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Winter in Japan: 11 Things to Do and Places to See in 2019-2020

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by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Akane N.

Last updated : Apr 28, 202215 min read

Things To Do

Winter in Japan is full of things to do and places to see. And there are some things that you can only see in this snowy season. Skiing is, of course, one of the most popular things you can enjoy during winter in Japan. Go to Hokkaido and you’ll be able to experience high-quality snow powder. And when you’ve had your fill of fun from spending the day in freezing temperatures, you can soak in the hot springs and thaw out your tired body.

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11 Places to Visit During Winter

Below are some of the winter sightseeing spots that you might not be aware of. So if you aren’t a person who likes winter sports or if you don’t have time to take several days to go to the snowy mountainside, here are some of the places you can enjoy. It will still be very cold, especially during January and February so make sure you pack warm clothes.

 

Tokyo Winter Festivals and Illuminations

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Tokyo doesn’t get much snow. Even if it does snow, it’s only a day or two during the long winter. So the scenery doesn’t change much except for the trees being bare. However, winter time in Japan, especially Tokyo can be enjoyed after dark. Many places tend to put up colorful lights from December to around the end of February to illuminate the winter months. And since the sun sets early, you’ll be able to enjoy the wonderful sight for a longer amount of time.

 

Tokyo Tower illumination

Tokyo Tower itself is one of the main sightseeing spots in Tokyo. And the illuminated tower at night is beautiful in itself. However, you can also enjoy the Christmas tree and elaborate illumination which twinkles to the sound of the music outside the entrance of the structure. This year, Tokyo Tower is presenting the City Light Fantasia ~ REIWA Lights in Tokyo ~, which will feature projection mapping. Don’t miss out on this unique event.

Address: 4-2-8 Shiba Koen, Minato-ku, Tokyo (map)

Access: a 10 minute walk from either Kamiyacho Station on the Hibiya line or Onarimon Station on the Mita line or Akabanebashi Station on the Oedo line.

Duration: November 16, 2019 to February 11, 2020

Hours: 6 pm to 11:50 pm

Recommended Tours: Tokyo Tower Tours

 

 

Country Farm Tokyo German Village

Address:  419, Nagayoshi, Sodegaura-shi, Chiba 299-0204 (map)

Access: take the 4:30 pm shuttle bus (500 yen one way)from JR Sodegaura Station on the Uchibo Line. The returning bus leaves Tokyo German Village at 8:10 pm. There is only 1 bus either way so don’t miss it.

Duration: November 1, 2019 - April  5,  2020

Hours: sunset - 8 pm

 

Sapporo Winter Festival

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The Sapporo Winter Festival is one of the most famous winter festivals in Japan and maybe in the world. The humongous snow sculptures standing two stories tall are made in just 1 month. They’re an awesome sight to see! The festival is held at 3 locations in Sapporo. Odori Park is the main location and there are also some ice sculptures in Susukino. At the Sapporo Community Dome also known as “Tsudome”, there are snow slides and a snow maze that children will greatly enjoy. There are local guides that will take you there on a private tour if you want someone to help you get around the city.

Access:

1. Odori Park - next to Odori Station on the 3 subway lines (Tozai line, Toho line, or Namboku line) or a 10 minute walk south from JR Sapporo Station

2. Tsudome (Sapporo Community Dome) - a 15 minute walk from Sakaemachi station or use the Shuttle bus service available during the festival (from Feb. 5 only) from either Sakaemachi station or Sapporo station 

3. Susukino - Susukino Station on the Namboku line

Locations:

1. Odori Park: Nishi 1 chome - Nishi 12 chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido (map)

(From February 4 to February 11, 2020, open all day, lights until 10 pm)

2. Tsudome (Sapporo Community Dome): 885-1 Sakaecho, Higashi-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido (map)

(From January 31 to February 11, 2020, 9 am to 5 pm)

3. Susukino: Nishi 4-chome street, between Minami Shijo Avenue and Minami Shichijo Avenue (map)

(From  February 4 to  February 11, 2020, open all day, lights until 11 pm, 10 pm on the last day)

Website: https://www.snowfes.com/english/

 

Jigokudani Monkey Park

This group of Japanese macaque monkeys who live in Jigokudani Yaen Park (Snow Monkey Park) are a unique group of monkeys who have adapted the custom of soaking in the hot springs during the cold snowy winter months. Japan is the only place in the world where you can see monkeys displaying this type of behavior. You may have already seen a picture of these monkeys, now famous worldwide, but going to see the real thing is even better than a picture. The park is located in the countryside of Nagano Prefecture. There are guided tours that will take you to the park from Nagano Station if you think you might get lost trying to get there by yourself.

AddressJigokudani Yaen Koen, 6846 Hirao, Yananouchi-machi, Shimotakai-gun, Nagano (map)

Access:

From Yudanaka Station, take the bus for either the Snow Monkey Park bus stop or the Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop. From there it’s a 10 minute walk to the Snow Monkey Park trail entrance. The Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is at the end of the trail, so it’s a 30 - 40 minute trek to the park.

Hours9 am to 4 pm during Nov. to Mar.  / 8:30 am to 5 pm during Apr. to Oct.

Fees:  Adults 800 yen / Children age 5-12 400 yen

Website: http://en.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/

 

Shirakawago

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Shirakawago is a World Heritage Site located in the mountainous Hida Takayama area. The old traditional Japanese houses with thatched roofs that still stand tall are called “Gassho Zukuri” because they look like the sight of two hands with clapped together in the pose of praying or “gassho” in Japanese. These snow covered houses are a beautiful sight that make you feel as if you’ve slipped back in time a hundred years. Believe it or not, people still live in these ancient buildings.

 

Takayama is the city where you can board the bus to get to Shirakawago. It’s a beautiful traditional city called “little Kyoto”. Walking around and seeing the amazing sights on a guided tour is an exceptional way to spend the extra time you have in this region. 

 

Address: Shirakawamura, Ohno-chiku, Gifu (map)

Access: 1.5 hours by bus from Takayama Station (1,700 yen one way) bus reservations and timetable

Entrance fees for each museum: around 600 yen

Website: http://ml.shirakawa-go.org/en/

 

Open Air Hot Springs

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Soaking in the hot springs and just relaxing is one of the delights of winter in Japan. Of course you can enjoy the hot springs all year long, but sitting in the warm open air bath when there’s snow all around you is an amazing experience. It’s too bad you can’t take a camera into the bathing facility, because the scenery is beautiful. And you’ll find that you’ll feel warm for a long time after you get out of the bath because one of the characteristics of hot springs is to warm you to your core.

 

Zao Juhyo Festival

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The Juhyo or “snow monsters” are actually ice and snow covered trees that look like huge lumpy mounds. Hundreds of these trees surround the Zao skiing resort and the winter scenery changes into an expanse of weirdly shaped “monsters”. You can only see them in a few freezing places in Japan with lots of wind, during the coldest months of the year. So go see this funny world of “snow monsters” for yourself. They’ll be illuminated in the evening making them look more weird and eerie. And you can enjoy the scenery along with the great skiing experience.

Address: Zao Onsen, Yamagata-shi, Yamagata-ken (map)

Access: About 35 minutes by bus from Yamagata Station to Zao Onsen

Duration: Late December 2019 - Late February 2020

Website: http://zaoropeway.co.jp/en/

 

Kenrokuen Garden

Kenrokuen Garden is a very famous sightseeing spot in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. It’s a Japanese garden with lots of pine trees. In winter, these trees are protected from being bent by the snow by a kind of umbrella like contraption. The snow piles on to the contraption instead of the trees so it looks like the trees all have a white hat on. It’s an unique and beautiful sight to see. The garden is also next to Kanazawa Castle, so that’s something you can also go see. There are also several convenient private tours that will take you to Kenrokuen garden and some other sightseeing spots around the area.

Address: 1 Kenrokucho, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa (map)

Access: get on the Kanazawa Loop Bus (http://www.hokutetsu.co.jp/en/en_round ) from Kanazawa Station

Fees: adults 310 yen / children 100 yen

Hours:  7 am to 6 pm (Mar 1 - Oct. 15) / 8 am to 5 pm (Oct.16 - Feb. 28/29)

Website: http://www.pref.ishikawa.jp/siro-niwa/kenrokuen/e/index.html

 

Huis Ten Bosch

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This is a theme park in Nagasaki Prefecture, created to look the streets of Holland. It looks so real that once you get inside, you’ll feel like you really are in the city of Amsterdam. There are activities and games to play inside the theme park, but the really wonderful scenery is the one at night. The illumination of almost half the park is spectacular. You need to see it for yourself to really appreciate the sight. There are hotels inside the park and in the vicinity so you don’t have to worry about going anywhere after taking in the night view.

Address: 1-1 Huis Ten Bosch, Sasebo-shi, Nagasaki (map)

Access: 50 minutes by bus or ferry from Nagasaki Airport or 1 hour 45 minutes by express train “Huis Ten Bosch” from Hakata Station in Fukuoka.

1 day ticket: adults 7,000 yen / youths 6,000 yen / children 4,600 yen

Website: http://english.huistenbosch.co.jp

Recommended Tours: Nagasaki Tours

 

Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival

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The Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival is held every year in Yokote city in Akita Prefecture. At this festival, you’ll be able to see lots of snow domes, or “kamakura” in Japanese, scattered in various locations in the city. The sizes vary from very small ones to large ones, large enough that people can go inside.

Location: Yokote City, Akita (map)

Access: 20 minutes by bus from Yunishigawa Onsen Station on the Aizu Kinugawa Line

Duration: February 15 – February 16, 2020

Hours: 9 am - 5 pm

Fees: 100 yen

Recommended Tours: Akita Private Tours

 

Tsunan Snow Festival (Nigata)

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This is a festival held in an area with heavy snowfall every year. So you and your children can enjoy playing in the snow to your heart’s content. There will be snow mobile rides and treasure hunts and lots of other snow related activities. And you can watch the event called “Sky Lantern” in which 2,000 paper lanterns are released into the sky at night. It’s incredible! Just like the scene from the Disney movie “Tangled”.

Address: New Greenpia Tsunan, 12300 Akinari, Tsunan-machi, Nakauonuma-gun, Niigata

Access: by shuttle bus from JR Tsunan Station (but the train service ends by the time the Sky Lantern event is over)

Date: March 13 – March 14, 2020

Websitehttps://snowfes.info/

Recommended Tours: Niigata Private Tours

 

Kurokawa Onsen Yu-Akari (Kumamoto)

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Lanterns made of bamboo are hung all around the river that runs through this hot springs resort. The soft glow of the lanterns lighting up the night gives a little warmth to the winter months. It’s a spectacular sight that will make you want to stand there quietly, just taking it all in. The event was started in order use the bamboo cut in the process of thinning the bamboo forest around this region. The bamboo used as lanterns is then later reused as charcoal and fertilizer, so it’s a very eco-friendly event. If you have time in Kumamoto City before or after you visit Kurokawa Onsen, going on a tour of the highlights of Kumamoto could be a great way to spend your time. 

Address: Kurokawa Onsen, Manganji, Minami-ogunimachi, Aso-gun, Kumamoto

Access: 3 hours by Kyushu Odan Bus from Kumamoto Station (ticket reservations here )

Duration: Dec.  21,  2019 - April 5,  2020

Hours: sundown to 10 pm

Website (Japanese only): https://www.kurokawaonsen.or.jp/event/yuakari/

 

Want to make your Tokyo Tour more Interesting? Here's how! 

At GoWithGuide, we provide a service of matching customers with the best tour and guide for them. It’s a marketplace of guides from which you can choose the one that suits your needs.

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You can take a peek at the guides’ profile videos to see what kind of person they are.  You’ll also be able to see the reviews they got from other customers. At most tour agencies, you aren’t able to choose your guide nor see what they look or sound like before the day of the tour. But this is actually an important aspect of choosing a tour because who wouldn’t want to have a pleasant companion during your tour.

 

The guides create their own tours so all of the tours are unique and made up of the places each guide thinks tourists should see in their city. You can also communicate directly with the guide to ask questions or convey requests. For example, you can ask to shorten or lengthen a tour before actually booking it.

 

If you don’t find the perfect tour on the list of tours, you can request a tour just for you. Write down for how long of a tour you’d like and also what you’d like to see or eat or so on. All of the guides will be able to see requests like this and guides that are available during your requested dates will recommend a tour itinerary just for you. Compare the suggestions and see which one looks to be the best. This way you can create your own customized tour.

 

Most tours are walking tours, created to use the public transportation system while sightseeing and get a feel for the city. However, walking around the city for hours on end may be difficult for people with disabilities or the elderly. So, in that case, you can consider the option of hiring a private car and driver for your tour or just to get around. Having a car just for you is convenient and a perfect way to take a break between sightseeing spots.

 

Enjoy winter time in Japan by choosing an amazing tour and guide!

 

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Gifu Tour Guide - Akiko W.

Akiko W.

5.00 / 5
(8 reviews)
Japan

Hello! My name is Akiko from Gifu prefecture. I am a National Government Licensed Guide Interpreter. I like going out with my family, talking with my friends over coffee at a cozy cafe, reading books, baking bread and cake when I have time. I passed the national tour guide test in 2017 and have worked as a guide since then. I have guided in Gifu city, Seki city, Takayama city, Shirakawago , Mino city and Nagoya city. I have lived in Gifu for more than forty years. Gifu prefecture is rich in nature so you can enjoy the rural atmosphere. Gifu city has a beautiful river 'Nagara river' and Mt.Kinka which has Gifu castle on the top. You can go up the mountain on foot or use a ropeway. The view from Gifu castle is so fantastic. At the foot of the mountain , there are many places to visit such as parks, a temple having a big image of Buddha, and a street preserving the historic atmosphere. At Nagara River, you can enjoy seeing a traditional way of fishing ‘cormorant fishing’ which is thought to have started 1300 years ago. Many cafes have unique service called 'morning service' in Gifu along with Aichi In the morning (until about ten thirty or eleven) when you order a cup of tea or coffee, they serve toast and salad ! Near Gifu park , you can find a nice Japanese style cafe where you enjoy good coffee and seeing a Japanese style garden. Seki city is a small city but so famous for its cutlery. At Japanese sword museum in Seki, you can see authentic Japanese swords! Mino city next to Seki city is well known for its hand made Japanese paper 'Hon minoshi' designated as intangible cultural asset by UNESCO . Until recently it was not easy to guide guests because of COVID-19 pandemic; however the situation is getting better. Some strict rules about COVID-19 have been lifted. Please visit Gifu. I am looking forward to seeing you. Please feel free to ask me when you need information about Gifu. Thank you for reading my introduction.                                                                                                                                 

Shimizu Tour Guide - Sayori H.

Sayori H.

5.00 / 5
(2 reviews)
Japan

Hello, I can show you the real Japan. You can taste, see and feel the country. I'd like to show the beautiful culture for you to experience. I can organize the day tour from Shimizu port for Cruise customers. Tea ceremony, strawberry picking experience, anything you are interested, I would love to help you plan your tour. I can communicate in both English and Japanese. I look forward to welcoming people from different parts of the world. Thank you                                                                                                                                 

Shiga Tour Guide - Koichi W.

Koichi W.

4.94 / 5
(51 reviews)
Japan

Hi! I'm Koichi. I was born in Osaka, I studied in Kyoto when I was a university student. Now I live in Shiga next to Kyoto. I am a national government licensed tour guide. I have been guiding about 160 groups over the past twelve months. I usually guide my customers mainly in Kansai region including Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe and Shiga by public transportation systems. Well, I am curious about Japanese history, especially the history of Japan's ancient times since I was raised next to the world biggest mausoleum of the ancient Emperor called "Nintoku" in Sakai city Osaka which has just become one of the world cultural heritage sites. I dug out some ancient earthen ware vessels around there when I was a primary school student like the adventure archaeologist “Indiana Jones" (It’s our secret!!). That was my hobby. Now, one of my hobbies is outdoor activities such as mountaineering, kayaking, skiing and others. So I would like to take you to some good places where you can enjoy Japanese unique nature. I love to guide foreign visitors from all over the world. I think it is my calling or heavenly given job. Let's go and enjoy together! I hope to see you soon.                                                                                                                                 

Okinawa Main Island Tour Guide - Tateo U.

Tateo U.

4.99 / 5
(68 reviews)
Japan

My name is Tateo. I am officially registerd English tour guide and introducing about Okinawa's history,culture, and nature.I am elderly person but have gone through lots of expericences that happened during US occupation after WW2. For the example, change of monetary system(US dollar to Yen),Change of traffic regulation(driving vehicle from right to left).The reversion of Okinawa to main land Japan was biggest historical event.The US administered Okinawa for 27 years. As a result, thing were Americanized in many aspects. Historically, Okinawa was once independent nation until 1872.During Kingdum era, Okinawa actively traded with China, South Asia Countries, Korea, and Japan. In the end, our culture is quite differ much from main land Japan. For instance, architectural technique, daily customs, and culture are also unique. Okinawa is the only prefecture belong to subtropical climate zone. Even winter time, it's neither hot nor cold. People can enjoy marine sport all through the year.Canoeing, Kayaking, Diving, and Snorkeling are popular. Besides, beatiful white sand beaches and attractive coastline are abundant. Green sea water and blue sky have been lured people from all over the world. Traditional music and dance are worth seeing. Please visit Okinawa and enjoy extraordinary trip. I will be looking forward to seeing you soon.                                                                                                                                  

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