Amazing Places to Visit in Japan During Winter in 2019
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It’s no secret that Japan is home to thousands of beautiful sites, culture, and exotic experiences that attracts travelers all year round. During winter, Japan’s landscape is covered in beautiful, pristine, white, fluffy snow that makes it look like a winter wonderland from a fairytale. During winter, Japan becomes even more spectacular as the snow brings winter festivals, unique natural phenomenons, snow sports, and serene landscapes that you wouldn’t get to experience in other parts of the year.
Each region in Japan experience winter differently as the further north you go the colder it gets. But everywhere in Japan, your visit will guarantee a unique experience of a winter wonderland. So here is a list of 15 best places to visit in Japan during winter in 2019.
Sapporo Snow Festival
In Sapporo, Hokkaido, they celebrate the world-famous Sapporo Snow Festival. If you’re in Japan at the right time, you definitely must go to see the snow cultures on the streets of Sapporo. The festival lasts for 2 weeks in February and teams compete to create the best ice sculpture. You can view ice sculptures of grand buildings and celebrity figures plus the added lighting effects would make for a memorable winter experience. In 2020, the snow festival will start from February 4 to 11.
Fun fact: the Sapporo Snow Festival started in 1950 with only 6 ice sculptures built by students, now the festival attracts ice sculpting teams from all over the world and is visited by millions of tourists.
Niseko in Hokkaido is known for its dry powdery white snow and is located on the slopes Mount Niseko-Annapuri making it ideal for snow sports. Niseko is home to hot springs, snow adventures, world-class dining options, and many ski resorts. The main ones are Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, and Annupuri all of which meet at the top of the mountain and you can gain access to all three with a Niseko All Mountain Pass. Niseko is one of the most beautiful places to go skiing in Japan and is increasingly attracting snow sports enthusiasts from all over the world.
Ginzan Onsen, Yamagata
Ginzan is the picturesque bathhouse town in Yamagata Prefecture where you can take a relaxing bath in its famous outdoor hot springs in the winter. The town was founded about 600 years ago and is named after the Ginzan river that flows through the historic town. Traditional wooden inns, houses and oil lamps lined the streets that cast a fairytale-like glow as you walk through the town, especially when it’s snowing. It’s a great place to visit for its picturesque and calming atmosphere and to experience authentic outdoor Japanese hot springs. It’s also the inspiration of the mythical town in the animated movie Spirited Away.
Lake Kawaguchi is one of the Five Fuji Lakes lakes that are formed by previous eruptions by Mt. Fuji. Lake Kawaguchi is by far the most famous and picturesque lake that sits at the base of Mt. Fuji, as well as the most developed as hotels and resorts line its banks. On clear early mornings, you’ll get to see the serene image of Mt. Fuji’s reflection on the lake’s surface. You can also get on boat rides offered by the locals.
Fuji-Q Highlands, Fujiyoshida
Fuji-Q Highlands is one of the most popular amusement parks in Japan that’s located at the base of Mt. Fuji. The views are picturesque with Mt. Fuji always within sight and you get to experience thrilling Guinness World Record holding rides at the same time. Visiting the park in the winter season means fewer lines and they even have an ice-skating rink complete with the stunning view of Mt. Fuji.
Jigokudani Monkey Park
One of the many things that Japan is known for is its Snow Monkeys bathing in natural hot springs at the base of Mt. Fuji. You can view these fascinating animals bathing in hot springs to keep warm during the winter in Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano Prefecture. You can visit them year-round as they live in the park itself but catching them bathing in winter with the backdrop of the snow-covered mountain makes for a unique and fascinating sight.
Nyuto Onsen, Akita
In the Akita prefecture nestled between Towada-Hachimantai National Park is Nyuto Onsen. The onsen overlooks Japan’s deepest lake and is surrounded by mountains and snow-covered forests. Nyuto Onsen is comprised of 8 hot springs surrounded by rustic Japanese inns. The oldest one being Tsunuroyo which is nearly 300 years old. And if you’re up for it, you can also experience outdoor mixed-gender bathing in one of Nyuto Onsen’s hot springs. One of the few remaining places that offer this age-old tradition.
Zao Ski Resort
One of the major attractions of Zao Ski Resort located at Yamagata Prefecture is the unique natural phenomena the Japanese called Juhyo. Juhyo means snow monsters. The trees on the slopes of Mt. Zao becomes ice trees and is covered with thick mounds of snow that they resemble a ghostly image. In Zao Ski Resort during mid-winter, you can ski and snowboard through these snow monsters on the slopes of Mt. Zao.
Nabana no Sato
There are many illumination festivals throughout Japan during the winter season. Nabana no Sato in Kuwana City, Mei Prefecture is one of the largest and most visited. Nabana no Sato is also a botanical garden with hundreds of varieties of flowers and vegetation. And by winter nights, the vast scale of the art illuminations throughout Nabana no Sato will stun you. Don’t miss walking through the famous display of the “Tunnel of Lights.”
Kifune Shrine, Kyoto
Kifune Shrine is one of the best-hidden gems in the historic city of Kyoto. You visit all year-round and be met with stunning scenery but in winter, Kifune Shrine is absolutely gorgeous. It will transform into the embodiment of what winter wonderland is like in Japan is all about. At night and only when it’s snowing, a light-up event is held on the Kifune Shrine and turns everything so dreamlike.
The Blue Pond
The Blue Pond is located in a dense patch of forest near the town of Biei in the Hokkaido Prefecture. The pond looks like something from another planet as the waters contain traces of chemicals that turn its color into different shades of blue that changes by the season. The Blue Pond was made from a hollow that was a result of an excavation to prevent mudslides in the area. During the winter, the striking blue of the water makes a striking contrast with the surrounding white snow on the landscape.
Travel to Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture to visit the most lavishly decorated shrine in Japan, Nikko Toshogu Shrine. The shrine also serves as the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate who ruled over Japan for over three centuries. You can admire the traditional and lavish Japanese architecture of the shrine that during the snowy season, transforms you in a winter wonderland.
Hakuba is home to the Snow Monkeys of the Jigokudani Monkey Park mentioned above and it was also where the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics was hosted. Hakuba became internationally known because of the 1998 Winter Olympics and now Hakuba’s 11 ski resorts attract snow sports enthusiasts all over the world because this is where one of the few places where they can test their test ski skills on Olympic class facilities.
Located in Central Japan, Shirakawa-go Village is the charming and rustic farm village that is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage site for its traditional gasshou-zukuri structured farmhouses, some of which are over 250 years old. These houses and their thatched roofs are built without a single nail and are designed to withstand heavy snowfall that comes every year during the winter season. The village also hosts lighting events when the snow comes and paired with the rustic architecture, makes Shirakawa-go look dreamlike.
Tokyo’s Winter Illuminations
Of course, the list wouldn’t be complete if we don’t mention the winter illuminations in Tokyo. In the winter season, Tokyo hosts several winter illumination displays, the most popular of which are the ones at Marunouchi and Tokyo Station. These places in Tokyo brightens up with all the lights put up for the winter and is truly a sight to behold. Entire streets and historical buildings are covered with bright lights that only the Japanese people and their innovation can produce.
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