12 Must-Try Winter Activities in Japan This Year

12 Must-Try Winter Activities in Japan This Year

Tick everything off this list when you spend your winter holiday in Japan.

It’s now winter in Japan, the time of the year when the country is gloriously white, cold and magical. It is a great time to visit, especially with the plethora of winter activities to choose from! In fact, you might even have a headache when planning for your first winter vacation. But no worries, to help you out, I’ve come up with a list of must-try winter experiences in Japan.

1. Learn about sea ice at the Okhotsk Ryuhyo Museum

japan winter activitiesImage credit: 663highland

Begin your winter holiday by learning about all aspects of sea ice at the Okhotsk Ryuhyo Museum. It is situated at the top of Mount Tento, a designated Place of Scenic Beauty in Abashiri, Hokkaido. Aside from seeing some sea creatures and massive boulders of sea ice, this museum lets you experience the amazing drift ice phenomenon with a simulation that’s almost real, you’ll think you’re already in the North or South Pole!

Let JTB take you to this distinct museum with its Hokkaido Sweet Memory package! Aside from this, you will also experience crane watching in Kushiro, sake tasting at Otokoyama Sake Brewery, ropeway journey to Hokkaido’s majestic mountains and more fantastic activities to make your holiday extra special.

2. Sail across the frozen Sea of Okhotsk on an Icebreaker Cruise

Image credit: Doutou Kanko Kaihatsu

Bring your ice drift experience to the next level by hopping on an Icebreaker Cruise off the Sea of Okhotsk, the southernmost part of the Northern hemisphere. Take in the beauty of the vast seascape, watch birds foraging for food, and witness how a thick layer of sea ice breaks as you cruise along the frozen waters. You definitely must experience this at least once in your life!

3. Celebrate the Sapporo Snow Festival

Image credit: David McKelvey

Join in the fun at one of the largest and most anticipated snow festivals in the world, the Sapporo Snow Festival. Since 1950, this festival never ceases to impress its visitors every year with spectacular displays of ice sculptures, exciting winter activities and an array of local treats. In 2016, the Sapporo Snow Festival will be held from February 5 to 11. Mark those dates so you won’t miss it.

Celebrate the Sapporo Snow Festival and three more thrilling snow festivals such as Lake Akan Ice Festival & Fireworks, Otaru Yuki-akari-no-michi and Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival with JTB’s Hokkaido Icebreaker & Winter Lights package! In addition to all these winter festivals, this package will take you to the astounding sights and sounds of Hokkaido with accommodation and gourmet delights all arranged for you! How convenient is that!

4. Meet the Snow Monsters of Mount Zao

After Hokkaido, you can proceed to another equally exciting winter wonderland, Yamagata. A top natural attraction here is Mount Zao, a complex volcano and one of the most active in the region. Ride the ropeway up the mountain and see the Snow Monsters (樹氷 Juhyō), the enigmatic snow-covered trees that look straight out of a horror book.

Discover the many fascinating wonders of North Japan with JTB’s 5 Prefectures of North Japan package. Yes, you’ve read it right, five prefectures in one trip. Aside from Yamagata, you will also explore the prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate, Akita and Hokkaido.

5. Learn how to ski

Learn how to ski and get your adrenaline pumping this snowy season! A popular hot spring resort town you should visit is Manza Onsen in the Gunma Prefecture of Japan. Situated 1,800 metres above sea level, Manza Onsen is one Japan’s highest and most exciting ski destinations. Ski your way through its icy, uncrowded mountain slopes as you enjoy the captivating landscape. Fret not if you’re a newbie, most resorts there offer skiing lessons for every level.

6. Rejuvenate your senses in an open-air bath

Image credit: blog.princehotels.co.jp

After all the skiing and outdoor fun, give yourself a break, relax and soak your tired muscles in an open-air bath.

Manza Onsen is also famous for hotels and ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) that offer incredible hot spring baths with stunning natural scenery. So while you’re there, take the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in an exclusive, peaceful setting.

Up for a ski adventure with hot spring relaxation? JTB’s Japan Winter Ski Special package is for you! Highlights of the tour include a ski lesson with equipment and English-speaking instructor, and quality hotel stays with hot springs. Plus, you will have sightseeing and shopping opportunities in Tokyo and Yokohama. Awesome, right?

7. See wild monkeys bathing in natural hot springs of Jigokudani Monkey Park

Image credit: Yosemite

Who says you’re the only one who needs to relax? Monkeys need relaxation too! Witness the unique sight of Japanese Macaques (snow monkeys) soaking in a natural hot spring at Jigokudani Monkey Park in Japan’s Nagano Prefecture. Get your cameras ready all the time because you might miss the cute bathing moments of these mischievous-looking monkeys.

JTB offers you this unique experience with its Central Japan Winter Gourmet & Snow Monkey package! Aside from seeing the snow monkeys, you will also enjoy snow rafting at Ryuo Ski Resort, yukata (traditional Japanese garment) wearing at Gero Onsen, sightseeing in an old Samurai residence and traditional Japanese sweets making. This couldn’t be more exciting!

8. Eat Japanese food in a Kamakura snow house

Image credit: JTB

Yunishigawa Onsen, a small hot spring town in the mountains of Tochigi Prefecture, celebrates the Kamakura Snow Festival every late January to early March. This one-of-a-kind festival gives you the opportunity to dine inside a Kamakura snow house, a room made by carving out a mound of snow. What a cool way to indulge in Japanese cuisine!

JTB offers you this remarkable experience with its Winter Wonders in North Central package. Eating inside a snow house is just one of its many highlights; more unique experiences include seeing the Snow Monster Illumination at Zao, strawberry picking, sake tasting, Japanese rice cracker baking and so much more!

9. Live in a fairytale world at the Hiroshima Dreamination

Image credit: visithiroshima.net

Be transported into a fairyland at the Hiroshima Dreamination, a decorative illumination event in the city centre of Hiroshima every winter season. When night approaches, Hiroshima transforms into a magical world with sparkling lights, magnificent Christmas trees, larger-than-life sculptures and other colourful displays. This bedazzling illumination event will truly make you relive those childhood fantasies!

10. Explore every corner of Kinosaki Onsen

Image credit: Toyooka City / JNTO

You have not experienced a true winter holiday in Japan if you have not explored Kinosaki Onsen in the northern Hyogo Prefecture. It’s one of the best hot spring resort towns known not only in Japan, but also in the world! Stroll around its lovely, serene streets, immerse in authentic Japanese onsen culture and never miss the blissful feeling of soaking in a public onsen.

11. Indulge in crab kaiseki dinner

Winter is the season for CRABS! Yes, it’s a must that you indulge in lots of crabs when you’re having your winter vacation in Japan. Do it the traditional Japanese way by indulging in a crab kaiseki dinner. This multi-course Japanese dinner, with crab being the yummy highlight, is guaranteed to satisfy the foodie in you!

Experience Hiroshima Dreamination, Kinasaki Onsen and crab kaiseki dinner in one trip with JTB’s West Japan Winter Gourmet & Discovery package. Apart from that, you will also get to make your own momijimanju, a traditional Japanese maple-leaf-shaped cake, stroll around the famous anime road, Mizuki Shigeru Road, and snow sled at Daisen area. Authentic Japanese winter experiences truly await you in this tour package!

12. Catch the earliest cherry blossoms in Okinawa

You don’t have to wait until spring to see the lovely cherry blossoms because Okinawa features the earliest sakura blooms in Japan. Even if it’s still winter in other parts of the country, the sakura trees in Okinawa, particularly in Nago Castle and Mount Yaedake, are already in full bloom!

If you’re interested to experience the best of Okinawa, grab JTB’s Okinawa Rejoice Flower & Culture package. Highlights of the tour include the cherry blossom viewing, whale watching, glass bottom boat experience, and a lot of sightseeing and shopping opportunities!

Also Read: 10 Destinations in Japan to Spend Your Autumn and Winter Vacations

Don’t worry if you won’t tick everything off this list; there’s always a next time. If you have no enough time to plan for your first winter vacation in Japan, you can arrange everything with JTB, a leading Japan travel specialist that organises personalised tours to give you the best travel experience in Japan.

About Author

Charmaine Acha
Charmaine Acha

Charmaine loves random weekend trips, technology, and coffee. Guided by her travel mantra "chill and travel", she enjoys unplanned escapades without compromising leisure. If not fangirling over her K-drama idols, she's on DND mode writing or planning her next possible adventure.


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