The 6 Best Things to Do During Winter in Japan!

  • ‘Tis the season to be jolly because winter has arrived in Japan!

    The season of magical snow and winter wonderland has come to The Land of The Rising Sun. I am pretty sure that every avid winter sports enthusiast right now is grinning from ear to ear now that the long wait is over! Little children for sure have already exclaimed their first “Snow!” as they jump in excitement witnessing the first snowfall. And you, yes you! You are reading this article right now because you are wondering what other interesting things that winter in Japan can offer aside from making your own version of Olaf. Am I right?


    Winter in Japan is not just about skiing or snow. For some, it may even just be a season of snow shoveling and endless layering of clothes. But just so you know, adventures and fun do not cease in winter in Japan. Each season has its own beauty and surprises that everyone enjoys, and winter is no exception. There are a lot of things that you can do in Japan during this season. I know you can’t wait to know them, so let’s get started!

    1. Go Skiing and Snowboarding in Nagano
    Hakuba, Nagano


    Japan is a leading winter sports destination around the world with some of the best ski resorts and deep powder snow that every enthusiast, whether local or not, thirsts for. Aside from Hokkaido, being known as the coldest region in Japan, there is one place that is a popular place to visit, most especially, for overseas travelers and that is Nagano Prefecture. Nagano has many outstanding ski resorts such as those located in Shiga Kogen (Shiga Higlands), Hakuba and Nozawa Onsen. These ski resorts receive huge amounts of snow every year and guarantee the best skiing and snowboarding experience. You may not be a fan of winter sports, but it is something really worth trying!

    Nagano became more popular among tourists since it was the host of the 1998 Winter Olympics. It is easily accessible by a bullet train (Shinkansen) ride from Tokyo.

    Nagano Tourism Website

    2. Marvel at Snow Giants at the Sapporo Snow Festival!


    Have you ever fantasized about being in a wonderland where everything is made of ice and snow when you were younger? If yes, then this one is a dream come true for you!

    Held in Japan’s fourth-largest city (and host to the 1972 Winter Olympics), the Sapporo Snow Festival is the largest winter festival in Japan. It takes pride in its hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures that will surely feed your artistic soul and blow your mind! This winter festival has a history dating back 1950 and still continues up to the present day. A variety of snow and ice sculptures can be seen here such as those based on famous animations like Pokemon or One Piece, or even movies like Star Wars. A lot of the sculptures are also modeled after historical sites, not just in Japan, but also from around the world. In 2018, the Sapporo Snow Festival will be held from February 5 through February 12.

    Free your inner child as you gaze in awe at this tiny world of imagination!

    Sapporo Snow Festival

    3. Have a Close Encounter with Snow Monkeys Soaking in a Hot Spring!
    Jigokudani Monkey Park


    If you thought you are the only one who deserve a good hot bath after a long tiring day, think again. In a small town in Nagano Prefecture called, Yamanouchi, there is an onsen (hot spring) park dedicated only to our little friends, the Japanese macaques. They are popularly known as the Japanese snow monkeys that soak in a hot spring in Jigokudani Monkey Park. These monkeys are free to wander inside the park and do not even mind the people around them. Although they are harmless, it would be better to always keep your belongings with you as you may not want your iPhone to be soaked!

    Because of the park’s popularity both inside and outside Japan, it can get really crowded, especially in winter, as it is the best season for them to warm their bodies up. To avoid large crowds, it would be best to visit the park early in the morning on weekdays.

    Jigokudani Monkey Park

    4. Stay Overnight at a UNESCO World Heritage Site!


    If you feel like changing the atmosphere of where you sleep and you want to experience your dreams somewhere magical, then pay attention. You are on your way to knowing about something worth the experience!

    One of Japan’s famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites is the Shirakawa-go, a small village located in Gifu Prefecture. It attracts visitors with its unique thatched-roof farmhouses that were built to endure the heavy snowfall in the winter. This village turns into a fairytale-like picture as the sun goes down and darkness covers the sky. Since most of the visitors start to leave before nighttime, having a stroll around the village and gazing upon the snow-covered farmhouses with their lamps lit, is a magical experience. Moreover, staying overnight at an actual farmhouse gives you a taste of the locals’ everyday living which is something you will truly never forget.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to experience the traditional way of life in the countryside?

    Shirakawa-go English Homepage

    5. Live Out Your ‘Spirited Away’ Fantasies at Kanaguya Inn!


    Who does not know about the highest grossing film in Japanese history, Spirited Away? If you have not seen this yet, you better see it right away. But, make sure to finish reading this article first!

    One of the things the Japanese enjoy doing most is taking a dip in the hot springs, also known as “onsen”, most especially during winter. The health benefits and relaxation it gives are the main reasons why it is very popular in Japan. In fact, there are thousands of hot springs dotted all over the country that cater to everyone. This Japanese custom is very evident in the famed Ghibli film, Spirited Away. The setting of the story centers around the “Aburaya”, a bathhouse, that was modeled after a real-life location in Japan. Guess what? It is the Kanaguya Inn, a traditional onsen hotel at Shibu Onsen in Nagano.

    If you are a great fan of the movie, then you are probably freaking out right now. Yes, there is hope! You can live out your dream of turning your ‘Spirited Away’ fantasies into reality by staying overnight at this hotel. Although it is not entirely similar to the Aburaya, you can definitely see their resemblance and you would definitely get the overwhelming feeling of living the dream once you step in.

    Make sure to enjoy the nostalgic atmosphere and experience the Japanese custom of soaking at hot springs when you visit. What else is better than a nice hot bath on a cold winter night, right?

    Kanaguya Inn

    6. Be Dazzled by the Amazing Illuminations in Japan!
    Nabanano Sato, Mie Prefecture


    What is winter without all the flashing bright lights at night?
    Japan turns into a country of colorful and beaming lights as winter approaches. Several illuminations spread out in different parts of the country during this season but are most commonly seen in more populated areas. Some of the best winter illuminations that you should not miss can be seen in Tokyo, Kobe, Mie, Osaka, Kanagawa, Nagoya, and Tochigi.

    Christmas and New Year season in Japan means illumination galore! These great illuminations bring colors to darkness and smiles to everyone who sees them. The lights are usually of different colors in different themes. Some of which resemble figures or even animations and some may even change colors and move! Experiencing this is truly a must during winter!

    So, there you have it! These are just some of the best things to do in Japan during winter. Winter is special. It has a lot of exciting and interesting activities to offer, so make sure to experience it at least once!

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