Winter is fun too! Enjoy winter in Japan with your family or on your own!


Winter is coming in earnest, getting colder by the day, but despite the cold, there are plenty of winter delights waiting for you, such as snowy landscapes, winter customs and delicious winter delicacies. In this article, I will introduce some activities and events to help you forget the cold and enjoy winter in Japan with your family and friends.

Characteristics of winter in Japan

In Japan, the period from December to February is generally known as 'winter'. Regions such as Hokkaido and Hokuriku are areas of heavy snowfall, where winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding can be enjoyed.
Snow is rare in Tokyo and other major metropolitan areas, and clear, sunny days are more common.
In addition, although 'nabe cuisine' is popular in winter in Japan, you can also enjoy flavours that are only available in winter. For example warm steamed meat buns and oden, which are easily available at convenience stores, and oranges and strawberries, which are in season in winter.

Enjoy the snowy landscape

Japan is a virtically long country and the climate varies greatly from region to region. If you want to enjoy snowy landscapes in Japan, the Tohoku, Hokuriku, Hokkaido and mountainous regions are recommended. In regions with heavy snowfall, each area has its own unique events and traditions, giving you a taste of Japan only possible in winter.

How to enjoy Japan's snowy landscape?

Make sure you're prepared for snow

In cold, snowy regions, warm clothes are essential. Heavy coats, gloves, hats and waterproof boots protect against the cold. Scarves and hoods that cover the face and ears are particularly good protection against the cold wind. Snow boots are also useful, as it can be difficult to walk well in snow if you are not used to it and you may fall over.
If you drive a car, you must be prepared for driving on snow-covered roads! If you are not used to snow-covered roads, take it easy and use public transport or a taxi.

Hot springs and snowy landscapes

Hot springs in the snow are another unique way to enjoy Japan. Hot springs are often located in mountainous areas with deep snow, making them an exceptional treat in the cold winter months. There are hot spring resorts scattered all over Japan where you can bathe while enjoying the beautiful snowy scenery. Snow-viewing open-air baths, where you can enjoy the snowy scenery while soaking in an open-air bath while it snows, are also a luxurious experience.

Winter activities:

If you're going to go all out, enjoy the snow as much as you can with winter activities. There are plenty of other ways to enjoy the snow besides the standard skiing and snowboarding.

Skiing and snowboarding

Skiing and snowboarding are typical winter sports. There are many ski resorts in Japan where you can enjoy the action on the snow in the majestic mountains. A wide range of courses are available for beginners and advanced skiers, so please enjoy winter sports to the fullest.


Even if you are not a skier or snowboarder, snowmobiling is a great way to get up to the top of the mountain through snow and the frost covered trees.

Hiking in the snow

Hiking in snow-covered mountains and nature is another unique winter attraction. Footprints on snowfields and trees covered with snow make for beautiful scenery that cannot be experienced in any other season. Prepare your winter gear, dress warmly and get ready for adventure.

Snow Festival

Snow events and festivals are held in cold regions. Sapporo's Snow Festival is particularly famous and attracts people from all over the country. At the Snow Festival, giant snow and ice sculptures are displayed and beautifully illuminated to add colour to the winter evenings. Enjoy the art of snow sculpture in a lively atmosphere.

‘Kamakura’ Snow Hut

In regions with heavy snowfall, a winter tradition is the making of 'kamakura', where snow is gathered to form a dome shape and hollowed out so that you can go inside. Unexpectedly, the warmth spreads once you get inside. Try laying out lanterns and carpets to create a cosy space. Making a kamakura is a particularly relaxing moment to play in the snow.

Winter events

Japan's winter events are a blend of Japanese and Western. The week after enjoying Christmas, visitors from abroad may be surprised to see a typical Japanese New Year's sight, but it is a unique and enjoyable blend of original culture and international elements.


Christmas is celebrated on a large scale in Japan. Cities and commercial premises are beautifully illuminated and various Christmas events are held. Rather than spending Christmas with family, Japanese Christmas is enjoyed by couples spending special time together and by friends partying together. Chicken and cake are the standard for Christmas in Japan! A variety of Christmas chicken and cakes are available for sale, so be sure to try them.

New Year's Eve

December 31st is called "Omisoka". At the end of the year, people clean up and prepare for the New Year, and on the night of Omisoka they eat New Year's Eve soba and listen to the bell ringing to close out the year with family and friends. The night of Omisoka has a unique atmosphere, with trains running all night long for "Hatsumode" (New Year's visit to the shrine).

New Year's Day

New Year's Day is a special event for Japanese people, with schools taking a winter break and most companies taking a 4-5 day to 1 week New Year's holiday, which is spent with the whole family. Many families live far away and gather with their relatives at their grandparents' house.
There are also a wide variety of customs, such as hatsumode (first visit to the shrine), osechi (New Year dishes), ozoni (Mochi Soup) and the exchange of otoshidama (new year's money for kids). Many shops and supermarkets are closed on New Year's mornings, creating a quiet and calm atmosphere. Osechi cuisine, a staple of the New Year, is a special dish. Each dish is filled with thoughts of the New Year. Ozoni, a soup with rice cakes in it, has its own unique seasoning and recipe in each region.

Setsubun (holiday for end of winter, accompanied by a bean scattering ceremony)

Setsubun, held on February 3rd before the start of spring, is an event to ward off demons. It is mainly celebrated with bean-throwing, children wearing devil masks showing their lovely appearance inside houses and at temples and shrines. It is also customary to shout "Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi" while throwing beans.

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day has also become a special event in Japan. However, a custom unique to Japan is that women give chocolates to men. On the other hand, men usually return the favour on White Day (which is held on March 14th).

Winter delicacies

In the cold winter months, there are special dishes that will warm you up. One dish in particular that is indispensable in winter is the hot pot "onabe". Meat, fish, vegetables, tofu and other ingredients are placed in a special pot and cooked over fire on the table. Gathering together with family and friends to eat hot pot is a traditional Japanese winter tradition. You can enjoy many variations, such as mizutaki, shabu-shabu and sukiyaki.

Various hot pots


This is a basic hot pot with meat, fish, vegetables and tofu stewed in dashi broth. You can enjoy many variations by changing the seasoning of the soup.


Shabu-shabu is a dish where thinly sliced meat and vegetables are quickly boiled in hot water and dipped in a special sauce. It has a refreshing taste and is a healthy hot pot dish perfect for the cold winter months.


Sukiyaki, in which beef and vegetables are stewed in a special sweet and spicy sauce, is a popular and luxurious winter delicacy. The aroma rising from the hot pot and the exquisite taste of the meat melting in your mouth are a delight.

Other winter delicacies to enjoy

Meat buns

Warm steamed manju buns stuffed full of filling are the perfect quick and easy food for the cold season. The buns are soft and chewy on the outside and juicy on the inside, filling your mouth with meat sauce.


Oden, a dish of vegetables, radish and eggs simmered in dashi broth, is a Japanese street food to warm up in the cold winter months. The flavour is enhanced with mustard and ponzu (Japanese soy sauce with citrus juice), making it the perfect food for cold days.


Crab is one of the most popular winter delicacies. You can enjoy a variety of crabs such as snow crab, king crab and hairy crab. Enjoy the full flavour of crab in a variety of dishes, such as crab shabu-shabu and crab hot pots.

Tangerines and strawberries

Tangerines and strawberries are in season in winter. Limited-time parfaits and other sweets can also be enjoyed.


Japan is a country with four distinct seasons. Winters are cold, but there are winter activities and snowy landscapes to enjoy. There are also plenty of events, and each event offers a distinctive atmosphere. The unique flavours of winter is also recommended! Please enjoy the Japanese winter to the fullest.