In Japan, we always get to experience all four season. If you take a trip to Japan in early December, you will be able to experience two seasons, late autumn and early winter. How cool is that!

Do you really want to see autumn leaves and have fun in the snow? Seriously you can visit Japan in early December, especially in Tokyo and Sapporo, the capital city of the Hokkaido region and fifth largest city in the country.

From late November to early December is the perfect time to see fall foliage in Tokyo. On the other hand, December is when you can expect to see snow fall and enjoy some winter activities in Hokkaido that include skiing, ice skating, snowboarding, building snowman and etc.

This suggested itinerary here includes the best things to do during your 10 days in Tokyo and Hokkaido. It’s also an itinerary designed to visit the main Tokyo and Sapporo attractions in early December.

Let’s get started!

Day 1 – Welcome to Tokyo

An aircraft of Japan Airlines at Haneda Airport, Tokyo. Photo Credit: mrhayata at Flickr.

For tourists, it’s always a great idea to decide to stay in a hotel located nearby Shinjuku Station. You can check in to Shinjuku Prince Hotel or Hotel Gracery Shinjuku. Both are perfect for overnight stay.

It’s a free day to roam around for you. You can go anywhere you would like to if you have the time to spend after your flight and before you get to sleep. If you arrive in downtown Tokyo in the morning from either Haneda or Narita International Airport, then you can think of taking a leisurely stroll in the neighborhood of Shinjuku in the evening. There are lots of bars, restaurants, convenience stores and shopping malls around to be explored.

Day 2 – Tokyo

Autumn leaves at Shinjuku Gyoen, sometimes it may rain in Tokyo during autumn. Photo Credit: AllisonMiller at Wikimedia Commons.

On your first day, start at the Shinjuku Gyoen, one of the most beautiful and largest parks in Tokyo. During the Edo period, it was the private mansion of the Lord Naito (feudal lord). The park is about 10 minutes walk from Shinjuku Station (south exit). Locals believe that Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the best places to see autumn leaves in Tokyo.

Basically it’s a tour to see red maple leaves (momiji). The park has three entrances, either one should be fine to get to the park. Early December is a perfect time to visit the park if you are keen to view spectacular autumn leaves.

The street of Meiji Jingu Gaien in Tokyo. Photo Credit: Kakidai at Wikimedia Commons.

Take a walk along the walkways in accordance with the garden’s map. When you reach in the area of the Japanese garden, you will see lots of maple trees that change colors quite impressively.

There is one more place that might put a smile on your face, that’s Momijiyama, located on the park’s eastern side, close to Sendagaya gate (one of the three entrances). Except these areas, traditional French and English gardens are also worth exploring as you can see fall foliage. And don’t be surprised to see some huge ginkgo trees in the park, they look pretty lovely when they are at peak colors.

Meiji Shrine. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

After spending a few hours in the park, head over to Meiji Jingu Gaien Park. Sendagaya gate would be your exit gate, don’t you forget it. The avenue of Meiji Jingu Gaien is packed with tourists and locals alike in the fall when the annual Ginkgo Festival (Icho matsuri) is celebrated from late November to early December.

With many foods stalls and cafes, this 300 meter long avenue is considered to be one of the best places to see autumn leaves in Tokyo. Go there and marvel at those straining ginkgo leaves before they fall off of the trees.

Make your way down to Takeshita Street, one of Harajuku’s must see spot! This shopping street is quite popular for locals and has rows of shops and stores to buy fashion items, foods, and souvenirs.

Shibuya Crossing at Night. Photo Credit: Benh LIEU SONG at Flickr.

Your next stop will be Yoyogi Park. It’s large and adjacent to the famous Meiji Shrine. It has wide lawns, ponds, forested areas and lots of open space to relax and enjoy outdoor nature. When you are in Yoyogi Park, you will have to visit Meiji Shrine. Spend your time by walking around the shrine’s grounds and exploring its main buildings.

The last attraction for the day is Shibuya Crossing, the busiest crossing in the world. Perhaps this unique intersection is one of Tokyo’s interesting landmarks that you will have to experience when you visit Tokyo.

Day 3 – Tokyo

Autumn leaves at Rikugien. Photo Credit: Raita Futo at Flickr.

Tokyo has so much to offer its visitors and often it’s hard to explore and experience all within a week, let alone in 2 days! However, for day three, interesting places to visit in the city are the Rikugi-en garden, Tokyo National Museum, Ueno Park, Sensoji temple, and Tokyo Skytree.

Start day 3 with a trip to Rikugien Garden, perhaps the most beautiful Japanese landscape garden along with Koishikawa Korakuen. Are you thinking about “how to reach Rikugien garden from Shinjuku Station?” Just hop on a train that runs along the JR Yamanote Line (clockwise). It will take about 16 minutes to reach Komagome Station. From there, it’s just a few minutes of walk.

Sensoji Temple, Asakusa. Photo Credit: Daderot at Flickr.

Japanese landscape garden looks impressive in the fall and spring. Since you are going to visit the garden in early December, it’s obvious that you will be astonished seeing tons of gorgeous red maple leaves there. You can gladly spend one or two hours in this picturesque garden. The admission fee is 300 yen.

Next on your tour of Tokyo should be Ueno Park, which is a short walk from Ueno Station. The park is huge and there are a lot of things to see and experience from Tokyo National Museum to Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and Ueno Zoo, the first zoological garden of Japan.

A view from Tokyo Skytree Observatory. Photo Credit: Natalie Maguire at Flickr.

With largest collection of national treasures and important cultural items, the Tokyo National Museum is a perfect place to learn Japanese culture and history. A visit to the museum also lets you witness the best collections of art and archeological artifacts in Japan. Please note the Tokyo National Museum is said to be the largest museum in Japan.

You will find a lot of restaurants in Ueno area, head to one that meets your taste. After eating your lunch, head to the Sensoji (Asakusa Kannon temple). This is one of the popular Buddhist temples in Tokyo. Explore its main Hall and buy souvenirs from the shop when you walk down the Nakamise, a lively historic shopping street.

Tokyo Skytree. Photo Credit: YU-LI LIN at Flickr.

As you come towards the end of your third day, you may enjoy heading up into the sky for great views over the city. The spectacular Tokyo Skytree is a sight to behold and lately it’s one of Tokyo’s most visited attractions. Head to this iconic tower (634 meter) and enjoy a stunning 360° view over Tokyo city! Sunset view from the observation decks is marvelous. You won’t regret it!

Day 4 – Tokyo

Koishikawa Korakuen Garden in the fall. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tokyo is all about the good times! You have so many options to do including various day trips that you can take right from downtown Tokyo. Today you are not going to take a day trip from the city; instead there are some other incredible places you have to explore. Are you ready to have some fun?

Kick off an exciting day at Koishikawa Korakuen, another beautiful Japanese landscape garden that’s ablaze with colors in autumn. The garden is a 5-10 minute walk from Iidabashi Station. Koishikawa Koreakuen is a place of scenic beauty.

The iconic Nijubashi Bridge of the Tokyo Imperial Palace. Photo Credit: Natalie Maguire at Flickr.

With its three ponds, the garden possesses all the elements of a traditional Japanese landscape garden has, such as manmade hills, stones, stone lanterns, trees, and bridges. There is no better place to view all those garden elements in Tokyo than Koishikawa Koreakuen, and that’s why it should be on your radar!

After you have experienced the marvelous autumn colors beauty in the garden, continue on to another iconic site, the Tokyo Imperial Palace. Located on the former site of Edo Castle, this is a large park with stone walls, moats, gardens, and impressive walkways.

Hibiya Park in the fall. Photo Credit: Kakidai at Wikimedia Commons.

There are free guided tours for the palace visitors. When you follow this itinerary here, you don’t need to join the free guided tour, instead enjoy your time exploring the site (reachable areas) all by yourself; it’s kind of a little adventure! While there, make sure you discover the area of the Imperial Palace East Garden, Kitanomaru Park, National Museum of Modern Art, Nijubashi Bridge. The bridge can be seen from Kokyo Gaien, the large plaza in front of the Imperial Palace.

I would highly recommend you to visit Hibiya Park, another interesting place to enjoy autumn leaves in Tokyo. For locals, the park is an ideal spot for an evening stroll. You will be surprised seeing a giant gingko tree there which is said to be 500 years old.

Ginza at night! Photo Credit: Jlascar at Wikimedia Commons.

Next destination for the day is Ginza, a popular nightlife district in Tokyo, but there are a lot of things to do during the day as well. It’s one of Tokyo’s top shopping districts. You must walk along the Chuo Dori Street, the main shopping street in Ginza area. Pay a visit to UNIQLO in the Ginza area of Tokyo, and you will have a great experience.

Day 5 – Take a Day trip to Kamakura from Tokyo

Kamakura Daibutsu in December. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Kamakura is a coastal town in Kanagawa Prefecture, and it is one of the best day trips to take from Tokyo. When you have time to stay more than 3 days in Tokyo City, take the opportunity to get out of Tokyo and see more of Japan’s iconic landmarks.

Would you like you know how to spend a lovely in Kamakura? Read the article here.

Day 6 – Tokyo to Sapporo

Sapporo Station. Photo Credit: Peter Wemmert at Wikimedia Commons.

Tokyo expedition is over; and it’s time to head over to Hokkaido!

There is nothing much to say about Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. The island has got everything to make one’s journey unforgettable and there’s adventure around every corner. You will be astonished seeing its unspoiled nature and jaw-dropping scenery all year round and the local food here is delicious.

In early December, you won’t see a lot of snow on the grounds in Sapporo, but surly in the north of Hokkaido. You will not have to travel that much far in the north to see snow; instead you will visit two amazing areas known as Biei and Furano. These two beautiful towns are famous for flower fields during the months of summer.

Any domestic flight will get you from Haneda Airport, Tokyo to New Chitose Airport in just 1 hour and 30 minutes. From the airport in Chitose, you can get to Sapporo either by train or bus. Taxi will be expensive but MK Taxi Sapporo is quite affordable!

Night view over Sapporo city from the Observation deck of Mount Moiwa. Photo Credit: Sorah Fukumori at Wikimedia Commons.

When you are Sapporo, make sure that you stay in a hotel, which is located either nearby JR Sapporo Station or close to the City’s main attractions. Hotel Gracery and Nest Hotel Sapporo Ekimae is a great example of it.

You don’t have a busy schedule for today, except visiting Odori Park, Sapporo TV Tower, Mount Moiwa, and Susukino. These attractions can be visited after you take a good nap! You won’t have to use any car or public transport to visit the above places except Mount Moiwa. The Sapporo TV Tower itself is part of Odori Park.

First attraction for today is Mount Moiwa Ropeway. The views from Mount Moiwa’s top observatory is particularly amazing than what you see while the ropeway takes you to the upper ropeway station by cable cars. Mount Moiwa is a popular attraction for the night view over Sapporo city. Make sure that you reach the summit (observatory) before sunset.

Sapporo TV Tower and Odori Park during the Sapporo White Illumination Event. Photo Credit: popsaurus at Wikimedia Commons.

What happens in December at Odori Park is spectacular. The park hosts one of Sapporo’s winter illuminations called Sapporo White Illumination usually from late November to late December. You will never get bored when you walk around or sit one of the park’s benches during the illumination event.

If you are not tired and still want to explore something unique, my advice to you is take a walk from the park to Susukino, a red light district of Sapporo. The area comprises many restaurants, bars, pubs, and clubs, and karaoke shops.

Day 7 – A day in Sapporo

One of the historic buildings of the Historical Village of Hokkaido, Japan. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Nijo Market is a great place to begin your adventure in the city. Visit this fresh seafood market in the morning, find a restaurant and then enjoy your breakfast there. You won’t regret it.

See more of Sapporo on day two of your stay in the city by experiencing the beauty of the Historical Village of Hokkaido, an open air museum located in Nopporo Forest Park. The museum is divided into four sections: city area, farm village, fishing village, and mountain village. Each of the section has their own style of beauty and lots of things to learn from and see. Take a bus from Shin-Sapporo station to the museum, which will take about 5 minutes.

A view of Ishikari Bay from a ski slope of Snow Cruise Onze. Photo Credit: onze.jp.

Make your way over to the popular Snow Cruise Onze for a few hours of fun and ski adventure. This ski resort is located in Otaru area, which is only a 45-minute bus ride away from Sapporo’s Miyanosawa Subway Station along Tozai Line.

The ski resort opens in mid November every year and that lets visitors to experience snow and early ski season in the region. At the mountaintop, there is an observatory from where you can marvel at the beautiful vistas of Ishikari Bay. Night skiing here is a quite popular winter activity.

Return to Sapporo and enjoy the evening on your own.

Day 8 – Sapporo to Biei

Penguin’s parade at Asahiyama Zoo.

You can’t visit Furano without seeing the Blue Pond; this iconic sightseeing spot in Biei town is very popular place to visit for tourists and can be visited year-round.

Before you get to Biei, you may visit one of Japan’s best zoos called Asahiyama Zoo. It houses some rare species of animals including native wildlife of the Hokkaido region, such as eagles, cranes, wolves and deer. From Asahikawa Station you can either take a bus or taxi to reach the zoo.

Indoor hot spring bath at Yumoto Shirogane Onsen Hotel, Biei.

How to get to Asahikawa from Sapporo? The easiest and fastest way to access to Asahiakwa from Sapporo is by limited express train. It’s a-80 minute journey from Sapporo Station to Asahikawa Station. While there, you go to a branch office of Yamato Transport Co., Ltd. located inside AEON Mall Asahikawa Station. It offers temporary luggage storage service for tourists, so let them take care of your luggage before you get to the zoo.

Tonight you will be staying at Yumoto Shirogane-Onsen Hotel in Biei, located at the foot of Mount Tokachi-dake. You will be happy to know that this ryokan is located very close to Shirahige waterfalls; and you can even go to the Blue Pond on foot from the hotel (30-40 minutes walk).

Enjoy a relaxing hot spring bath there and of course enjoy the food and sleep tight.

Day 9 – A morning stroll to the Blue Pond and more to come

Blue Pond in Biei during winter. Photo Credit: Biei Tourist Association.

In the morning, visit the Blue Pond. According to my experience, the best time to visit this beautiful scenic spot is in the morning. Excessive snowfall makes it frozen and covers the pond with snow. However, the views still look picturesque and tranquil.

Before you head to the onsen, you should stop by the waterfall. In December, you will experience half frozen waterfall though the view is mind-boggling!

Shirahige Falls, Biei. Photo Credit: Biei Tourist Association.

If you don’t want to walk to the blue pond, better wait for the bus to get there.

Would you like to stay one more day and night in Biei? If you say yes, then visit Furano ski resort and spend the evening at Ningle Terrace that houses many beautiful cottage shops. These shops are illuminated with lights at night and they look very romantic when the roofs and walkways are covered with lots of snow!

If you can’t stay an extra night in Biei, then Check out and head to Biei Station, afterwards wait for a train to get to Asahikawa Station. From there you get on a limited express train to Sapporo Station.

Spend the evening visiting some of Sapporo’s best shopping malls, such as Sapporo ESTA, Daimaru, Sapporo Stellar Palace, and PARCO.

This hotel here is situated very close to JR Sapporo Station. Stay overnight there.

That’s the end of your Hokkaido trip in December.

Day 10 – Sapporo to New Chitose Airport

One way ride from Sapporo Station to New Chitose Airport Station takes about 35 minutes and costs 1070 yen. After arriving at the airport, you can spend some time roaming around it and buy things/souvenirs from the shops to bring home. Afterwords, complete the immigration process and wait for the time to board your flight back to your next destination.

If you want more inspiration, read about autumn leaves in Tokyo, and the best things to do in Hokkaido in winter, hopefully these will get you excited.

What do you think of this suggested itinerary? It would be great if you begin your trip from December 1st! If there is any question regarding your next trip to Japan, please feel free to contact us.

Have a safe and enjoyable trip to Japan in December. Thanks for reading.