Winter Outdoor & Culture | Japan National Tourism Organization

Winter Outdoor & Culture


Winter in Japan lasts for three months from December to February. Visitors during this time will have a very unique Japanese experience. Firstly, snow. Snow cannot be found in every area of Japan. Although snow does fall in many areas, it doesn’t build up except in the northern part of Japan, on the side facing the Sea of Japan. In areas of heavy snowfall, visitors can enjoy winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding at ski resorts as well as seeing magnificent natural landscapes such as the Snowmonsters which are trees covered with snow and frost which form their dramatic shapes. Additionally, snow and ice events are held in various regions. Famous snow festivals are held in Sapporo city in Hokkaido prefecture and Yokote city in Akita prefecture. Snow festivals differ depending on the region; some have giant snow sculptures and others offer hands-on experiences such as making snow huts.

Visitors staying in Japan during New Year’s holiday can experience one of the most traditional Japanese events, Oshogatsu (New Year’s Day). Japan’s Oshogatsu is on January first and is celebrated differently to New Year’s in Malaysia, which can vary according to religion. Also, unlike in Malaysia, Japan does not celebrate Chinese New Year. At Oshogatsu, various preparations are made for seeing the old year out and the new year in. During this time, events and celebrations originating from Japanese traditional customs and conventions can be seen.

Ways to Enjoy Winter

Snow Huts

Have you heard of the snow domes or huts called Kamakura? They are surprisingly warm and pleasant inside. Kamakura were originally made for children in snowy regions to play inside, but today they are made in larger sizes for adult tourists to enjoy.

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Snow and Ice Activities

There are tours where you can experience ice fishing by making a small hole in a frozen lake. Other tours involve taking visitors on an icebreaker to see drifting ice on the Sea of Okhotsk in Hokkaido. It is also worthwhile to try some of the standard winter activities such as skiing and snowboarding.

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Traditional Events

Japan celebrates many events in winter such as Oshogatsu, to welcome the new year and Setsubun, to wish for perfect health by warding off evil from houses. It is great fun to immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere of winter in Japan.

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