Top 10 Things to Do in Japan in January

Best things to do and places to visit in Japan in January

Are you planning to visit Japan in January?? January might be the coldest month in Japan, yet it’s an amazing month to visit the country as there are several special events including New Year’s celebration, and many beautiful places to visit. It’s also one of the cheapest months to visit Japan.

Today, I’m going to introduce 10 best things to do and places to visit in Japan in January!

Japan in January

In January, one of the coldest months in Japan, many travelers visit the country from overseas on New Year’s holidays. There are a variety of winter attractions in January in Japan including illuminations, Onsen, hot dishes, and skiing. Lots of stores offers special New Year deals while most of them are closed during New Year holidays, especially on January 1. You should check where to go in this season for amazing experiences and scenery. The average temperature in January in Tokyo ranges from 4°C (39.2°F) to 7°C (44.6°F).

*Please note that this article contains affiliate links.

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 shops and 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.

Related articles
▶ How to Spend New Year’s Holiday in Japan
▶ Traditional Japanese New Year Decorations

2. Hatsumode

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 attract a few millions visitors only in a first couple of days of the New Year.

Related article ▶ 7 Best Shrines and Temples to Worship during New Year’s Holidays

3. Sumo January Grand Tournament

Sumo match

The Sumo January Grand Tournament in Tokyo, is one of the most exciting events in the world of sumo wrestling. This tournament, known as Hatsu Basho, marks the beginning of the sumo year and is one of six major tournaments held annually. It’s a fantastic opportunity for visitors from abroad to experience a quintessential part of Japanese culture.

The tournament lasts for 15 days, usually starting on the second Sunday of January. During this time, you’ll witness the powerful and ceremonial aspects of sumo, with wrestlers competing in various divisions. The atmosphere in the sumo hall, Ryogoku Kokugikan, is electrifying, filled with the cheers of sumo fans and the unique sights and sounds of the sport.

Getting tickets by yourself can be quite troublesome, so taking part in a sumo watching tour that comes with tickets is a practical option if you want to experience sumo in Japan.

▶︎You can book a sumo watching tour that includes tickets from here!

4. Winter Illumination

The sensation of the Japanese winter illuminations continue after Christmas season. Many illumination events can be still enjoy in January even until cherry blossom season. Days are short in January, but it’s not such as bad thing when you can enjoy the beautiful scenery in dark 🙂

Related articles
Best Winter Illuminations in Japan : Japan Illumination Map
Tokyo Winter Illumination Guide

5.  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!

Related articles
5 Best Outdoor Onsen in Japan
Best Hot Springs in Japan : Japan Onsen Map

6. 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.

Related Article ▶ Jigokudani Monkey Park: Meet Snow Monkeys

7. Ski/Snowboarding

Japan is a great country to enjoy winter sports 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 such as Mount Fuji and GALA.

Related articles

8. 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.

Last year, the regulation of the light-up event was changed and visitors are required to make a reservation in advance via the official website. Please check the link below for more details.

Related articles ▶ Best Things to Do in Shirakawago

9. 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.

Related article ▶ The Icicles of Misotsuchi: Take a Winter Day-Trip from Tokyo!

10. New Year Sales

During the new year season could be the best season for shopping since the biggest sales of the year 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.

If you are travelling in big cities in Japan like Tokyo or Osaka, don’t miss a chance to hunt for the big new year’s sale!

Related article ▶ Try your luck with LUCKY BAGS !

▽Check out this Japan Bucket List of 30 Best Things to Do throughout the year!▽

▼Check out the Travel Info in Japan in February!▼

▽How to Get Internet Connection during traveling in Japan▽
▶︎Perfect Guide to Get WiFi Connection in Japan
▶︎Which Pocket WiFi Rental is the Best in Japan?
▶︎Which SIM card Option to Choose in Japan?
▶︎How to Find and Use Free WiFi in Japan

Thanks for reading! I hope you have enjoyed my list of 10 best things to do in Japan in January!

▽Subscribe to our free news magazine!▽

For more info about travelling in Japan in winter, here are some more articles which you may wanna check out!

▽Related Articles▽

▼Editor’s Picks▼

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 🌈