Winter in Japan is ‘proper’ winter, with temperatures dropping below zero degrees and snowfall across most of Northern Japan, even in Tokyo. Winter can truly bring out the beauty of the Japanese landscape, with snow peaked mountains and snow covered fields.
Winter illuminations are a great draw in Japan, one such festival is the Sapporo Snow Festival on the island of Hokkaido. Being the most northern island in Japan Hokkaido receives the most snow and it from this which the craftsman build their spectacular statues and sculptures. The festival runs usually in February where you can marvel at the almost inconceivable sculptures while they are illuminated in many colours. If you are not planning to visit Hokkaido during your winter trip then illuminations can be viewed throughout Japan.
Japan in a mountainous country with mountain ranges from the southern tip to the most northern island. Whether you are on Honshu or Hokkaido there is a lot of powder to enjoy. Gunma prefecture on Honshu offers many ski and snowboarding resorts to test your skills, however, Hokkaido is said to have snow superior to Honshu. With many slopes and resorts on offer, Japan is a great place to catch some snow and to relax afterwards in an onsen to relax tired muscles.
Japanese onsen is famous throughout the world- but visiting Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park offers a new side to the onsen. Based in Nagano prefecture Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park features some rather clever monkeys. Rather than endure the cold of winter this troupe of monkeys have started to use the onsen to keep warm!
New Years is celebrated in many different ways across the globe and Japan is no exception, offering a rich selection of tradition and contemporary celebrations. Food plays a key role during new year, traditionally no cooking was done following new year so these traditional foods include a lot of preserved foods, either pickled or sweetened or dried to keep over the period, this new year food is referred to as osechi-ryori. Mochi is another traditional food enjoyed over new year, traditionally cooked in late December and then eaten on the first day of January. Kagami-mochi is produced at new year which are two mochi balls topped with a tangerine, eating this is meant to be auspicious. Other traditions include ringing bells in Buddhist temples 108 times and eating soba noodles. New Year can be a great time to visit Japan to experience a celebration unlike that which you would get at home.
Winter can be a beautiful time to experience Japan, whether you want to enjoy the snow on skis or join in with new year celebrations.