Japan enjoys millions of tourists per year and the season generally affects how many people you can expect to see at famous hotspots. Kyoto gets especially crowded during spring, Hokkaido and Nagano see lots of tourism in winter, and popular vacation destinations are booked full during the holiday seasons of Golden Week and Obon.
If you’re planning to visit Japan, no doubt you’ll be taking the time of year into consideration. If you’re hoping to catch the cherry blossoms, then you’ll definitely be visiting in late March. However, if you have no weather-related plans in mind, no doubt you’ll be a bit more flexible. Here are five great reasons why you should consider visiting Japan in winter!
If you’ve ever been to Japan, you’ll know what I mean when I say “vending machines.” Unless you walk around with your eyes closed, you’ll know that there is a vending machine on pretty much every corner of Japan, even in the small towns.
As well as the usual fizzy drinks, canned coffee, and bottled water, some hot little treats appear when winter rolls around. These include:
- Hot chocolate. Van Houten Cocoa is responsible for keeping commuters warm during walks to work… as well as their expanding waistlines.
- Soup. Do you fancy some miso soup in a can? How about corn? Vegetable? Take your pick. There’s nothing like soup on the go.
- Hot coffee and milk tea. Milk tea tasted odd at first, but now it’s the second best thing after hot chocolate. There’s nothing quite like grabbing a hot coffee from a machine instead of having to line up at Starbucks.
Many parts of Japan where it gets devilishly cold host some great opportunities to try out winter sports. Pros, semi-pros, and beginners alike from all over the country and beyond flock to Hokkaido and Nagano to spend some time doing seasonal sports for practice or leisure.
January is a great time to go, though the Christmas and New Year holidays are generally the most crowded. In Nagano and other colder areas, you can go until late February.
Pretty lights spring up all over Tokyo and beyond this time of year as if by Christmas magic. You can’t go anywhere without witnessing the dazzling, colorful surrealism of Japanese illumination events. There are openings and special events for this neon excellence, though there are many places where you can see them for free around town.
There is no reason to not love illuminations. They’re family friendly, give you a bit of that warm holiday feeling, and they’re oh, so very pretty.
There’s something comforting about wandering cold streets with a bottle of hot chocolate in one hand and a heat patch in the other. Heat patches are available all year round in larger shops, but they pop up as early as November in convenience stores for just a couple of yen apiece. People stock up every year to combat the chilly winter air, and they’re good for on the go or if you’re sitting in your house. These lovely patches are just adorable, and provide some extra heat when your body decides to forget how to keep you warm.
In summer, Tokyo and other big cities are hot and humid, making it irritatingly hot and even quite depressing in the middle months of the year (especially June, where it rains all the time). Seasonal depression actually tends to hit the cities in summer.
When winter swings around, however, Tokyo has beautiful blue skies almost every day. You can see some gorgeous views of Mt. Fuji from Tokyo Tower or, even higher up, Tokyo Skytree. In summer, it’s rare to see such a view.
This also means that if you’re hoping to go hiking or see some nature during your visit to Japan, winter is an excellent time to go.
So if you’re not sure about what time of year to visit Japan, consider coming in winter for New Year or Christmas! There are fewer tourists, you can try winter sports, and see some great illuminations. Japan is also excellent at keeping their citizens warm. Think about coming this December and experiencing Japan in its winter charm.