5 of the Best Places to Visit in Japan During Winter
Although many people rush to Japan in the warmer months to see the beautiful cherry blossoms and experience the summer festivals, wintertime also has a lot to offer. Some Japanese destinations are best enjoyed in the colder months and here are just some of the best places to visit:
Famed for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, this town is surrounded by mountains covered with pine trees and is especially beautiful when blanketed in snow. Some of the farmhouses were built more than 250 years ago. If you want to experience a traditional Japanese family home, you can stay the night in a thatched roof farmhouse yourself.
Where to stay: Magoemon is a large gassho-zukuri with six rooms and holds up to 18 guests. There are great views of an old-fashioned, wooden suspension bridge over the Shirakawa river.
Price: 9,000 to 13,000 yen / per person per night
Address: 360 Ogi-machi, Shirakawa-mura, Gifu Prefecture
2. Hakone, Kanagawa
This renowned hot-spring haven is the perfect winter retreat. Soaking in a hot spring while surrounded by snow is soothing for the body and mind. There are many hot spring resorts to choose from in Hakone, each with its own characteristics.
Where to go: The Hakone Yumoto Onsen Hotel Nanpuso is a Japanese-style hot spring inn and located 90 minutes away from Tokyo. You can enjoy the wonderful onsen, as well as delicious Japanese cuisine.
Price: Prices start at 21,750 yen
Address: 179 Yumotochaya, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture
3. Sapporo, Hokkaido
Wintertime in Sapporo is truly spectacular, with more than two million visitors flocking to the area for the famous Sapporo Snow Festival. The festival is held every February for one week and is one of Japan’s most popular winter events with its amazing snow and ice sculptures.
When: In 2018, the Snow Festival will be held February 5-12
Where to go: The Sapporo Snow Festival is staged at three different sites:
*Odori Site - Great views from the Sapporo TV Tower at the eastern end of Odori Park. Open from 8:30am-10:30pm. Admission to the top observatory deck costs 720 yen or you can buy a ticket for a day and night visit for 1100 yen.
*Susukino Site - This entertainment district is just one subway stop south of Odori Park and features around 100 ice sculptures. The sculptures are lit up until 11pm and until 10pm on the final day of the festival.
*Tsu Dome Site - Not only are there snow sculptures but also snow slides and snow rafting. The Tsu Dome Site is open from 9am to 5pm.
The Shiretoko Peninsula is a great place to see drift ice (ryuhyo) during the winter. The best time to see it is usually around the second half of February, although you can catch the first glimpses of it by late January.
What to Do: Drift ice boat cruises allow you to easily view this natural phenomenon. These cruises are available everyday from the cities of Abashiri and Mombetsu. They usually last around an hour.
Price: Around 3,000 yen
Bessho Onsen is the oldest hot spring in the region and its sulfurous waters have long been revered for their healing properties.
Where to go: Oyu is the largest traditional bath in Bessho. It is closed the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of every month.
Address: 9328 Toyosato, Nozawaonsen-mura, Shimotakai-gun 389-2502, Nagano Prefecture
Price: 150 yen for admission
Written by Simone