Tokyo is a dynamic city packed with diverse people coming from other parts of the world. It is a dream destination to millions of Japan enthusiasts, meanwhile you may not think of this way if your intention is to discover the country’s picturesque rural landscape. To do so, you have to escape from there to somewhere else outside downtown Tokyo city. Don’t you forget get it is one of the busiest cities in the world. Although often it is regarded as the best tourist spot for spring and autumn, winter here is stunningly breathtaking, not because of the snowy weather but also for the traditional gardens, shopping streets, winter foods, night illuminations, winter outdoor recreational activities, new year celebration, winter festivals and events, hot springs bath, museums, historic landmarks and temples & shrines.
Have not you read this travel guidebook yet? It is a must read for every Tokyo visitors, and please don’t forget pack this guide.
Every day, thousands of visitors arrive in Tokyo. Surprisingly, not all of them are backpackers and solo travelers, instead you see foreign students, celebrities, journalists, sportsperson, businessmen, scientists, religious persons and etc. Their background is different, so is the purpose of their visit! But one thing is for sure that most of them would think of roaming around the city (at least for a while) once they land in Tokyo. If you are one of them who is coming to Tokyo this winter and looking for some places to travel around, you have come to the right spot then. “What to do in Tokyo in winter?” – would reveal the secrete winter beauties of this amazing city. Come along, and I will show you how it looks like in winter and what you could experience in this cool season.
Few Interesting Facts about Tokyo’s Amazing Winter
1) Tokyo in winter is cold as well as windy as it has a Mediterranean climate.
2) Tokyo’s winter temperatures rarely fall below 0° Celsius.
3) All the rooms inside an individual house and small apartment in Tokyo are not well insulated but only the room they live in.
4) Often Tokyo is said to be a less crowded destination in Japan during winter. But the truth is that you will experience this sort of atmosphere only on the New Year holiday period.
5) In February you can expect to see delicate ume (plum blossoms) in Tokyo.
6) Meiji Shrine is considered to be the most visited place in Tokyo in winter as thousands of visitors visit the shrine on the first day of the New Year for Hatsumode.
7) Many shops, restaurants are closed on the New Year’s Day.
8) Winter sale in Tokyo is interesting as people are crazy to get Fukubukuro or so called lucky bag.
9) In winter, most of the streets in Tokyo get decorated with beautiful illumination at night.
10) Mount Takao is the best place to see the New Year Sunrise.
11) Japanese traditional gardens located in Tokyo are arguably beautiful in winter.
12) Relatively in winter, major tourist spots across the city are less crowded.
13) You must wear a long coat or jacket when you go for a stroll down the street.
Oshogatsu (New Year) Celebration in Tokyo
Would you mind visiting Tokyo in winter? You may find some reasons not to be there at the time but New Year celebration there is must thing to do. Don’t you forget that! Seriously, I am not kidding! Tokyo itself a very popular destination when it comes to celebrating New Year’s Eve. It offers a wide range of appealing options based on your interest including a great opportunity to learn the New Year traditions of Japan.
It will take you through endless beautiful mesmerizing moments like a river flows downhill continuously. The most prestigious thing you could experience there is the New Year’s Eve Countdown. Make it remarkable by watching the firework displays either over Tokyo Bay, Tokyo Tower, or Tokyo Disneyland. There are the three best places to observe New Year’s Eve firework displays in Tokyo.
Many people would pay a visit to the famous Meiji Shrine at midnight for celebrating bell-ringing traditions. Please note that the bells are rung 108 times! You may also head to Sensoji temple in Asakusa. Parties take place in different restaurants, hotels, and izakaya especially in the areas of Shibuya and Shinjuku.
On New Year’s Day, you must get ready to participate in Hatsumode tradition. It is a tradition of making your first shrine or temple visit of the year. If you focus on getting immersed in local culture which includes first sunrise watching, outdoor and home decoration, party, local specialties, enchanting stage events, and shopping then a trip to Tokyo during winter would be absolutely remarkable and mind-blowing.
Visiting Traditional Japanese Gardens in Tokyo in Winter
Are they worth a visit? Tokyo is famed for having a number of beautiful traditional Japanese gardens and parks. They are the real charm of this city. Anyone looking for some greenery space in this busy and diverse city may consider visiting one of the best gardens it offers. You may have a question on your mind asking yourself “Do they look beautiful in winter?” To be honest with you, it depends on you and the weather it has on the day you visit them.
Compared to other season, winter sounds not mysteriously attractive to visit them. They seem to me fell in asleep for a long period of time until flower buds of ume burst into life. However, people still enjoy taking a stroll through the garden paths as part of their daily walking workouts. Shinjuku Gyoen, Imperial Palace East Garden, Rikugien Garden, Hama Rikyu, Koishikawa Korankuen, Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden, and Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden are just a few examples of ideal gardens to discover during winter. Honestly, still you could find awesome scenic beauty there.
Urging you Soaking in Hot Spring Water
One of the best ways of enjoying a winter holiday in Japan is soaking in a hot spring bath. In fact, it is the perfect remedy for cold. Socking in the hot water bath in hot spring resort is thousands years of tradition for Japanese. It has cherished their life, no doubt! Often for relaxation, people visit the hot springs that are located adjacent to their residential area. In winter, demand of taking bath in hot springs increases greatly all over Japan, especially to the areas where heavy snowfall occurs. The areas in northern Japan are far colder than Tokyo’s winter and though don’t be surprised seeing snowfall in Tokyo as it happens every year!
Don’t pray for a heavy snowfall, this is my request to you! In 2014, a strong blizzard hit Tokyo and made the life very difficult to carry on. At that time, one of my friends was there and he explained me everything. How poor was that! Whatever happens will be happened this winter in Tokyo. If it snows, let’s face it, no worries! The important thing is that Tokyo offers a number of famous hot spring baths within its area, therefore, soak your body in Niwa no Yu hot spring bath. Their excellent spa service worth the money, I hope you will be there at my urging.
Ume – The Delicate Flower
Often people get messed with Ume and Sakura. Some people think they are same while others think them differently. In fact, they are different and if you still think they are not then read this article to see the differences. Surprised?!
Ume (plum blossom) is said to be one of the most delicate flowers in this lovely archipelago. Fortunately, if you visit Tokyo in February, make sure you witness its utmost delicate beauty. Please note that it symbolizes early spring, protection, and spirit of health.
The shape of the flower is very appealing with its sweet flowery fragrance. As the flower bloom in early-February, people often recognized it as winter flowers and it does make sense! Besides, most of the people see it as early spring flower.
Coming to Tokyo soon? Get prepared to participate in ume Matsuri, takes place in various parks and gardens. The best places to see plum blossoms in Tokyo are Hanegi Park, Umeno Park, Yushima Tenmangu Shrine, Koishikawa Korakuen, and Kyu Shiba Rikyu. Let’s make your Tokyo trip remarkable visiting these gorgeous places. Also you can find the best plum blossoms spot in Japan here.
Shopping in Tokyo
If you are about to embark on a trip to Tokyo this winter and thinking of the places that are popular to do shop then head to one of these shopping districts such as Akihabara, Shibuya, Ginza, Omotesando, Harajuku, Marunouchi, Shinjuku, and Nihonbashi.
Sometimes people ask me about “what are the best places to shop in Tokyo?” Honestly, I don’t belong to Tokyo but often I get there for business purpose. And yes, the places I have mentioned a while ago the best ones you should visit.
Tokyo is seen as one of the world’s shopping meccas. The shopping areas there are filled with products marketed by local and international brands. It offers a wide range of shopping ideas from traditional crafts to modern accessories like electronics products, anime goods, and trendy fashion. In fact, finding a perfect souvenir is not a daunting task here.
Tokyo’s winter offers you one little mystery shopping idea, known as Fukubukuro or lucky bag. Buying a Fukubukuro after New Year’s Day is a great tradition for Japanese. It contains a number of products filled with items that relate to the store and they are on sale nationwide. One interesting fact is that you can find both cheap and expensive Fukubukuro on the market. Wishing you good luck; I hope you get something precious when you open yours.
Walking down the Streets in Tokyo
I don’t like city life, it does not inspire me much and downtown Tokyo would never ever make me stay there forever. I would definitely get bored if it does! What inspire the most in Tokyo are the historic places, the gardens and the streets in the neighborhoods. Every street in this city tells you a different story even in winter! The streets located in the neighborhoods of Ginza, Roppongi, Marunouchi, Jiyugaoka, Shinjuku, Omotesando, Shiodome, Yanasen, Asakusa, Yurakucho, and Aoyama are particularly amazing to walk through to with hidden surprises as they comprise of restaurants, food stalls, museums, shopping arcades, cafés, bars, and historic landmarks.
Usually some streets of these areas are chosen to be illuminated in winter. The views are appealing and unforgettable. To view Tokyo’s best Christmas & winter illuminations you have got to walk along the streets of the neighborhoods mentioned here.
Winter Dishes that you must try in Tokyo
When it comes to eating winter dishes, Tokyo is no different than rest of the places you visit inside Japan. It is often seen to be one of the world’s capitals of dining. Seriously, there are so many reasons to visit Tokyo and make some room for this. No trip to Tokyo during winter ends without having oden. What is it? It is a hugely popular winter dish to have in Japan. The dish consists of various ingredients such as fish cakes, boiled eggs, yam cakes, daikon radish and many more. It is really delicious to have!
While on the other hand, Toshikoshi Soba is eaten in the evening on New Year’s Eve before New Year arrives. This custom is very powerful and most of the Japanese follow this which they believe eating soba on New Year’s Eve will give them longevity. Please note that, in some parts of Japan people prefer to have Toshikoshi udon instead of soba.
One special food that I must feature here is called Osechi ryori that comes in an elaborate bento box. In fact, it is the main menu of on the New Year Day. The food is actually consists of several dishes such as datemaki, daidai, kamaboko, tai, ebi, kobu, nishiki tamago, ikura, kuri kinton and many more. Apart from all these mouthwatering dishes I suggest you to have some yakitori, ramen, ozone, yakiimo, mochi and sweet sake. Feel real good while eating these!
Discover the Historic Places of Tokyo
You don’t have to be a great explorer to locate them all. Google maps app that is installed on your Smartphone would guide you finding them all in one place. In winter, the historic places you will visit in Tokyo are not crowded as they are in spring, summer and autumn. Though, some of the places would be packed with a lot of visitors on New Year’s Day. Say for example, the Tokyo Imperial Palace where the current Emperor of Japan and his family members make rare public appearances only on his Birthday and January 2 (New Year’s Greeting). Those who visit this place can’t enter the inner grounds of the palace but if you do come here in winter it is possible and you can experience a great atmosphere in there.
Let me introduce Ryogoku! It is a historic place in northern Tokyo in which you find some Sumo related attractions. In fact, this is certainly one of the big reasons why people should visit Tokyo. According to Japan Sumo Association, six grand sumo tournaments are held every year. Surprisingly, Tokyo hosts three of them (January, May, and September) respectively. So if you are coming there in January then don’t miss this event. Just head to the Kokugikan Sumo Stadium, watch the sumo matches and witness the winner!
If you want to step back in time and have special attention to Japan’s ancient time, visit the Tokyo National Museum right away. My experience says it is one of the most beautiful museums in the world that you are going to explore in Tokyo.
I will end my story here featuring two quite popular tourist attractions in Tokyo: The Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Disneyland. The Tokyo Skytree is the iconic landmark in Tokyo making you discover great views over Tokyo city from the two observation decks. Meanwhile, a day trip to Tokyo Disneyland in winter especially when you travel with your kids will be fabulous. I am not sure about you but your kids would want to travel back again to see hidden gems of Tokyo Disneyland.
Don’t you think a winter holiday in Tokyo will be unforgettable?
Definitely it would be. There is nothing wrong with it. I think any time is a good time to visit this wonderful place though spring and autumn are said to be the best times. And winter is overshadowed by these two amazing seasons. However, it offers exciting things to do in the winter to keep everyone active. Don’t just hang out in the coziest restaurants and bars in Tokyo rather plan on exploring the places I have mentioned in this post.
Your motives for traveling in Tokyo may vary from mine, it is natural. I am telling this because I am a nature fanatic and it is possible to find out many Tokyo visitors who have special interest in Anime and Manga. If you are one of them then Akihabara is the Mecca for you. Go, explore this area and satisfy your mind. Have you ever been to Tokyo during winter? Share your stories here in the comment box shown below. Thank you.
Copyright 2016 @ takkhis