Travel Guide Winter

Winter in Japan | Places to Visit 2025

Looking for incredible winter vacations in Japan? As the country has many winter attractions both indoor and outdoor, this articles features the amazing things you can experience when traveling across Japan in winter. 

Hokkaido, the place of scenic beauty in Japan is packed with many well equipped ski resorts, national parks, onsen, snow-capped mountains, winter illumination, lakes, drift ice, snow festivals, you name it – Hokkaido has it all. 

Take a look at the most amazing things to do in Hokkaido!

We highly encourage you to explore Hokkaido’s incredible winter attractions along with visiting other areas in other parts of Japan. 

Let’s explore what you can see and experience in Japan in winter.

When is Winter in Japan?

Snowfall in Tokyo, Japan. Photo Credit: mrhayata at Flickr.

Winter in Japan is just as beautiful as its other seasons. In Japan, winter typically lasts from December to mid-March.

How long it lasts and how intense it is varies by region, with more northerly areas having generally longer and harsher winters than more southern areas of the country.

Mountainous areas, of which there are many, often have more intense winter and abundant snowfall, which makes them great for a variety of winter sports.

JR train, Naijoshi.

Temperatures can vary across the country. It’s rarely extremely cold in city areas. Some temperature ranges :

  • December-12ºC (54°F) to 5ºC (41°F)
  • January- 10ºC (50°F) to2ºC (35°F)
  • February-11ºC (50°F) to 3ºC (37°F)

Japan Winter Clothing Guide

Takayama in winter. Photo Credit: Simon Desmarais at Flickr.

When it comes to clothing in Japanese winters, layers are key. While it gets very chilly outside (especially at night, which comes very soon), indoor areas are well-heated.

A warm jacket, thick sweater, long pants layered over lighter clothing is a good idea, as well as a bag to stash all the warmest clothing in when you are inside. Hats and gloves are also a good idea.

Here, people often go out with an umbrella during snowfall. You may want to see how people get dressed during the winter months in the Hokkaido region.

Plan for snow with your footwear. December tends to be the warmest of the winter months, with January as the coldest.

Japanese Winter Foods

Miso Ramen in Otaru city. Photo Credit: bryan… at Flickr.

With the colder weather comes special Japanese winter foods! Sushi shops across the country have seasonal specialties, including regional ones.

If you plan on traveling Japan during New Year’s time, you should try Osechi Ryori.

In Tohoku and Hiroshima, oysters and sake are winter treats. 

In Sapporo, you can enjoy soup curry and miso ramen. Across the country you can enjoy oden soup and nabe stew. Winter is a great season for Japanese food!

Learn more about Japanese winter food.

Hot Springs (Onsen)

Ginzan Onsen is Yamagata’s best onsen town, you have got to visit it! Photo Credit: Koichi Hayakawa at Flickr.

Japanese hot springs are a delight at any time of year, but they get even better with winter.

Onsen, hot spring baths, are a chance to soak in healing mineral waters. The warm baths are a delicious contrast to the cold air.

Many onsen are located in places where you can contemplate the beauty of nature. If you opt to stay at a hot spring resort instead of merely visiting during the day, you can also enjoy excellent food and accommodations.

Here are some best onsen towns located not far from Tokyo. Visit one of these and experience mineral waters it offers. 

In addition, we highly recommend you explore these awesome onsen of Hokkaido

Do you have tattoos? Don’t worry, there is one popular hot spring resort town in the Kansai region of Japan, known as Kinosaki Onsen. All these seven public bathhouses at Kinosaki Onsen allow people with tattoos of any size, color, or shape.

Japan Snow Festivals

This building is made out of Ice, Sapporo Snow Festival at Odori Park. Photo Credit: iyoupapa at Flickr.

Just as there are festivals throughout the other seasons, there are festivals in winter, too. Snow festivals in Japan offer great food, entertainment, and a chance to see some amazing art.

Snow and ice sculptures are common displays during winter festivals, especially in Sapporo. Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, the biggest snow festival of Japan is held here in early February. 

Wherever you go in winter in Japan, you can find unique snow festivals that are spots of warmth in a dark and cold season.

Take a look at this year’s winter festival calendar of Japan.

Christmas in Japan

Christmas tree at Port of Nagoya. Photo Credit: rumpleteaser at Wikimedia Commons.

Christmas in Japan is similar to the more secular aspects of western Christmas celebrations, but reimagined in its own unique way. The romantic aspects are stronger than the family ones.

While illuminations are common throughout winter and not necessarily associated with Christmas, for many people the two go together like milk and cookies.

You can find many beautifully decorated trees in public areas. Luckily for children, Santa visits Japan. For Christmas dinner, the Japanese eat fried chicken and a special Christmas cake.

New Year Celebrations

Zozoji temple and Tokyo Tower.

New Years’ preparations in Japan begin in early December. You’ll start seeing souvenirs, gifts, and food for the highly anticipated New Year’s celebrations.

On the actual evening itself, there are many options for a Japanese New Years’ celebration. You can attend a traditional shrine ceremony, or go to one of the many dance parties that can be found in major cities like Tokyo.

Please read this article to know about a list of Japanese New Year’s traditions. 

Winter Illuminations

Marunouchi illumination in Tokyo. Photo Credit: urasimaru at Flickr.

Winter illuminations in Japan are great places to spend a winter evening. These spectacular light displays are found in urban areas.

You can find many shops and stands near many of these light displays to find something to warm you up as you stroll along.

In Kuwana City (Mie Prefecture), you can visit Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination. It is often regarded as one of the largest illumination events in Japan.

In recent years, Shirakawago Winter Light-up event has become increasingly popular winter illumination event for tourists. Enjoy the evening by viewing the gorgeous lightning from Shiroyama Viewpoint at Ogimachi Village

When you are in Tokyo, especially from December to early February, don’t forget to visit these areas

Winter Scenery

Gassho-zukuri houses (Shirakawa-go) Gifu Prefecture. Photo Credit: Koichi Hayakawa at Flickr.

The Japanese winter scenery is amazing. The intense snowfall of many regions leaves a clean white blanket over buildings, mountains, trees, and more.

Mount Fuji’s snow-capped peak is visible from many areas. Lake Motosu is a great example of it. This is indeed a great place to view Mt. Fuji

In Gifu Prefecture, you can find the charming houses of the village of Shirakawa-go with their peaked roofs meant to hold up under heavy snow.

Jigokudani Monkey Park, found in Nagano, is where you can see the famous hot spring monkeys, who bathe in nearby hot springs to stay warm.

You can also visit some of the many temples and gardens found in Japan during winter to see their beauty in a whole new light.

Japan Ski Resorts

View of Mount Yotei from Niseko, Hokkaido.

Japan is one of the best places in the world to ski. The country receives some of the most snow in the world and a large amount of it is powdery and perfect for skiing.

Because of this, there are numerous ski resorts to be found in the country, from large ones in Hokkaido to smaller ones centered on hot spring villages. Skiing in Japan is friendly for all ages and skill levels.

The peak season for skiing in Japan is January and February, though the season lasts from December to April.

The most crowded the slopes get is during Christmas in December and during the Chinese New Year in February. Occasionally the season lasts into March, but by then it is usually too warm for good powdery snow.

English ski school is becoming more common and all major ski resorts are family-friendly. Most resorts also accommodate snowboarders, but boarders should check in advance if there are any off-limits areas for them.

Backcountry skiing in Hakkoda Mountains.

Rentals are common, though if you require larger sizes, call in advance to make sure a rental shop has the sizes you need. For those interested in backcountry skiing, there are many options.

Off-piste can be severely limited, so be sure to check your resort’s rules. There are also guided skiing tours in many areas.

Food and drink near ski resorts are not as common as they are in other areas, though you can usually find something nearby. There are more options in larger ski resorts, including traditional Japanese food and more western restaurants.

The nightlife is generally quiet near ski resorts, though less so near larger ones.

Skiing in Japan is a unique experience, with views and powder unlike any in the world!

Plum Blossoms (Ume)

Ume and mountains in the background, Inabe Plum Grove. Photo Credit: いなべ市 農業公園

In Japan, plum blossoms (ume) start to bloom in late winter. They can be spotted in large number in early Spring. 

These blossoms look very similar to cherry blossoms but they are different in many ways. Read this article to find out the differences. 

Japan has many plum blossom viewing spots. In some places, they bloom in mid-January, on the other hand, there are some areas where they can be seen from early-February.

Atami Baien, a popular plum grove in Atami city on Japan’s Izu Peninsula offers visitors to see 450 plum trees of 60 different varieties. 

Setagaya Ume Matsuri is a plum blossom festival held in Hanegi Park, Tokyo. Pink and white plum blossoms here would definitely make your visit memorable. 

If you want to see giant plum trees with blossoms you must stroll in Inabe-Shi Agricultural Park in Mie Prefecture. This is considered one of the largest plum groves in Japan. 

Want to explore more plum groves in Japan? Click here to see a list of best plum blossom viewing spots. 

You will be surprised to know that in February, you can view cherry blossoms in Japan! In fact, festivals are held when they start to bloom. We have published a post based on these sakura festivals that you can observe in February. 

Here are some useful articles to share with you for your upcoming trip to Japan in the winter:

1. Japan Winter Festivals Calendar

2. What to wear in Hokkaido during winter

3. Japan’s Best Ski Resorts to Visit

4. Japan Ski Season Dates: Opening and Closing

5. 9-Day in Hokkaido Winter Itinerary

6. Best things to do in Niseko in Winter

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