Winter in Japan is a wonderful period with snow all around. This is the perfect time to pack your bags and have some snowy fun with friends and family especially if you are residing in a tropical country. The amount of winter activities that can be enjoyed in Japan will surely fascinate first time visitors.
During the cold winter in Japan, the air is clear and pure with twinkle lights looking dazzling among the snow covered cities at night. Japan definitely has her wintery appeal where the warmth of the surrounding scenery blends perfectly with winter light festivals. This is also the perfect time to capture some candid photographs and to keep them warm in your memory forever.
Here we present Jalan’s list of the 10 best places that you can visit in Japan in winter:
1. Tsunan Snow Festival (Niigata Prefecture)
- The Tsunan Snow Festival features numerous events, centring on Japan’s largest snowboard straight jumping competition “Snow Wave” and launching “Sky Lanterns” into the night sky. During the main event night, more than 2000 sky lanterns will dance one after the other in the sky with spectacular fireworks display. Experience the brilliance of a thousand colours bursting across the skyline like a magical fairy tale.
2. Lake Towada Winter Story Festival (Aomori Prefecture)
This winter festival is held annually at Towada Lake’s specially designated site. During winter, the lakeside is filled with light illuminations. The lighting effects cover the grand snow statue, snow lanterns, “Otome no Zo statue”, up to the blue LED lit tunnel of light. With everything being filled with interesting lights and amazing colours, the nightly fireworks show is a sight to behold.
3. Kiso’s Ice and Snow Light Festival (Nagano Prefecture)
The annual winter festival at Kiso is a terrific period to visit in Japan. The towns are decorated with ice sculptures and handmade candle lights lined the streets on ice holders. The snow covered cobblestones footpath and warm candle lights make the preserved old-fashioned post towns quite a gorgeous place to be in. At twelve venues of the Nakasendo Trail and on the foot of Mount Ontake, it gets exceptionally lively with people enjoying their weekend in this wonderful atmosphere.
4. Mount Zao’s Snow Monsters (Yamagata Prefecture)
At the Mount Jizo where Zao ropeway runs, the trees covered with ice is often recognised as “snow monsters” in winter. During winter nights, the place is lit up with colourful illuminations for 46 days. This is the time to capture the beautiful scenery from the ropeway and the Jizo summit station. The fantastic scenery will surely leave you an unforgettable winter holiday.
5. Shinano-Taira Snow House Festival (Nagano Prefecture)
About one month from late January to late February every year, about 20 Kamakura (igloos) made with snow appeared in the Shinano-Taira Kamakura Festival and open as a restaurant. Some of the special events that can be experienced during the Kamakura Festival are fireworks shows and treasure hunting in the snow land.
6. Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku (Gunma Prefecture)
The Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku is a spacious outdoor bath area with four vast bathtubs. During winters, the supersized hot springs provide astonishing views amidst the snow-covered buildings and landscape. This onsen is really popular with foreign tourists.
7. Kifune Shrine (Kyoto Prefecture)
The Kifune Shrine is a power spot where the gods of water are worshipped. This shrine in Kyoto is bestowed with magnificent scenery especially when snow falls. The refreshing sight from the entrance steps to the main shrine of Okunomiya is absolutely gorgeous silver beauty. If you can embrace the drop in temperature, you can purify your body with the snow in the cold weather. The fortune telling by water at the Kifune Shrine is rather popular as well.
8. Kenrokuen Garden (Ishikawa Prefecture)
The Kenrokuen Garden is one of the three most gorgeous park-like gardens in Japan and boasts the oldest fountain in Japan. During the winter months, the chirping of winter birds amidst the serenity of the surrounding looks like a beautiful piece of painting brought to life. The snow hanging off the Karasaki pine trees is also a famous sight of Kenrokuen in winter.
9. Hiruzen Heights Hiruzen Snow Festival (Okayama Prefecture)
Every year for two nights from the beginning of January to the middle of February, the “Hiruzen Snow Love Festival” is held at the restaurant Shirakaba hill in Hiruzen Heights. This festival becomes quite a spectacle when approximately 1000 candles are lit up in mini Kamakura (igloos) from 4pm onwards every day. Visitors can also participate in making the mini igloos.
10. Historic Village of Shirakawa-go (Gifu Prefecture)
Like Gokayama village in Toyama Prefecture, Shirakawa-go is a village of the ‘Gasshou-style’ houses registered as World Heritage Sites in the traditional Ogi town. During winter, these remote village houses buried in the snow bring us exactly back to scenes from an old movie. This picturesque village has survived many long and harsh winters and are become more charming as the years pass.