10 Best Things to Do in Tokyo in Winter

Tokyo Station with snow To do in Tokyo
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Bryce was born in California, and raised near Seattle, Washington! He’s been living in Japan for about 5 years now, the first 3 spent studying at Temple University Japan. His main passion in life is writing and producing music, more specifically EDM if anyone is curious! He is very fond of snowboarding, cooking, traveling, playing video games; all of which he’d ideally enjoy with the company of his great friends. 

When you consider Tokyo’s vibrant synergy of old traditions and futuristic elements, the city is already an everyday phenomenon – and during the holidays it becomes a wild and unique display of all things wintery. Among mesmerizing light displays, festivals, fireworks and Christmas markets, there is certainly no shortage of ways to enjoy the colder season. No matter what your idea of winter fun is, you’ll surely find something entertaining to do in Tokyo!

1. See the Illuminations 

Illuminations are a wonderful part of Japan’s winter culture. Many westerners are accustomed to neighborhoods being lit up during the holidays in their home countries, but Japan takes illuminations to a whole other level! From gardens and tree-lined streets to tall towers and other prominent landmarks, Tokyo illuminations see no limit! There are even entire theme parks, like Yomiuri Land, that partake in the illumination festivities. The city’s magnificent light displays will be hard for you to miss if you plan to venture anywhere in Tokyo during winter.

2. Visit Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea

othree, (CC BY 2.0), via flickr

Christmas in Japan is celebrated quite differently than what is custom in western countries! Rather than focusing on religion or on sharing food and opening gifts with your family, Christmas in Japan is about spending time with your significant other. Christmas is easily one of the biggest holidays in the world, but it’s enjoyed in many different ways, and Disney is one such place to celebrate the season. Head to Tokyo Disney Resort between November 8th and December 25th for a very Christmassy experience!

3. Shop at Christmas Markets

Christmas market shiba park
At some Christmas markets you’ll get the fun contrast between futuristic high-rise buildings and traditional European decorations

Get an authentic taste of Germany at one of Tokyo’s Christmas markets! These bustling events are usually full of stalls selling German delicacies such as sausages, sauerkraut, glühwein (hot wine), pretzels and much more! They’re also a pretty good place to pick up some Christmas gifts, especially the market at the Red Brick Warehouse in Yokohama. This market is probably the most well-known in the Tokyo area, but others, like the ones at Hibiya Park and Yebisu Garden, offer a similar array of fun!

4. Relax at an Onsen

Woman in onsen
Onsen is without a doubt the best way to get warm on a frosty day

The perfect pairing: chilly weather and a hot bath. Onsen are probably the most relaxing part of Japanese culture, and certainly not a something to be missed in winter. Onsen are basically natural hot springs, which can be found all across Japan. Onsen facilities can be extremely luxurious – traditional ryokan accommodations might even offer sleeping quarters with a private in-room onsen. Some onsen are open-air, boasting incredible views and soothing aesthetic designs. This is the ultimate Japanese way to get warm after a cold day out!

5. Do Hatsumode: First shrine or temple visit of the year

A wholesome, spiritual tradition at the beginning of the year, hatsumode is held at Shinto shrines, and even sometimes Buddhist temples, across the country. The main idea is to show gratitude for the previous year’s good health and successes, and to pray for their continuation in the year to come. You will have no issues finding a place to perform hatsumode as there are many shrines scattered around Tokyo. Some shrines are huge and some extremely popular, but there’s also plenty of quieter, local ones. Whatever your preference is, ring in the new year with a feeling of gratitude and wishes for good fortune in the year to come.

6. Go Ice Skating

Ice skating can be done at quite a few locations around tokyo! Remember that Christmas market at Red Brick Warehouse in Yokohama? Well, there’s a great ice rink there as well, and it’s super popular and fun! The rinks are usually near some of Tokyo’s great attractions such as SkyTree, Midtown and Meiji Jingu. If you love ice skating, you’ll surely be able to add it to your Tokyo itinerary without having to go out of your way!

7. Take Advantage of the Sales

Shop ’til you drop at Tokyo’s seasonal sales

Not everyone likes holiday shopping, but for those of you who do, Tokyo is no exception when it comes to seasonal shopping hype! In general, Tokyo is an incredible place to shop, with pretty much everything you could ever imagine, for sale here. Get the perfect gift for your friends, family, or even yourself, with this great list of holiday shopping options! There are plenty of sales and seasonal bargains up for grabs, so make sure to do your homework so you don’t miss out!

8. Watch Fireworks with an amazing backdrop

Rainbow bridge tokyo fireworks
The fireworks at the Rainbow Bridge is a memerizing display

Odaiba is a unique neighborhood constructed on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay, and one great thing about December is that fireworks are set off near Odaiba’s Rainbow Bridge every Saturday. The Rainbow Bridge is an impressive sight in itself, which only gets more epic against a backdrop of fireworks. If you didn’t know already, Japan takes its firework displays very seriously, making every show an amazing experience. The Japanese have a knack for being pretty meticulous, which is emphasized beautifully in these works of art!

9. Warm Up With Some Ramen

Ramen
Get warm with a bowl of steaming hot ramen

Ramen, originally a Chinese delicacy, has developed its own culture here in Japan. In fact, many people now seem to associate ramen with Japan rather than China, and either way, you definitely have to try it during your trip. Ramen is a tasty, filling noodle dish with incredibly flavorful broth and delicious toppings. There are many different varieties, with some of the main ones being shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), tonkotsu (porkbone) and miso (fermented soybean paste). Ramen can be found in every Tokyo neighborhood, and there are even some Michelin-starred ramen restaurants if you want to try the best of the best!

10. Visit the Asakusa Hagoita Fair

Head over to Asakusa from December 17th to December 19th and check out the Hagoita Fair! Hagoita are wooden paddles with handles that were originally made for a game similar to badminton, but at the fair, they are usually elaborately decorated with images of kabuki actors, movie stars and other celebrities. The hagoita are more decorative than functional nowadays, but they are supposed to bring good luck, so the fair is well-visited. If you go, remember that it’s customary to clap your hands along with the merchant when a sale is made.

Japan Wonder Travel Tours in Tokyo

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 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 traveling in, our knowledgeable and friendly 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 Fish Market Tour @Tsukiji – Enjoy Local Food and Drink
Explore the most lively and popular fish market in Tokyo where you will have the chance to try some of the local’s favorite street foods and sake along with your friendly English speaking guide! 

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

Asakusa Local Bar Hopping Tour (Evening Tour)
Visit some of the local’s favorite Izakaya and bars and enjoy Tokyo’s drinking scene with your friendly guide. You will visit a few fun bars to introduce you to Japanese sake, food, and monja-yaki (one of Tokyo’s specialties). Kampai (cheers)!

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