Is Japan on your travel horizon this winter? There’s never a bad time to visit our country, and even though a chill sets in and the nights grow longer, there are still countless incredible things to see and do here.
Of course, winter arrives in different ways across the country. You will find the most frigid conditions in Hokkaido, where the temperature typically drops below freezing. In contrast, places like Shikoku and Kansai are comparatively balmy!
But where exactly should you go? What are the best places to visit in Japan in winter?
Pack a warm winter coat, put on some layers, and join us on a virtual tour through some of our favorite spots in Japan in winter. At Pinpoint Traveler, our Japan Tours are rich in authentic, local experiences, so we know where to find the magic of the season.
If any questions come to mind as we go, please feel free to get in touch.
Visit Tokyo for Winter Illuminations, Sales, and Lucky Bags
Tokyo, the vibrant heart of Japan, takes on a mesmerizing aura in winter. As the city prepares for festivities, winter illuminations transform streets and landmarks into breathtaking displays of light and color. Places like Tokyo Disneyland, Oi Racecourse’s Tokyo Mega Illumination, Omotesandō, and Roppongi Hills are just the tip of the winter illuminations iceberg. Each spot creates a fairy-tale atmosphere with its own unique display of dazzling lights.
But there’s plenty more to enjoy under the lights too! Dive into the world of winter sales at popular districts like Ginza and Shibuya, where discounted fashion, technology, and traditional crafts await bargain hunters. And why not embrace the tradition of fukubukuro, or Lucky Bags? As you may have already guessed, stores offer these mystery bags filled with goodies at slashed prices.
All of this is just an extra winter layer on the wild and wonderful things you can find on our Tokyo Tours throughout the year, from Shinjuku and Shibuya to mouthwatering food and drink.
If our capital city is a must-visit destination on your visit to Japan, we think you’ll love reading our picks for the ten things you should do in Tokyo.
Head to Hakone for Awe-Inspiring Views of Mount Fuji
There aren’t too many more iconic sights in Japan than the snow-capped Mount Fuji on a clear, crisp winter day. Take the train from Tokyo to Hakone and you can marvel at this view for yourself.
While the incredible vistas of Mount Fuji are one of the main draws, Hakone is a popular mountain resort area, so you can stay overnight if you don’t want to head there and back on the same day. This gives you more time to enjoy the mountain views, try Owakudani’s famous black eggs, ride the Hakone Ropeway, and so much more.
Winter is one of the best times of the year for viewing Mount Fuji as there is typically less cloud cover compared with autumn and spring — although, of course, you can never guarantee anything when it comes to the weather!
If you think you will prefer to visit Japan in the autumn, or it’s simply the only time you can come, you may want to read our blog What is the Best Place to Visit in Japan During Autumn?
Immerse Yourself in Kyoto’s Serene Winter Beauty and Plum Blossoms
Step into the historical city of Kyoto during winter, where time seems to slow down, revealing a serene beauty amidst smaller crowds. Explore historic temples and shrines like Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Fushimi Inari Taisha in a more tranquil ambiance.
Spring and the world-famous cherry blossoms may be some months off in midwinter, but Kyoto comes alive with color around mid-January thanks to the delicate white and pink blooms of ume (plum) flowers. Find out for yourself why these striking blossoms have inspired works of art down the years.
Like all of our excursions, our Kyoto Tours are led by local experts, making them ideal for anyone looking to understand this fascinating city of history and tradition on a deeper level.
Discover even more before your arrival by reading about some of the cultural highlights of Kyoto.
See Nagano’s Monkeys and Hit the Slopes for Snowy Adventures
Nagano beckons with its unique blend of winter experiences. Venture into Jigokudani Monkey Park, where adorable snow monkeys soak in natural hot springs, creating an endearing spectacle against the wintry landscape.
For adventure seekers, Nagano boasts top-notch skiing destinations like Hakuba Valley and Nozawa Onsen, promising exhilarating slopes and powder-covered landscapes.
Soak Up Osaka’s Winter Illuminations and Festive Delights
Winter transforms Osaka into a wonderland of lights and festive cheer. Osaka Castle becomes a beacon of mesmerizing illuminations, casting a spellbinding glow across the surrounding park. This shimmering installation takes you on a journey through the history of Japan via an array of illuminated miniature treasures.
Meanwhile, Universal Studios Japan dazzles visitors with its spectacular winter-themed attractions and shows. Expect impressive illuminations throughout the park and daily Christmas performances.
As our Osaka Tours showcase, this is already a city renowned for energy, color, a vibrant food culture, and numerous local idiosyncracies — winter just adds a new angle to it all! Sound tempting? Take a deeper dive into this one-of-a-kind city with our picks for the best Osaka walking tour sights.
Step into Hokkaido’s Winter Extravaganza
Hokkaido, Japan’s northern gem, captivates with a winter wonderland unlike any other. The Sapporo Snow Festival stands as a testament to the region’s winter charm, featuring stunning snow sculptures that draw visitors from around the globe.
More or less in the center of the island, near the village of Biei, you can explore the enchanting Shirogane Blue Pond. Here, the winter landscape, unnatural blue water, and serene surroundings combine to create an otherworldly scene. However, this is quite an isolated spot off the beaten track.
For ski enthusiasts, Hokkaido boasts premier skiing and snowboarding resorts like Niseko and Furano, offering pristine slopes and a paradise for winter sports lovers. And when you’ve tired yourself out, sink into the soothing embrace of Hokkaido’s famous onsen.
Admire the Kobe Luminarie and Other Winter Joys
Kobe shines brightly during winter with its enchanting Luminarie, a stunning light festival of hope and resilience. These illuminations have shone every December since 1995 in commemoration of the Great Hanshin Earthquake victims.
For a quintessential Japanese experience, visit Arima Onsen, one of Japan’s oldest hot spring towns, and rejuvenate your senses amidst its therapeutic waters. Located behind Mount Rokkō, this onsen is still somewhat of a hidden treasure and attracts tranquility-seeking locals from towns and cities in the surrounding area, including Osaka.
If you want a more adrenaline-fuelled adventure, Rokkō Snow Park offers thrilling winter activities against a backdrop of scenic vistas.
Our blog Is Kobe Worth Visiting? takes a closer look at the many merits of this fantastic city.
Discover Japan’s Wonders Year-Round with Pinpoint Traveler
So, what are the best places to visit in Japan in Winter? That’s for you to decide now! We hope this blog has inspired you to start planning your trip. But if you want more local insights and recommendations, browse our range of Japan Tours!
If you have any questions, please get in touch.