A winter vacation in Japan promises a magical experience, blending cultural richness with seasonal wonders.
From snow-covered landscapes to traditional hot springs, Japan offers a unique blend of tranquility and adventure.
Festive lights, winter festivals, and the allure of snow sports make it an ideal destination for those seeking diverse and enchanting holiday experiences.
Winter is a great time to visit the beautifully preserved Japanese village of Shirakawa-go. The town, which is also a Unesco World Heritage Site, consists of several thatched-roof gassho-zukuri farmhouses that have been converted into motels, eateries, and museums.
Every February, the port city of Otaru, Hokkaido, organizes a spectacular snow festival. The city’s streets are lit up with hundreds of lights and snow statues during what is known as the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival. We really adore the sight of the floating lights along the major canal in Otaru. Put the event on your calendar for this season, which runs from February 10 to February 17, 2024.
Kenrokuen in Ishikawa Prefecture is considered one of Japan’s three great gardens. Although it is a popular destination all year round, the well-kept grounds are particularly attractive in winter. When snow falls, the surroundings are covered in a blanket of white, transforming the scenery into a truly tranquil area. In winter, the park is often illuminated and small musical performances are occasionally held at the nearby Uchihashi-tei teahouse.
Nabana no Sato Illuminations, Mie
Though it has nothing to do with snow, Nabana no Sato’s light-up is among Japan’s best winter illuminations. Millions of sparkling LEDs create iridescent rivers, waterfalls, and other features in this breathtaking winter light display at this botanical garden located in Mie Prefecture on the small island of Nagashima. There’s plenty of time to visit and take in the illumination as it lasts until May.
Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido
During its yearly Snow Festival in February, Sapporo transforms into a wintry fantasy world. Students started constructing snow statues in Odori area in 1950, and since then, the festival has grown into a week-long extravaganza featuring magnificent ice creations that cover the area. The event is back this winter, from February 4–11, 2024.
Yunishigawa Onsen, Tochigi
The Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival in Tochigi prefecture is home to this enchanted winter wonderland. Every year, hundreds of illuminated small snow cottages, known as kamakura, are on display during the winter festival, which runs from late January to early March.
Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano
Visit this park to get a close-up look at the snow monkeys, or Japanese macaques, who relax in the warm spring water. This winter retreat is located in the prefecture of Nagano inside Joshinetsu Kogen National Park. The monkeys frequently take year-round baths in the onsen, but if you want to see them in the park amid the snow, visit in January or February.
Kamakura Snow Hut Village, Nagano
Open for business every winter, this enchanted igloo village in Nagano is actually a restaurant. Located in the little village of Iiyama, the 20 pop-up igloos that make up Restaurant Kamakura Village are tucked away in the snow-covered Japanese Alps. You’ll be served a delicious local hot pot called noroshi nabe, which is cooked with miso, pork, and seasonal vegetables. Each igloo can accommodate up to four people. Winter will bring the snowy restaurant back, opening from January 20 to February 29, 2024.