8 things you must do in Japan in the winter
Japan has four seasons and, when winter comes, there are many ways to enjoy this particular season to the fullest, such as engaging in activities that make use of the cold weather, or enjoying seasonal delicatessen. Let's have a look at some ways of enjoying the winter in Japan that we especially recommend!
Japan is one of the countries with the largest number of ski resorts of the world, and its ski station receive many visitors both from in and outside the country during the winter. Among these, Niseko in Hokkaido and Hakuba in Nagano prefecture are two of the most popular ski resorts. The reason why they are so popular is their high quality snow, also known as "powder snow". Especially in the case of Niseko, the snow is light and rather dry, so you cannot even make a snowman with it. It is said that this is the best type of snow to enjoy skiing. Another of its charms is the fact that it is located at just about 2 hours by bus from the New Chitose Airport.
Illuminations, a tradition of the Japanese winter, have already become a staple of the season. Japan's Christmas illuminations are especially popular, to the point that they have been featured on television in other countries, and it appears that everybody who actually sees them in real life cannot help but to be moved by them. In addition, the illuminations give a whimsical atmosphere to everyday locations, which makes them a popular choice for dates as well. In Tokyo, the illuminations of "Caretta Shiodome", a shopping facility in Minato-ku, and of the Marunouchi Area, are always popular. The "Luminarie" of Kobe, in Hyogo prefecture, is famous as well.
*The illuminations for "Caretta Shiodome" and "Luminarie" have already ended for this winter.
*The picture shows the illumination of Caretta Shiodome.
*"Luminarie," an illumination in Kobe
In areas of heavy snowfall, the snow and cold weather create sceneries that can only be seen during this time of the year. For example, in the Zao Hot Springs Ski Resort, in Yamagata prefecture, you can see the trees are covered with snow and hoar frost. This scenery, also called "Snow Monster" enjoys a reputation of combining both beauty and un uneasy atmosphere to it. The "Sapporo Snow Festival", which is celebrated in Sapporo (Hokkaido), also puts over 200 sculptures made of snow and ice and created specifically for the celebration on display. The delicate and overwhelming design of the sculptures is enough to make anybody who sees them want to visit Japan. If you are coming to Japan, make sure that you make some time to enjoy snow and ice covered landscapes like these.
*The trees covered with snow and hoar frost in Zao
*Sapporo Snow Festival
3. Enjoy the view of landscapes covered with snow and ice
"Roten-buro" are open-air baths where you can soak in hot springs while enjoying the view and a sense of freedom. They are very popular all year round, but the concept of "yukimi-buro", which involves soaking in an open-air bath during the winter and enjoying the view of snow-covered landscapes, is considered to be the ultimate luxury. Okuhida Onsen Town in Gifu prefecture, Shima Onsen in Gunma prefecture, and Okunikko and Okukinu in Tochigi prefecture are especially famous as areas to enjoy a "yukimi-buro".
*The picture shows Okuhida Onsen Town.
"Hotpots" are a representative winter dish of Japan. When sharing a hotpot, a piping hot pot is placed on the center of the table, and each member of the group serves themselves the ingredients that they like. According to data, this way of sharing a meal sitting around the table makes it easier for conversations to start, so hotpots are not considered just a meal but also a way of socializing. There are many different types of hotpots, ranging from traditional hotpots that use staple flavors and ingredients, to local hotpots using special ingredients characteristic of their respective region. During the winter, hotpots are also available in the menu in izakayas and Japanese restaurants. In recent years, hotpots that combine broth with unusual ingredients are very popular too, such as "curry hotpots" and "tomato hotpots".
Crab and oysters are traditional winter delicacies that the Japanese people love. Since they accumulate plenty of nutrition in the depths of the cold winter ocean, they are characterized by a strong flavor and a hearty amount of meat. They can be eaten in Tokyo, too, but you can have fresher and more delicious products if you go to an area that specializes in fishing, or somewhere famous for it. For example, the Hokuriku region, including Fukui prefecture and Ishikawa prefecture, along with Tottori prefecture and Hyogo prefecture, are famous for their crab. Hiroshima, Hokkaido, and Miyagi in the Tohoku area, are famous for their oysters. If you are visiting any of these areas, make sure that you take the chance to indulge in some seasonal delicacies.
"Kotatsu" is a traditional type of furniture inherent to the Japanese winter. It consists in a table with an electric stove that is covered with a futon so that those seating at it can get warm. Since this is a type of furniture, one might think that sitting at a kotatsu would be a experience limited to regular households. However, there are some hot spring hotels that offer kotatsu in their guest rooms, and some izakayas have them as well. In addition, the "Sanriku Railway", in the Tohoku region, operates a "Kotatsu train", which is a sightseeing train where passengers can sit at a kotatsu and enjoy the view while they eat their "ekiben" lunch boxes.
It is always a great idea to get together with others at a kotatsu to warm yourself and enjoy a delicious meal, a few drinks, and a conversation. We guarantee that you will get so comfortable that it will definitely be hard for you to get out of it.
7. Warm yourself in a kotatsu
If you are around during this time of the year, we recommend trying and spending the New Year in Japan. In Japan, countdown events are held all across the country on the last night of the year, and hotels and ryokans serve "Toshikoshi soba", a type of soba noodles that are traditionally eaten on this night. In addition, you can enjoy some "osechi ryori", which are traditional dishes served starting January 1st, and you can also go on a "hatsumode", which is the first visit of the year to a shinto shrine to wish for happiness. It could be said that, in Japan, the New Year is a period full of events and things to look forward to.
An image of "osechi ryori"
How did you enjoy the article? There are many ways to enjoy the winter in Japan. If you are visiting the country in the winter, make sure you make some time to enjoy a typical Japanese winter to the fullest!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.