Incredible Places To Visit In Japan During Winter

December 3, 2018

There are so many reasons why you should go to Japan in the winter. Firstly, because the weather is cold, it is less crowded and you can explore in leisure. Secondly, there are many winter activities visitors can participate in during this season such as skiing, ice skating, soaking in hot spring, etc. However, do you know where the best places to enjoy these activities are? If not, keep reading this article to learn the top 13 places to visit in winter in Japan.

Japan In The winter

Top 13 Places To Visit On Your Japan Winter Holiday

1. Shirakawa-go, Gifu

Shirakawa-go is a stunning year-round village in the center of Gifu. People know Shirakawa-go as an area of "gasshou" houses - an ancient traditional architecture. "Gasshou" means "praying hands" in English. People here believe that the traditional style of sharply steep roofs resembles the two hands of Budda gathered when praying.

Winter in this village is said to be the most beautiful as it is the most massive snow area in Japan. Nearly 96 percent of this area is untouched forest, so it is quite hard to reach. However, you should still make an effort to arrive in Shirakawa-go, it will bring you the most authentic feeling of Japanese remote life.

2. Takayama, Gifu

If you come to Japan in winter, you can choose to go to Takayama, which is known as the Little Kyoto with ancient sites and buildings. This area is famous for its specialties such as sansai, wasakana, Hida beef, soba noodles, sake, and so on. It is said that Takayama is one of the best cities to take photos in Japan in winter with red lacquered bridges, kimono-clad women, stunning-looking Kura houses, etc. 

Kura houses are fire-resistant buildings for citizens to store their valuable things. Nowadays, they are used as cafes, sake locales, or boutiques.

Search for the best places to stay in Takayama here.

3. Shinhotaka Ropeway (Gifu)

Shinhotaka Ropeway is the place where Oku-Hotakedake - the third highest mountain in Japan - is located. Here, you can enjoy the panoramic beauty of Okuhida Mountains and valleys. If you are active and love risky activities, you can try snowshoeing in this region.

Japan in Winter - Visit Shinhotaka Ropeway

4. Gero (Gifu)

Gero sits on rich underground thermal water currents, so it is considered the best place to warm up in Japan during the winter. If you are brave enough, you can undress, soak into the hot water pools, and relax. Many artistic rocks are displayed in this area to create the perfect scenery for visitors. Therefore, you can enjoy the beauty of nature while relaxing in a hot water pool.

Find the best accommodations in Gero here.

5. Kobe City (Hyogo)

Kobe city is the place where Japanese people and foreign travelers can experience seasonal illuminations with many fairy lights, projection mapping, and LEDs.
Besides, you should also take time to visit Kobe port, especially if you arrive in Japan in November.

Here, the Kobe Luminarie is celebrated yearly to honor thousands of people who passed away in the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. After the earthquake, electricity was cut in this area for a quite long period, so they turned on the lights to symbolize hope, recovery, and renewal.

6. Kinosaki Hot Spring (Hyogo)

This is a charming old town with many onsens on the Sea of Japan. In the 8th century, many hot springs were discovered in this area. The local people built bathhouses over the hot spring to serve daily life. Later, when this place became famous all over the world, these works still remain and create Kinosaki a majestic ancient beauty.

7. Takeda Castle Ruins (Hyogo)

The Takeda Castle was built in 1441. However, the buildings were damaged and only the foundations remained. Nowadays, it has become a very famous destination for travelers. In the morning, Takeda castle ruins look like they are floating on the clouds. Therefore, when you have a chance to visit Japan, do not forget to arrive in Hyogo to admire this mysterious scenery.

8. Tokyo – The Capital Of Japan

Although it is freezing in Tokyo in winter, nothing can prevent you from commuting from one place to others. In Tokyo, you will see the vibrant and active life of people, from the cafe to restaurant or office. All buildings here are kept at a comfortable temperature, and when going out, you can use well-heated or underground train stations. In the center of Tokyo, there is an office to help travelers with English-speaking employees, so you do not have to worry about getting lost or safety problems.

You can easily spend a couple of days in Tokyo discovering all of the exciting and vibrant activities. There's so much to do in this city alone!

Visiting Japan in winter - Tokyo

9. First Tadami River Bridge (Fukushima)

The bridge crossing Tadamigawa River is 174 meters in length and is considered one of the most fabulous destinations in Fukushima. During the winter, it is a picturesque place to take photos. It is also fascinating if you can go across the bridge on a train.

10. Ueno Park (Tokyo)

If you have quite a little time to stay in Japan, why don't you go to Ueno Park? Within this single place, visitors will have a chance to sample the unique charms of many countries all over the world. From this park, you can go shopping in Ameya Yokocho - a famous ancient black market in Japan. 

Last but not least, you can get to nearby Yanaka, which provides you with an authentic view of Tokyo's culture and history. This is one of a few that survived after World War II.

11. Nagano

Nagano is considered as the city of freedom and longevity. It locates in the center of Japan and attracts a large number of tourists every year. In Nagano, visitors can experience the most putative beauty without fighting against the crowds thanks to the remoteness.

Apart from the natural beauty, Nagano is said to be the home of hidden gems. From Nagano, you can get to Kogen ski resort and Matsumoto city. In Kogen ski resort, you will see onsen-bathing monkeys of Jigokudani; while in Matsumoto city, you will have an opportunity to explore the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route and snow walls.

Japan Winter Holiday - Nagano

12. Onuma Quasi National Park (Hokkaido)

This park is in the south of Hokkaido and is a picturesque area with rivers, lakes, and hills. Onuma Quasi National Park is well-known for its Mount Komagatake, an active volcano covered by snow and majestic beauty. Here, visitors can participate in hiking, cycling, fishing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and especially looking at the beauty of Japanese landscapes in winter. Your visit to Onuma Quasi National Park will be of the most meaningful if you come in December.

13. Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan and the symbol of this country. Three small cities are sitting around Mount Fuji which include Gotemba, Fujiyoshida, and Fujinomiya. This mountain is famous for its year-round scenery, especially in the winter.

From the middle to the end of winter, especially from January to March, the sky is clear so you can take photos with Mount Fuji covered by snow. You can even make a shot of its shade in the evening. Chiba port and Mizugatsuka Park are the best places near Mount Fuji for you to take photos.

Japan In Winter - Mount Fuji

If you would rather get up close and see the details in all of the beauty in person, there are several places for the best close-up views of Mount Fuji that you can get to quite easily. Even on a cloudy day, going closer to the mountain will ensure you get a chance to see it in all of it's glory!

Why Visit Japan In Winter

Avoid The Crowds

In spring and autumn, Japan attracts millions of tourists as they are the seasons of Sakura and Koyo. Summer is the holiday time in many countries, and Japan is not an exception. During the summer, many families have time to travel; it means that every tourist attraction picks up thousands of travelers. Therefore, the best time to visit Japan is in winter, when it is less crowded, and you can explore the whole beauty of this beautiful country.

Soak In Hot Spring (Onsen)

Soaking in hot spring is one of the most famous and exciting things every visitor should do when going to Japan and winter is the only time for you to do this legendary activity. For the Japanese, this is the best way to relax and re-energize the body. Not only Japanese people but many tourists also say that this was one of the most beautiful things they had done in Japan. So, if you leave in this country without trying onsen, it is a big mistake.

Enjoy Japanese Winter Specialties

Like many other countries in Asia, Japan is well-known for its seasonal specialties. In winter, when the temperature drops, tourists will have chances to enjoy the hot and healthy snacks made by local people. This will be a special occasion for people who love tofu, meat, and soy-braised vegetables.

See Winter Wildlife

In winter, you can see many red-faced monkeys, which are soaking their bodies in onsens in the Snow Monkey Park and red-crowned cranes in the Tsurui-Ito Tancho Sanctuary in Hokkaido.

Japan In The Winter - Snow Monkey Park

Participate In The Snow Festival

The snow festival, with a large number of snow sculptures, in Japan attracts more than two millions of tourists annually. In this occasion, many artists from all over the work gather together, create, and complete large works from ice and snow. Besides, there are some events such as skating, games, illuminations, and so on.

 Tips For Visiting Japan In Winter The Cheapest Way

  • Travel Off-Peak: Peak season also means high rates of hotel, plane tickets, souvenir, and so on. Therefore, traveling off-season will save you a lot. We usually find the best deals on places to stay with a little bit of online research in advance.
  • Seek Discounted Air Tickets. We like to Compare prices on flights for the cheapest options.
  • Transport By Bus: Never take a taxi. Choose to go by buses as they are always available at a low price. Also, look for combination tickets to lower the cost.
  • Walk: Some people wonder why Japan has high average longevity. It is because they walk a lot. Also, walking brings you a chance to look at all the small things on the Japanese streets. Some of them will be useful to you later.
  • Choose Free Guide Services: In many cities in Japan, you can find free private tour guides. They are very friendly and only want to improve their English, so you do not have to pay for anything. A small lunch for them is excellent. Alternatively, there are budget friendly walking tours available like this one in Kyoto.

Above is all useful information about the reasons and places to visit in Japan in winter. We also provide you with some tips for a cheap holiday in Japan. If you have ever been to this city, please share with us your experience by commenting under this article. Thanks for reading!

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    Emily Pham

    About the Author

    Emily Pham

    I am Emily Pham. I was born in Vietnam – a country with many unknown beaches, historic sites, and tourist attractions. Understanding that Vietnam nowadays is a famous destination, I establish the blog site with the purpose of introducing the elegant beauty of Vietnam to friends around the world. If you are planning a trip to Vietnam, our blog will provide you with essential information on where to go and what to do in our country.

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    The snow monkey park looks so fun. I’d love to go there or Kinosaki the hotsprings there.'
      Taiss Nowrouzi

      They are all fun! Hope you get to see the winter fun of Japan!'

    We’d really love to explore more of Japan, and I’m sure it is really beautiful in the winter. I thought I read somewhere that heating systems aren’t that great in Japanese homes, but maybe that is changing… Just want to make sure we won’t be freezing!'
      Taiss Nowrouzi

      Hi Michelle! We stayed in a small apartment in November and were very warm and cozy! It may just depend on where you stay, but I think you should be fine!'

    I love the idea of traveling during the off-season, especially since there tend to be fewer crowds like you mentioned. Hot springs in the winter are super fun, so I think I’d be all about Kinosaki for sure! The snow festival sounds fun. I’d like to see this one day for myself!'
      Taiss Nowrouzi

      Yes, we are huge fans of going to places when it is low season. It feels like you really get to see the place! Soaking in those Onsens is just heavenly!'
    Sherrie Fabrizi Allbritten

    Japan looks so magical in the winter, I never realized how beautiful it was there with snow everywhere! I love your first photo with the red temple covered in snow. Beautiful!'
      Taiss Nowrouzi

      I’m usually not a big fan of snow but Japan has a way of making it look beautiful so it’s worth visiting in the winter!

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