When you think of enjoying a Japanese winter you probably think of places like Hokkaido or the Tohoku area, but actually there are many places, meals, and events in Tokyo that will allow you to make the most of the winter. Here are 5 of those to consider.
1. Ice skate in the middle of the city
When winter begins, around late November, winter-only skate rinks start popping up in the city's shopping and sightseeing areas. The majority of ice rinks just require you to have gloves, so you can easily add skating to your day's agenda of sightseeing and shopping. You can usually skate for a fee of about 1,200-1,500 JPY for adults. Among the city's rinks, the one at Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi matches lights and music after nightfall to create a whimsical atmosphere as you skate. It's a perfect place both as a date and as a family outing. This rink is open from the beginning of January to the beginning of March.
2. Gaze at the winter illuminations
When winter nears, Tokyo's nightscape is transformed with illuminations. For example, the Marunouchi area by Tokyo Station is illuminated with lights for 1.2km making the streets sparkle with fantasy. Marunouchi is a business area full of office buildings, but at night it transforms into something out of a fairy tail. You can enjoy the gorgeous, relaxing sight. It's the kind of place that you'll want to take a walk through with someone special. This illumination is up every year until mid-February.
*This photo is of the illuminations at Marunouchi.
3. Soak in an onsen
Actually, there are many hot springs in Tokyo worth recommending. Cheaper places only charge around 1,000 JPY, and establishments where you can enjoy different types of baths usually run between 2,000-3,000 JPY. For example, Musashi-Koyama Onsen Shimizuyu is only a 5 minute walk away from Musashi-Koyama Station and you can enjoy 2 different natural hot spring baths there. Also, Saya no Yudokoro in Itabashi is very popular because it is built to make you feel like you arrived at an onsen ryokan (Japanese inn). In both of these establishments there are open-air baths, so you can enjoy the changing seasons. Why not enjoy casually spending your time in a Tokyo hot spring?
*The photo is for illustration purposes.
4. Eat oysters in season at an oyster bar
After the new year when the cold reaches its peak, oysters also reach their peak of deliciousness. In Tokyo you can enjoy the wonderful taste of oysters from places like Hokkaido, Miyagi, and Hiroshima. At many oyster bars you can taste oysters from different parts of the country to compare them. It depends on the restaurant, but usually you can expect to pay around 400 JPY for 1 oyster.
Why not enjoy delicious oysters from around the country as much as possible at an oyster bar?
5. Participate in traditional events
From February to March there are a bunch of traditional Japanese events that you can enjoy. For example, do you know what "mamemaki" is? Around February 3rd for a holiday called Setsubun, it's traditional for a household to gather and throw beans outside their doors and windows while calling "oni wa soto!" ("Demons out!") Then you throw beans inside the house while calling "fuku wa uchi" ("luck inside"). The act of throwing the beans is called "mamemaki," and it's believed to chase bad luck out of your home and away from your family while inviting good fortune. After you throw the beans, out of the remaining beans you eat as many as your age (so if you're 19, you eat 18 beans) so as a prayer for good health that year. You can enjoy these events at shrines as well, such as at Sensoji and Tomioka Hachiman Shrine. Many other shrines and temples have events for Setsubun as well, so please look for one.
There's also Hina Matsuri, known as Girls' Day. This is on March 3rd, and it is also called "momo no sekku," or the peach festival. Families decorate their homes with dolls called "hina ningyo" in order to pray for the health and happiness of their daughters, and they eat arare (rice crackers similar to senbei in taste but are smaller and rougher in texture) and drink amazake (sweet drink made of fermented rice that isn't necessarily alcoholic). There are events throughout Tokyo where you can see gorgeous hina dolls on display. If you have an interest in traditional Japanese culture, this is definitely something you should look up.
*The photo shows an example of a hina doll exhibition.
There are many places where you can enjoy the winter in Tokyo. Please use this article as a reference when you plan your trip.
*Please note that the prices and other information in the article may not be the most up-to-date information