10 Best Things To do in Japan in January 2024

zao onsen juhyo Events
Writer’s profile
Writer’s profile

Rayane Nihrane Drider is a Moroccan/Spanish university student from London, United Kingdom. He is working and living in Tokyo for his internship for 7 weeks, aiming to learn more about the Japanese work culture and to have a better understanding of the Asian way of life. After the internship, he will continue traveling across Asia. Ultimately, he will go back to London to pursue his Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Management at King’s College London.  

Winter is an amazing time to be in Japan, with beautiful destinations covered in snow and endless events that are worth checking out throughout the country. Whether you’re interested in winter sports, illuminations, or the January Grand Sumo Tournament, we have you covered with our list of 10 of the best things to do in Japan in January!

1. January Grand Sumo Tournament

The Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament, the first of Japan’s six annual sumo tournaments, promises an intense and unique experience showcasing strength, strategy, and pride. Get a chance to marvel at the big fights of these colossal giants and cheer on your favorite sumo wrestler. Action, tradition, culture and all that in one of the best cities, Tokyo! So what are you waiting for? Don’t miss out on this memorable moment and get the tickets alongside a guide that will provide you with all the information you need to get a better understanding of the culture and traditions of sumo. Don’t forget to get those pictures and videos and make your friends jealous!

Get yourself January tickets and witness the sumo matches up close! Tickets going quick!

[Chair B seat]Tokyo Sumo Tournament Tour, May 2024 (Tickets Included)
Watch the Japanese national sport, sumo wrestling in Tokyo with a professional guide! Sumo tournaments take place six ti...

2. Zao Juhyo Light-up

Snow monsters, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Flickr

Mount Zao reveals a magical secret during the chilling months from late December to early March. Here, the snow monsters, known as juhyo in Japanese, emerge—a phenomenon where fir trees cloak themselves entirely in snow, creating ethereal creatures sculpted by nature’s wintry hand.

The Zao Juhyo Festival illuminates these enchanting snow monsters for an evening spectacle, transforming them into an otherworldly vision, especially at night. This breathtaking display of colors can be admired from various perspectives: the rooftop observatory, restaurants, and the outdoors.

However, brace yourself for the harsh weather at the mountain’s peak by dressing warmly. While this event is organized by the prefecture and typically free, it draws locals and visitors alike to witness this captivating natural artistry.

To reach this spectacle, take the Zao Ropeway Sanroku line for a seven-minute ride up to Juhyo Kogen Station, then switch to the Zao Ropeway Sancho Line for Jizo Sancho Station.

3. Tsubaki Matsuri

Exclusive to Matsuyama, the Tsubaki Matsuri paints an electric and joyful atmosphere, especially when the beer flows freely and the mikoshi (portable shrine) processions commence. This yearly festival, held during Setsubun, involves the scattering of dried beans to ward off evil and beckon good fortune into homes.

4. Nijo Castle Garden Special Opening

File:Kyoto Nijo-jo Seiryu-en-Garten 4.jpg
Seiryu-en Garden of Nijo Castle, Kyoto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Flickr

This year unveils an exclusive opportunity—the Nijo Castle Gardens typically closed to the public, will be open from 8:45 AM to 5 PM. For a fee of ¥400 (at the door), immerse yourself in a world of flowers and botanic beauty.

5. Kyoto Toka Ebisu Festival

Kyoto Ebisu Shrine, ebisu shrine, ebisu, ebisu, JPG

Kicking off the new year, the Tōka Ebisu festival at Kyoto Ebisu Shrine spans five days, from January 8th to the 12th. Celebrating the enshrined god Ebisu, the festival attracts thousands praying for prosperity in their businesses for the upcoming year. 

6. Festival of Lights Osaka

Danjiri at night, lantern, festival, lantern, JPG

In Osaka, the “Midosuji Illumination” and the “Osaka Hikari-Renaissance” adorn the city with a beautiful nighttime glow, complemented by various other programs in different locations. Be transported into a magical world, thanks to multiple illuminations scattered throughout Osaka.

7. Kayabuki no Sato Snow Lantern Festival

Step into a nostalgic winter wonderland at the Snow Lantern Festival in Thatched Village. Handmade snow lanterns, flower lanterns, and illuminations amidst thatched roof houses create a picturesque scene blanketed in snow. The festival also hosts fireworks on January 31st and February 3rd from 6:30 PM.

8. Shirakawago Winter Light-Up

Shirakawago Lightup, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via Flickr

The unique steep roofs of Shirakawago’s farmhouses, necessitated by heavy snowfall, transform the region into an idyllic winter panorama. Special illumination events on selected Sunday evenings in January and February showcase the village’s gassho-zukuri farmhouses from 17:30 to 19:30.

9. Experiencing Oshogatsu (New Years)

Oshogatsu -Japanese New Year, CCBY2.0, via Flickr

Oshogatsu, the Japanese New Year, signifies a fresh start and family time. Hatsumode, the practice of visiting shrines and temples at the year’s start, offers a festive atmosphere and food stalls for visitors to relish.

10. Wakakusa Yamayaki

The burning the dead grass of Mount Wakakusa, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Flickr

Witness the spectacular Wakakusa Yamayaki festival as the grass covering Mount Wakakusa is set ablaze in Nara Prefecture. Although on a smaller scale this year, the breathtaking fires, illuminated by fireworks, light up the city, offering a sight to behold.

Japan Wonder Travel Tours 

Japan Wonder Travel is a travel agency that offers guided tours throughout Japan. 
From private walking tours to delicious Food and Drink tours, we can help you organize the best tours just for you! If you want to explore Japan and learn more about the history and backstories of each area you are visiting, our knowledgeable and friendly English speaking guides will happily take you to the best spots! 
In addition, we can provide you with any assistance you may need for your upcoming trip to Japan, so please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or need some help! 

Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Food and Drink Tour
Explore the most lively and popular fish market in Tokyo and try some of the local’s favorite street foods and sake with one of our friendly and knowledgeable English speaking guides! 

tsukiji tour

Tokyo 1–Day Highlights Private Walking Tour (8 Hours)
There’s no better way to explore an area than taking a tour with a knowledgeable local guide. You will have the chance to learn about the history and interesting background stories of Tokyo, as well as discover some hidden gems which can be hard to do without a guide.

Asakusa Tokyo private tour

Mt. Fuji Day Trip Bus Tour from Tokyo
Experience the breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji by visiting the highlights of the area on our guided sightseeing bus tour! Departing from Shinjuku in central Tokyo, you can travel comfortably to all of the best spots in the area by bus.

mount fuji chureito pagoda

Kyoto Private Full Day Walking Tour
On this full-day private tour of Kyoto, you will be able to see the highlights of Kyoto in just one day and at the same time develop a deeper understanding of both the culture of the area and Japan as a whole.

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Happy traveling!

Stay informed of the best travel tips to Japan, the most exciting things to do and see, and the top experiences to have with the Japan Wonder Travel Newsletter. Every week we will introduce you to our latest content.

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