10 Things to Do in Japan During the Winter Season

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10 Things to Do in Japan During the Winter Season

Don't let the cooler temperatures put you off - a winter trip to Japan could be one of the best trips you ever take. From snow and lantern festivals to amazing shopping, world-renown ski resorts and ancient onsen ready to take you back in time, winter in Japan is never boring.

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10 Things to Do in Japan During the Winter Season

Go Skiing in Niseko

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Japan is a mountainous country, and all those hills and slopes are perfect for skiing. It also has chilly winters with plenty of natural snow in northwestern regions. Niseko, a town in Hokkaido, is one of the top ski destinations in the world. The area is famous for its light, powdery snow, perfect for skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports.

Have Fun with Snow at the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri

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The seven-day Sapporo Snow Festival is held each year in February in the capital of Hokkaido, Sapporo. The main attractions are the numerous sculptures of ice and snow placed at festival sites around the city. Teams from all over the world compete for the crown of best display. During this time there are endless things for visitors to do, including skating, live music performances and snow rafting.

Take a Trip to an Ancient Onsen

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Wintertime is the perfect excuse to take a trip to one of Japan's many onsen, or hot springs. Dogo Onsen in Ehime Prefecture is Japan's oldest hot springs facility. The ancient structure of the main building was used as the inspiration for the bathhouse in Studio Ghibi's 'Spirited Away'. Dogo Onsen opened an extension to the building in 2017, staying true to Asuka Period architectural styles and the traditional feel of the original complex.

Take a Stroll Among the Winter Illuminations

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Winter illuminations typically begin in mid-November and last until February. While there are plenty of these light-up displays happening around Japan, some of the most popular happen in and around Tokyo. Marunouchi's Naka-dori, the Meguro River and Tokyo Station are just some of the illuminations happening around the city each winter.

Take a Chance on a Lucky Bag

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As the end of the year approaches, shops begin throwing together fukubukuro or 'lucky bags'. These grab bags are sold for a fraction of the selling cost of the merchandise hidden inside. Lucky bags are so popular that many clothing shops allow customers to reserve their bag weeks in advance.

Visit the Historic Village of Shirakawa

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The picturesque scene of the Shirakawa farmhouses nestled under a blanket of snow and lit up from within is something everyone should see at least once. The villages of Shirakawa in Gifu Prefecture and Gokayama in Toyama Prefecture are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the only places in the world you'll find Japan's traditional gassho-zukuri thatched-roof farmhouses.

Bathe with Monkeys in Nagano

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Nothing says winter in Japan like the image of a red-faced monkey taking a hot bath in an onsen, surrounded by snow. Japanese macaques are native to Japan and earned the nickname snow monkeys because of their chilly habitat. Nagano's Jigokudani Park is a popular place to see the monkeys taking a soak in the area's natural hot springs. You can't actually bathe with them here, but they don't mind an audience!

Get Lost in the Candlelight at Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival

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Yokote's Kamakura Snow Festival in Akita Prefecture is the largest festival of its kind. The 'kamakura' are snow domes. Some are just big enough to fit a small light inside, while others are spacious enough to allow several people inside. Kamakura festivals are some of Japan's most beautiful and unique winter events.

Make a Wish at Tsunan Snow Festival

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The town of Tsunan in Niigata Prefecture is famous for heavy snowfall. At the annual Snow Festival, visitors can try out local specialties and hot drinks, ride a snowmobile or enjoy other winter sports. The main attraction, however, is the release of hundreds of paper lanterns carrying people's wishes up into the sky.

Indulge in Japanese Winter Specialties

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Winter is the best time of year to enjoy Japan's nabe (hotpot), oden (braised vegetables, tofu and egg), hot sake and other steamy favorites. While these can be eaten throughout the year, they're just best enjoyed in the colder weather as it warms up your insides.

In Conclusion

Aside from the country's many ski resorts, winter is considered a low season for tourism. But with so many things to see and do no matter when you visit, a winter trip to Japan could be one of the best decisions you make.