Top 10 Things to Do in Japan in January
Best things to do and places to visit in Japan in January
1. Japanese New Year
New Year (Shogatsu in Japanese) is the biggest holiday season in Japan, and it’s best time of the year to experience the traditional culture of Japan. Most commonly, people spend New Years Holiday (usually from 29 December to 3 January) with families, watch the popular music program “kohaku uta gassen” on the New Year’s Eve, eat traditional New Year dish (called Osechi), visit a shrine or temple to throw coins, see the Emperor’s New Year Greeting (2 January) and so on. Many facilities can be closed during the New Year holiday, but also it’s a great time of the year to see the most festive atmosphere in Japan.
One of the most common New Year activities in Japan is making the first visit to a shrine or temple which is called “Hatsumode”. Japanese people start visiting the shrines and temples to pray from the midnight of the New Years Eve then most of them make their first visits during the first few days. Some popular shrines like Meiji Shrine in Tokyo or Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in Kamakura attracts a few millions visitors only in a first couple of days of the New Year.
3. Winter Illumination
The sensation of the Japanese winter illuminations continue after Christmas season. Many illumination events can be still enjoy in January. Days are short in January, but it’s not such as bad thing when you can enjoy the beautiful scenery in dark 🙂
4. Snow Onsen
Onsen (hot spring bath) is one of the top attractions in Japan during winter, but what makes doing it in January more special is that many Onsen can be enjoyed with snow. In Tohoku area (northern Japan) and mountain areas has amazing outdoor Onsen baths which are covered in white snow offering very special winter scenery. And of course, hot Onsen baths feel so much better when outside is cold!
5. Snow Monkeys
Jigokudani Monkey Park (地獄谷野猿公苑) offers one of the most unique and recognizable scenery in Japan, which is the Snow Monkeys. The park can be visited through the year and the monkeys also can be seen anytime of the year, but the only season to capture the special view of wild Monkeys bathing in a hot bath like human surrounded by white snow is during winter. And the best time is January and February when the snow gets thick.
Japan is a great country to enjoy snow activities such as ski and snowboarding . The high quality powder snow at Japanese mountains fascinate skiers and snowboarders from all around the world. The top ski resorts can be found at the northernmost land, Hokkaido and the Mecca of skiers, Nagano, where winter Olympic was held back in 1998. There are also several ski resorts where you can visit from Tokyo within 2–3 hours.
7. Shirakawago Village
Shirakawago (白川郷) is a picturesque traditional Japanese village in central Japan which is designated to UNESCO World Heritage list. This beautiful village is recommended to visit all year round as it displays gorgeous scenery on each season, but I must say that winter time is slightly more special than other seasons. The entire village is covered in white snow, and light-up events are held annually at several nights in January and February. In 2019, the regulation of the light-up event has changed and visitors are required to make a reservation in advance via the official website. Please check the link below for more details.
8. The Icicles of Misotsuchi
The Icicles of Misotsuchi is one of the most beautiful winter scenery that are created by nature. It’s located in Chichibu area in the west part of Saitama prefecture, which is a popular day-trip destination from Tokyo. The gigantic icicles gets as large as 30 m wide x 10 m high as winter gets colder, and the best viewing time is mid January to mid February. During this period, the light-up of the icicles is held at night.
9. New Year Sales
During the new year season could be the best season for shopping since the biggest sales are held at many shops in Japan. New Year Sales are held on 2 and 3 January at most of shops and shopping malls in Japan. Not only clothing stores, but also variety stores and electronics stores offer really good deals. The most special things about New Year shopping is the Lucky Bag (Fukubukuro in Japanese), which is a brilliant discount deal that comes with multiple items inside. You can not really know what is inside the bag before purchasing, but usually they value much more than the actual price.
10. Sumo January Grand Tournament
Sumo tournament is held 6 times a year in Japan, and the first Sumo Grand Tournament of the year is held at the legendary Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo stadium in Tokyo from 13 to 27 January 2019.
Thanks for reading! I hope you have enjoyed my list of 10 best things to do in Japan in January! For more info about travelling in Japan in winter, here are some more articles which you may wanna check out!