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Visiting Japan in Winter: Weather, Clothing, and Travel Tips 2023-2024

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If you are planning to visit Japan in winter, read this article for information on weather, average temperatures and what to wear in the cold months. Recommended winter activities, snow festivals, and other travel tips are also introduced here.

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All About Winter in Japan

Visiting Japan In Winter: Temperatures, Clothing, Travel Tips

Japan is cold in winter and it is snowing in many places across the country. There is a unique beauty to the scenery, however, and there is a myriad of fun activities and delicious dishes that can only be enjoyed during this season.

We have compiled a guide of useful information for people planning to visit Japan during winter.

Japan in Winter: Travel Tips 2023-2024

Winter Temperatures in Japan
What to Wear? Recommended Winter Clothing
The Highlights of Winter in Japan
1. Winter Illuminations
2. New Year Celebrations
3. Snow Scenery
4. Winter Sports and Snow Festivals
5. Hot Springs

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Winter Temperatures in Japan

Visiting Japan In Winter: Temperatures, Clothing, Travel Tips

Winter in Japan generally lasts from December to February.

In Tokyo, December temperatures tend to be around 12ºC (54°F) in the afternoon and drop to about 5ºC (41°F) in the morning and at night.

By January, afternoon temperatures drop to 10ºC (50°F) and morning temperatures tend to hover between 2ºC - 3ºC (35°F - 37°F). In February, afternoon temperatures are about 10ºC - 11ºC (42°F - 50°F) while morning and evening temperatures fall to about 3ºC (37°F).

Tokyo winters are sunny with little rain or snow. The air is dry, with the humidity around this time generally staying at a constant 30%.

What to Wear? Recommended Winter Clothing


You will need a coat in December. On some days, gloves and scarves might come in handy.

In January and February, you will need a down jacket or a coat. You will definitely need gloves and a muffler too.

Visiting Japan in Winter: Weather, Clothing, and Travel Tips

Photo by Pixta
On windy days, it is a good idea to have a knit cap and earmuffs. If you plan to be outside for a long time on cloudy days or in the evenings, we recommend that you use disposable kairo (heating pads, also called pocket warmers) to protect your hands and feet from the cold.

The heating pads can be purchased at any convenience store, supermarket, and drugstore. A pack of 10 heating pads costs around 200 yen. In order to use them, you just need to open the pack. The iron sand contained in the pad will begin to heat up in contact with the oxygen in the air. The pad will stay warm from 8 to 12 hours.

Please keep warm by wearing proper clothes and drinking hot drinks. If you do catch a cold, stop by a drugstore such as Matsumoto Kiyoshi and get some medicine. Light medicine to soothe a sore throat or to treat a fever can be bought without a medical prescription. In case of high fever and severe coughing, it's recommended that you go to the hospital.

In order to describe your symptoms to the drugstore staff or a doctor, please use the Japanese phrases compiled in the following article.

It will be freezing outside but building interiors will be heated; it would be wise to layer your clothing so that you can take layers on and off when necessary.

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The Highlights of Winter in Japan

1. Winter Illuminations

Visiting Japan In Winter: Temperatures, Clothing, Travel Tips

Winter illuminations are one of the distinctive features of this season in Japan. The cities and towns are decorated with beautiful lights from around the end of November to February.

In Tokyo, you can find beautiful illuminations around Tokyo Station, in Ginza and Yurakucho, as well as Ebisu and Roppongi. The wide parks located less than one hour away from Tokyo, such as Sagamiko Pleasure Forest and Ashikaga Flower Park, have been drawing the attention of thousands of visitors thanks to the innovative collaboration between light and nature.

In Osaka, the Nakanoshima Park Illumination has an exciting theme every year while Kobe's Illuminarie are famous worldwide for the scale and splendor of the lights. If you visit Japan in the winter, do check out some of the light-up events around the city!

2. New Year Celebrations

Visiting Japan In Winter: Temperatures, Clothing, Travel Tips

From around the beginning of December, you can feel everyone's anticipation of the New Year celebrations all around the cities and towns of Japan. The shops will be showcasing products for the New Year, such as auspicious osechi cuisine, New Year's decorations, New Year's greeting cards and lucky bags (fukubukuro) full of goods that can be bought at special discount prices.

If you spend the New Year in Japan, how about joining the crowds for the traditional New Year midnight shrine or temple visit?

In Tokyo, there are plenty of countdown parties and concerts held either in the open or in clubs and live music venues. The New Year's Fox Parade held in Oji, a town in the Kita ward of Tokyo, is increasingly popular, attracting participants from all around the country.

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3. Beautiful Snow Scenery

Visiting Japan In Winter: Temperatures, Clothing, Travel Tips

The Shirogane Blue Pond in Hokkaido

When it comes to winter, natural scenery never fails to capture our hearts. The sight of entire vistas glittering white with freshly piled snow will both refresh and enthrall you.

However, such scenery cannot be enjoyed everywhere in Japan. In fact, in big cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka, snow is a rare sight.

Hokkaido is the first area to experience snowfall in Japan, with the first snowflakes drifting down in early November. The frozen Blue Pond in Biei and the drift ice in Abashiri are some of the splendid winter scenery in Hokkaido.

5 of The Best Winter Sights to See in Japan

Ginzan Onsen in Yamagata. Photo by Pixta
In Aomori, Akita, and Iwate, snow begins to fall around mid-November, while in Yamagata, Miyagi, and Fukushima, it will start snowing in late November.

Ginzan Onsen, a famous hot spring town in Yamagata, or the snow monsters of Zao are some of the sights that shouldn't be missed in winter in northeastern Japan.

Visiting Japan in Winter: Weather, Clothing, and Travel Tips

Shirakawa-go Village in Gifu. Photo by Pixta

In Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Gifu (Takayama), and Nagano, it begins snowing in early December.

The Shirakawa-go Village or the hot spring resorts in Takayama is where you can enjoy idyllic winter scenery. You can visit these areas on bus tours from nearby major cities like Nagoya or Osaka.

Even in regions where snow does not tend to pile up, you can find snowy landscapes if you head towards the mountains.

For example, snow is very rare in Kyoto itself but places like Kinkakuji Temple, Ginkakuji Temple, and Kifune Shrine are famous for their snowy backdrops in the winter. The combination of temples and gardens is particularly gorgeous, and many visitors come to Japan during wintertime just to enjoy these evocative scenes.

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4. Winter Sports and Snow Festivals

Visiting Japan In Winter: What You Need To Know

Japan is a mountainous country, which means it's an ideal environment for winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, skating, and snow trekking.

Hakuba (Nagano), the GALA Ski Resort (Niigata), and the Bandai ski Resorts (Fukushima) are popular ski resorts that can be easily accessed from Tokyo.

Hokkaido's Niseko area is the go-to destination for those who wish to enjoy several days of skiing on powder snow. Additionally, there are six ski resorts near Sapporo, and other excellent slopes near Chitose, Rusutsu, and Otaru.

Visiting Japan In Winter: What You Need To Know

Gorgeous snow festivals are being held at various locations in eastern and northern Japan such as the Sapporo Snow Festival, the Asahikawa Winter Festival, and the Otaru Light Path.

They all contain extravagant displays of buildings and statues made completely out of snow and ice, which are illuminated at night, creating a wonderful landscape that can be enjoyed only during this season.

Each festival has various events that attract many visitors from all around the country. The tasty hot local dishes available at the yatai food stalls are themselves one of the attractions at these events.

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5. Enjoy the Snow Scenery from a Hot Spring Bath

Visiting Japan In Winter: What You Need To Know

Winter is also the best time to appreciate hot springs. There's nothing like warming up by taking a hot bath in thermal water. Moreover, many hot spring resorts in the mountains offer open-air baths with wonderful views.

Noboribetsu Onsen in Hokkaido, Manza Onsen in Gunma, and Nozawa Onsen in Nagano are just some of the places where you can enjoy the amazing experience of taking a bath while gazing at the snowy landscape outside.


Should I visit Japan in winter?

Visiting Japan in winter can be a wonderful experience, as the country offers a variety of unique seasonal attractions and activities during this time. For instance, winter is a great time to visit the northern island of Hokkaido for its snow festivals and winter sports, or to enjoy the beauty of snow-covered landscapes in regions such as Nagano and Shirakawa-go. Additionally, winter is also a great time to enjoy traditional hot springs (onsen) and seasonal cuisine, such as hot pot dishes and seasonal seafood.
However, if you are not a fan of cold weather or snow, you may want to consider visiting Japan during a different season. Keep in mind that the weather and temperature can vary significantly between regions, so it's important to plan accordingly based on your interests and preferences.

How cold is Japan in winter?

The temperatures in Japan during winter can vary depending on the region and the specific time of the season. In general, northern areas such as Hokkaido experience colder temperatures, with average highs often around freezing or below. Other regions, such as Tokyo and Kyoto, typically have milder winter temperatures, with average highs ranging from around 8 to 12 degrees Celsius (46 to 54 degrees Fahrenheit). However, it's important to note that cold snaps and occasional heavy snowfall can occur, particularly in the northern and mountainous areas. It's a good idea to check the specific weather patterns for the time and region you plan to visit when considering a trip to Japan in winter.

Is Japan cheap in December?

The cost of visiting Japan in December can depend on various factors such as transportation, accommodations, and seasonal activities. Specifically, December is considered to be a part of the high travel season due to the winter holiday season, especially with the popularity of Christmas and New Year's celebrations. As a result, you may find that prices for flights, accommodations, and certain attractions could be higher than during other times of the year. On the other hand, many shops and department stores hold year-end sales and it's easier to find bargains. Additionally, there are seasonal activities and events unique to December, which can add value to your visit.
It's always best to plan ahead, compare prices, and consider off-peak destinations and activities to make the most of your budget when traveling to Japan in December.

What should I wear in winter in Japan?

In winter, especially in the colder regions of Japan, it's important to dress warmly and layer your clothing to stay comfortable. We suggest wearing a eavy coat or insulated jacket, especially in colder regions, as well as layered clothing and thermal undergarments to trap heat and stay warm. Scarf, hat, and glove are important for protecting your neck, head, and hands from the cold. Waterproof and insulated footwear along with warm socks are essential if you plan to spend time outdoors in cold temperatures.

Is Kyoto worth visiting in winter?

Yes, Kyoto is definitely worth visiting in winter. In addition to the beautiful temples, gardens, and historical sites that Kyoto is famous for, there are beautiful winter illuminations at Kyoto Station and other locations, which add to the city's charm. The New Year traditions, which include special ceremonies at shrines and temples, as well as seasonal cuisine, are also a unique feature of Kyoto in winter.
Additionally, Kyoto's traditional machiya townhouses and streets take on a special beauty in the winter, especially when dusted with snow. Please note, however, that it rarely snows in winter; there may be some snowfall in January and February.

Enjoy Your Winter Trip to Japan!

Winter in Japan is cold, but there are so many things that can only be enjoyed during this time: hot spring baths, hot pot dishes, snow-covered scenery, New Year events, and many more. Make sure to dress warmly and head out to experience everything that the season has to offer.

Main image by Pixta

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The MATCHA editorial department. Our articles feature useful travel information for visitors to Japan, from how-to guides to recommended places to visit.

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