10 Best Places to Visit in Japan in Winter 2023-2024

Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Japan during Winter

Planning a trip to Japan? Are you wondering which season to visit??

Visiting Japan in winter is one of the greatest options as you can enjoy numbers of seasonal attractions and activities only this time of the year!

From snow events to winter illuminations, the winter in Japan offers some of the most spectacular scenery that you may wanna see once in your lifetime!

Check out my picks of the 10 best places to visit in Japan during winter 2023-2024 and find where to go in Japan in winter!

1. Abashiri Drift Ice

Winter phenomena: Drift Ice can be seen in Hokkaido

Hokkaido is the coldest city in Japan, and various kinds of spectacular winter phenomena and scenery can be captured in this northernmost land during the cold season. The drift ice is one of them (Ryuhyo in Japanese). The Sea of Okhotsk along Abashiri City, Hokkaido is known as the southernmost point see drifting sea ice just like in the Arctic.

Visitors can take the ice breaker sightseeing ship and watch the dynamic drift ice in close for the limited time of the year.

Related link: https://ms-aurora.com/abashiri/en/

2. Sapporo Snow Festival

Sapporo Snow Festival at night

Winter in Hokkaido is really cold, yet it’s definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world. The world’s famous Sapporo Snow Festival takes place in the capital city, Sapporo for 2 weeks and turns the whole city into the dreamy winter wonderland.

Over 2 million visitors attend the event every season from Japan and overseas and they are indulged with spectacular snow and ice sculptures.

More info: Sapporo Snow Festival

3. Ginzan Onsen

Ginzan Onsen: one of the most scenic Onsen towns in Japan

Winter is arguably the best season to enjoy Onsen (hot spring bath) as there is nothing better than soaking up our bodies in a hot bath when it’s cold outside. Moreover, to enjoy it in even better way could be in snow. There are hundreds of Onsen towns in Japan, but if you wish to enjoy snowy Onsen experience, definitely head to north.

Ginzan Onsen in Yamagata Prefecture is one of the most historical and picturesque Onsen towns in Japan. The town offers an amazing preserved nostalgic townscape from 19th century and has been featured on numbers of medias in past. It was chosen as “Japan’s most charming winter village” by CNN.

More info: Ginzan Onsen: Nostalgic Hot Spring Town from 19th Century

4. Zao

Illuminated snow monsters in Zao

Winter phenomena can be captured in Japan, not only in Hokkaido, and one of them can be seen at a popular ski resort in northern Japan. Zao’s ice trees (Juhyo) is one of the most unique and spectacular snow arts made by nature.

Hundreds of snow monsters covered the slope at Zao Ski Resort, and visitors can actually enjoy skiing and snowboarding passing by the trees. At night, the snow monsters are lit up and displays mystical winter scenery.

More info: Zao Onsen: Meet the Snow Monsters

5. Kamakura Festival

The row of small Kamakura in Yunishigawa Onsen

Besides Sapporo Snow Festival, numbers of snow events are held in the northern part of Japan during winter. Kamakura is one of the traditional winter items in Japan which is a dome shaped snow sculpture in various sizes. Yunishigawa Kamakura Festivals is held annually at Yunishigawa Onsen Town in Tochigi Prefecture.

The event features countless small Kamakura domes lightened up dreamy during the night. The event runs for a month from February to March and offers several fun snow activities to visitors.

More info: Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Festival

6. The Icicles of Misotsuchi

The natural art in winter: icicles of Misotsuchi

Another winter phenomena in Japan, and this one is more accessible from Tokyo. The icicles of Misotsuchi is gigantic icicles created by flowing water over the cliffs upstream from the waterfall in Chichibu area in Saitama Prefecture, which is located next to Tokyo.  During the peak season, the special light-up event is held and lightens up the icicles mystically.

More info: The Icicles of Misotsuchi: Take a Winter Day Trip from Tokyo

7. Jigokudani Monkey Park

Besides Mount Fuji and Cherry Blossoms, one of the most iconic and unique scenery of Japan is the Snow Monkeys. The sight of wild monkey bathing in hot bath surrounded by white snow can be captured at Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano Prefecture.

The snow monkeys literally live around the park so you can meet them through the year, but the best season to visit is definitely winter. It’s located in Yamanouchi Town, in the Shiga Kogen Highland on the Japanese Alps.

More info: Meet the Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park

8. Nabana no Sato

Numbers of illumination events are held across the country through winter, and it’s now a top tourist attraction in Japan among locals and tourists. One of the most spectacular and popular winter illuminations is held at Nabana no Sato, the amusement park in Mie Prefecture.

Approx 8 million LED lights are used to create the stunning arts of lights at the vast park including the famous the “Tunnel of Lights”. The illumination event runs from mid autumn till early spring annually.

More info: Nabana no Sato: Spectacular Winter Illumination

9. Shirakawago

Shirakawago Village is a charming and rustic traditional Japanese village located in Gifu Prefecture, the Central Japan. The village displays the beautiful scenery in each season collaborating with the surrounding nature.

In winter, the snow covers the whole village and creates a wonderful view. The special light-up events are held several times during winter.

More info: Shirakawago: the Best Time to Visit

10. Kifune Shrine

The approach of Kifune Shrine covered by snow

Kyoto is the top tourist destination in Japan through the year, and there are hundreds of historic sites to visit. Kifune Shrine is one of the best hidden gems in Kyoto. The shrine can be enjoyed all year around but winter could be the best time to visit. The light-up event is held at night during January and February only when it snows.

More info: Kifune Shrine: New Travel Destination in Kyoto

How did you enjoy the list? For more beautiful places in Japan in other seasons, please check out listed articles!

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Written by

"The world is my oyster" A globetrotter 🌎 and hammock lover 🌞 who loves taking adventures to fuel wanderlust. Born and raised in Japan, I have lived and explored countries around the world. As a resident of Japan and based on my travel experience, I'd love to share my knowledge and tips for travelling Japan with my readers. I hope my story will help you plan your trip and have a great time in Japan 🌈