fallen snow.

On the banks of the Ginzan River, ryokan, traditional Japanese inns, invite you to relax and enjoy the best of traditional Japanese hospitality.

Ginzan Onsen by night

Ginzan onsen in the snow

Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto in winter

Kinkaku-ji Temple

The temple of the Golden Pavilion, known as Kinkakuji - although its real name is Rokuon-ji, is undoubtedly the main attraction in the series of temples in Kyoto.

Entirely covered with gold leaf (except for the ground floor), it shines like a beacon, if you have the chance to go right after it snows, as happens a few days each winter. The delicacy of the golden temple contrasted with the immaculate white snow and green of nature, all reflected in the surrounding water, will certainly delight any visitor, and you'll bring back the most incredible and symbolic photo of an unforgettable trip to Japan.

Kinkaku-ji has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994, as an iconic landmark of ancient Kyoto.

Jigokudani Yaen koen

The Jigokudani Monkey Park is located in Yokoyugawa Valley in Nagano. At Jigokudani Onsen, it's possible to observe wild monkeys (Japanese macaques) that bask in the water of a natural hot spring. At 850 meters altitude, it is cold (-10°c) and snow can be up to a meter thick, to make this a classic scene of Japan in winter.

This park was created in 1964 when monkeys from the mountains came down to the villages because of deforestation. One day, a monkey came to bathe in the outdoor onsen of a nearby ryokan, soon followed by all his family. To promote good relations with humans a special bath has been designated for them, appeasing both monkeys and humans.

Monkeys enjoying the hot springs at Jigokudani in Nagano

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