Are you planning to visit Japan in winter 2019-2020? Cherry blossom season and autumn are peak travel periods in Japan, but did you know that winter is one of the best times to visit too?
Here’s a short, handy guide with tips on the weather and temperature, what to wear, recommended places to visit, and other useful tips! You might want to bookmark or save this post for future reference!
Winter months are quite calm in Japan as compared to the other seasons. Japanese winters usually last around three months, from December to February. Tokyo usually experiences a sunny winter with very little rain or snow. The Kanto and Kansai regions are also cold and sunny, which makes it a great weather for skiing or sightseeing.
What to Wear
People in Japan wear coats, jumpers, and down jackets during winter, with multiple layers underneath, like a sweater. Most buildings or malls in Japan will be heated, so you’ll be able to remove your coat. If you’re afraid you can’t stand the cold, make sure to bring gloves, scarves, and even wool caps. Earmuffs will come in handy too, especially on windy days.
If you plan to stay outside for a long time, we’d recommend you to take a long heating pads with you to protect your hands and feet from the cold. These heating pads can be found in convenience stores, supermarkets, and drugstores in Japan for about 200 yen (~RM 8) for a pack of 10. However, we recommend that you have a few on hand right when you reach. Just in case you aren’t that used to the weather yet! Most heating pads will last anywhere from 4-12 hours.
Another tip to staying warm is to get a hot drink from a cafe, supermarket, or convenience stores.
How to Get Around
Getting around Japan in winter is pretty much the same as the other seasons. The most common way is to get a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) and/or a transport pass (Suica card, ICOCA card). These transport passes are great if you’re looking for something quick and efficient to get you around. Other ways to get around include hailing a taxi, taking the bus, riding a bike, or walking on foot.
Places to Visit & Things to Do
Visit an Onsen Town
Japan is famous for its onsens (hot spring) and it’s not called a winter wonderland for no reason! Visiting one during winter will give you a totally unique experience. Sitting in the warm onsen when there’s snow falling all around you is an amazing experience you don’t want to miss out on!
Most onsen towns are tucked away in areas that aren’t extremely easy to reach, like up in the mountains. This usually means that the onsen towns get a lot of snowfall, like what you see in the photo above!
Some onsen towns you can visit include Ginzan Onsen (pictured) in the Yamagata prefecture, Akiu Onsen in the Miyagi prefecture, and Nyutu Onsen in the Akita prefecture.
During winter, Japan lights up. Literally. Cities in Japan are decorated with beautiful seasonal lights from end November to February, and illuminations and light shows are common and draw a crowd.
If you’re visiting Tokyo, head to Tokyo Station, Ueno, and Roppongi to view the beautiful illuminations. Don’t forget to visit Tokyo Tower which is illuminated from 4pm-10pm daily during winter time.
The Nakanoshima Park in Osaka and Illuminarie in Kobe has been drawing fame worldwide for their spectacular light-ups.
Japan has quite a lot of mountains which makes it a great place for winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, skating, and even snow trekking! Hokkaido in particular is usually the first place that comes to mind when one thinks about skiing in Japan. The northern island is well-known for it’s world class ski resorts and powdery snow. If you’re not heading to Hokkaido, you can also take a day trip from Tokyo to find a few nearby that are just as great.
We hope these tips and recommendations will come in handy during your trip to Japan in the winter! Looking for more Japan travel guides? Check out our picks on 5 Must-Try Snacks from Don Quijote and our Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea Ultimate Guide!