Japan offers a sparkling array of sights and unforgettable moments to say the least. From dramatic landscapes to spectacular wildlife, to heartwarming food and cities illuminated with extravagant LED displays, your next wow memory is never far away.
Winter is a magnificent season to visit this wish-list destination and to help whet your appetite, we’ve put together some of Japan’s most magical winter moments.
1. Chill-Busting Gourmet Treats
Imagine this; you’ve come in from the chill into a backstreet izakaya, cheeks flushed, stomach growling.
A few minutes later you’ve swapped a coat for nestling beneath the blanket of a heated kotatsu table. Add in a nabe (toss in meat and vegetable) hot pot and warm sake, and this becomes the ideal Japan winter vignette.
Japan’s winter menu is a stand-out, the winter food and drink includes chargrilled yakitori chicken skewers straight off the grill, steaming bowls of ramen noodles, grill-it-yourself all-you-can-eat meat feast of yakiniku (meaning grilled meat), or a spicy Japanese curry.
Is your mouth watering yet?
2. Winter Wildlife
Witness captivating birdlife scenes in Hokkaido; watch the graceful red-crowned Japanese crane perform dances as the orange sun sets over the pure white snowfields of Tsurui and see majestic Stellar Sea Eagles stationed on drifting ice off the remote Shiretoko Peninsula.
In the Japanese Alps, spot the snow fox, the Japanese Serow (goat-antelope) and, in the forests of Yudanaka watch snow monkeys splash about in hot spring water and enjoy snowball fights.
3. Frolic at Festivals
The Japanese love festivals and illuminations in equal measure.
The Chichibu Yomatsuri (December 2-3) is one of Japan’s Big Three festivals and takes place after dark in Saitama, 90 minutes from Tokyo. A 2.5-hour firework display provides an impressive backdrop for the processions of portable shrines and stands selling street food and hot rice wine.
One of the craziest festivals is the Nozawa Fire Festival (Jan 15) taking place in Japan’s oldest ski resort, under two hours from Tokyo. Fireworks and bonfires light up the village of Nozawa and the skies above, whilst large amounts of sake are consumed!
4. Fewer Crowds
Overall, there are fewer crowds traveling in the winter months, meaning that even iconic sights can be almost deserted.
Plus, against the snow, Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion Temple and kimono-clad geisha look even more exquisite and the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace are opened to the public for just two days per year, one being January 2.
5. Skiing & Boarding
A ski trip to Japan is cultural immersion, powder skiing and a gastronomic adventure all rolled into one, neat snowball. There is huge diversity from bustling resort towns to traditional ryokans in forest villages with few lifts, but seemingly endless, empty runs.
King of the resorts is Niseko, blessed with an average of 20 metres of snow per year. For back-country adventure, head for Japan’s largest national park, Daisetsu-san, and ski around Hokkaido’s highest mountain, the 2,290-metre Asahi-dake.
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