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3 Must-try activities during winter in Japan

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3 Must-try activities during winter in Japan

Spending winter in Japan? Here are three fun things to do outside of typical snow activities.

Aree Anas

Aree Anas

Published on 16 Dec 2021, 12:00

The winter season is an exciting time to be in Japan, especially if you come from a country that does not have four seasons. The cold weather and snowfall (depending on where you are staying) offer a plethora of interesting things for visitors to enjoy.

Apart from enjoying the snow, here are three activities that I think one should not miss out on when visiting Japan during the wintertime.

1. See winter illuminations

Caretta Shiodome's Winter Illumination 2019–2020 in Tokyo
Caretta Shiodome's Winter Illumination 2019–2020 in Tokyo

Every year, Japan holds plenty of illumination events that feature thousands and thousands of beautiful lights, adding a magical touch to anyone's holiday season. They are usually held during the colder months, with some requiring admission fee while others are completely free.

The view of Yomiuriland's Jewellumination 2020–2021 in Tokyo from the Ferris wheel
The view of Yomiuriland's Jewellumination 2020–2021 in Tokyo from the Ferris wheel

Last winter, I went to see the annual Jewellumination event at Yomiuriland in Tokyo with my fiancé. It was a nice activity for a date as we were able to enjoy the park attractions during the day, and when nighttime came, we were in awe of how the whole park turned into a beautiful kingdom of lights.

Tip: Ride the Ferris wheel at night to see the illuminated park from a height!

2. Soak in an onsen

A Japanese hot spring bath
A Japanese hot spring bath

The lower temperatures that winter brings will make you want to take a dip in a nice, relaxing hot spring bath even more. Indeed a great way to keep yourself warm!

Japan has a wide range of hot spring resorts and bathhouses, so finding one suited to your preferences shouldn't be too hard regardless of your budget.

If you are a little apprehensive about being naked around other people, I suggest going to a private onsen instead. Some ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) offer rooms with private baths so you are free to enjoy the waters without having to worry. This is a great option for those with tattoos, too, as Japanese facilities are still strict with allowing such guests entry.

The outdoor onsen at the Airbnb we rented in Hakone
The outdoor onsen at the Airbnb we rented in Hakone

Last February, my fiancé and I rented an Airbnb with its own onsen in Hakone, a popular onsen town in Kanagawa Prefecture. The place was huge and it had both an indoor and outdoor bath!

Even though we only stayed for one night, having two onsens all to ourselves meant that we could take our precious time enjoying the baths.

3. Eat hearty winter foods

Motsunabe
Motsunabe

Hot pot is probably the first thing that comes to mind when talking about winter food, wouldn't you agree? The warm soup and healthy ingredients in this dish not only provide comfort and warmth but also sustenance.

A bowl of delicious motsunabe with a side of kimchi and basashi (horse sashimi)
A bowl of delicious motsunabe with a side of kimchi and basashi (horse sashimi)

My personal favorite and recommendation? Motsunabe - a type of hot pot with beef or pork tripe or other innards. This dish originates in Fukuoka Prefecture, and I was lucky enough to have been able to try it right at its place of origin.

If you are not into eating internal organs, motsunabe may not be for you. But if you are open to new experiences, I highly suggest giving it a go and seeing for yourself why I love this dish so much. It is just so yummy and you can really taste the umami flavor, especially when you add champon noodles to the soup!

Oden
Oden

For those who would rather eat hot pot on the go, I recommend oden. You can easily find this in convenience stores nationwide at an affordable price, with various ingredients to choose from such as fish cake, daikon, and boiled egg. A bowl of this will surely warm your belly and satisfy your hunger.


And there you have it!

With these activities, I am sure that you will have a great winter experience in Japan with or without snow. This year will be my eighth winter here, and I can honestly say that I still discover new things to enjoy every time.

Have you been to Japan in winter? What other activities would you recommend?

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Aree Anas

Aree Anas

Originally from the Philippines, I've called Japan my second home for more than 10 years now. I love traveling, enjoying good food, and conquering extreme roller coasters. Always up for new adventures and experiences, I seek to share my knowledge of Japan through writing.

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