Japan in January

January isn’t typically anybody’s priority pick for exploring Japan. But there is no reason to avoid it, as winter in Japan in itself is rather unique and full of character – at least, that’s if you like the cold. 

January opens up many opportunities to explore some of the more hidden gems of Japan and allows for you to experience a more picturesque and serene side to Japan.

January is generally the coldest month in Japan, with the average high in the major cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, of 3-7°C during this time. Snow is common in these cities during the winter but usually doesn’t hang around for much longer than a few hours. If you want snow that will last the entire winter, you need to head up north or into the mountains.

A lot of people travel to Japan, but not so many make the trip during winter as most people want to see the cherry blossoms or to soak up the summer heat. This makes queues at places very short, and the paths and roads far less busy, allowing for easier navigation around what would normally be shoulder to shoulder with people. Here are some of the things that recommend that you check out during the winter.


The northern regions of Japan are also highly geothermally active, meaning that beautiful natural hot springs, known in Japan as Onsens, are formed all around this region. Most Ryokans – Japanese style hotels – will have an onsen included as part of their facilities, and many will have outdoor onsen pools, where the bitter cold meets the inviting 40°C waters. The steam dances off the stunning hot water was the snow gently falls on your head. Bliss; the only way to properly describe this feeling. If you are in Northern Japan, you seriously have to go to an onsen, especially if it’s part of your accommodation. 

outdoor onsens are best enjoyed in January in Japan

For your convenience, we’ve included some of our favourite Onsen Ryokans below which we recommend for you.


Now onto the aforementioned Skiing and snow activities. January really is a winter wonderland in Japan. Ski fields and opportunities are plentiful and the ski fields are immaculate with pristine snow conditions and stunning views. Hakuba is one of the most famous ski regions in Japan, which was where the 1998 Nagano olympics were held for the most part. The Tsugaike Kogen Ski Resort, the Hakuba Goryu Snow Resort and the Hakuba Iwatake Ski Field are the best of the ski fields surrounding Hakuba and certainly are worth checking out if you are into skiing and snowboarding.

Niseko(Not to be confused with the popular Japanese anime series, Nisekoi) is another ski area, but Niseko can be found in Hokkaido, and boasts a completely different skiing environment, and is officially ranked as THE BEST ski resort and destination in the country.  There are 4 different ski fields found in Niseko, and all offer a variety of difficulty to suit skiers and snowboarders of all levels of expertise. Here you can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, heli skiing and cat skiing. For a twin bed lodge room, you can expect to pay about 7,000JPY for a night here, with rentals for equipment from 4,500JPY. There are pretty standard pricing and you can expect to pay a similar price at any ski field across Japan.

It’s no wonder some that the Japanese tend to perform very well at the Olympics with quality snow slopes that can be found around the country. 


Are you planning a trip to Japan soon? Then you really should consider purchasing a JR Rail Pass, especially if you are planning on hitting all the major tourist cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Sapporo. 

The JR Rail Pass makes getting around the country easy, and can save you several hundreds in travel expenses. All you need to do is just show your pass at the ticket gate, and you have access to any and all JR rail lines across the country, and not just the standard commuter trains, but luxury trains, and even the world famous Shinkansen (Bullet Train). A JR Rail Pass is an essential item for any visitor to Japan. Buy your pass today by clicking here now!

Winter Illumination Festivals

In North America, people decorate the outside of their homes with Christmas fairy lights and seasonal decorations. In Japan, it’s not uncommon to see streets, parks, castles or elsewhere during the winter season as it gets everyone in a festive mood. These are known as Winter Illumination festivals. Many illumination festivals start in December and run through until February, with some even going as late as April.

Here are our top 5 picks of the best winter illumination festivals taking place during January you need to check out if you love the Christmas and festive Atmosphere

Sagamiko Illumination

Address: 1634 Wakayanagi, Midori Ward, Sagamihara, Kanagawa 252-0175, Japan

Entry Fee: 1,000JPY

Found at Lake Sagami Pleasure Forest, which is an amusement park in Kanagawa Prefecture, the Sagamiko Illumination offers themed light shows with music from nearly November to early April.

Winter illumination festivals are some of the best things to do in japan in january

Shirakawa-go Winter Illumination

Address: Shirakawa-go, Gifu Prefecture, Japan

The historical houses with steep thatched roofs in Shirakawa are lit up from January 13th, and are illuminated every Sunday until the middle of February.  

See also: Shirakawa-go

Nabana no Sato

Address: Nagashimacho Komae, Kuwana, Mie 511-1144, Japan

Entry Fee: 450JPY

Nabana no Sato is a plant nursery in Kuwana City, Mie Prefecture. There are over 8 million lights set up here that take four months to set up.

Marunouchi Illumination

Address: 1-3 Marunouchi, 1 Yuraku-cho Chiyoda-ku

Found near Tokyo Station from the Marunouchi exit, primarily seen at Marunouchi-Naka-Dori street, enjoyed by many commuters as they make their way home from a their day at the office.


Caretta Shiodome

Address: 1 Chome-8-2 Higashishinbashi, Minato City, Tokyo 105-7090, Japan

The Caretta Shiodome is a massive complex featuring a wide variety of stores, and attracts over half a million visitors to its premises. There are over 250,000 lights fairy lights which put on an amazing display for it’s guests.


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