Best Places To Enjoy Winter Activities In Japan | CoolJapan

When the temperature dips and Autumn gives way to Winter, it doesn’t mean you have to hibernate indoors — especially not in Japan. Winter is a time of much excitement in the country, as people hit the ski slopes, show off their figure skating moves on ice skating rinks and participate in big colourful festivals.

If you’re planning to visit Japan in wintertime, here are some top activities to enjoy the best of the season.

Snowboarding in Niseko

In the last few years, this mountainous town in Hokkaido has been a popular holiday destination for many of us from South East Asia craving a snowy Christmas. Renowned for its dry powder snow, Niseko has over 47km of ski slopes spread across four main resorts that cater to all experience levels — whether you’re a beginner or highly experienced. The best time for snowboarding is from mid-December to March, when the snow is at its heaviest, with the best-quality snow in late-December to February. If you prefer to take it easy, there are plenty of other activities available, from snow shoeing and snow tubing to simply relaxing in a hot spring bath.

Soaking up the atmosphere at the Yokote Kamakura Festival

Yokote Kamakura Festival features many kamakura, which are igloo-like snow houses, at various locations in the city. (Photo from: Akita Prefecture)

If you'd like to experience a more traditional Japanese winter, make your way to the Yokote Kamakura Festival, held every year on 15 and 16 February in Akita Prefecture. This festival’s origins date back to when people used to make snow holes near the town’s wells and pray to the water god (Oshizu no kami-san) for good water. Today, people continue to build kamakura (snow domes) and festoon the city with bonden (Shinto decorations). Yokote bonden are often known for their size and grandeur, so much so that there’s even a contest where groups come together to see who can build the best bonden.

Exploring the Sapporo Snow Festival

The view of Oodori park during Sapporo Snow Festival in Sapporo City. (Photo from: City of Sapporo)

Another must-visit winter festival is the world renowned Sapporo Snow Festival, which features awe-inspiring snow and ice sculptures on display at Odori Park. This winter wonderland used to attract more than two million visitors each year to Hokkaido’s capital city but with Covid-19 measures, the 2022 event (scheduled for 5 to 12 February) will be held as a hybrid event, with a combination of smaller-scale snow sculptures and illuminations at Odori Park and several online events.

Skiing in Yuzawa

Located about 1.5 hours away from Tokyo by train, the picturesque town of Yuzawa in the Japanese Alps is a well-loved ski destination for city-dwellers to unwind during the holiday season. There are over a dozen resorts here catering to all levels of skiers, including families travelling with young children. Bonus: Several of the resorts offer combination lift tickets so you can easily ski or snowboard between them on a single ticket. Yuzawa also enjoys a long season, with some of the resorts open from mid-November all the way to late May.

Enjoying a soak in Zao Onsen

The undulating, snow-capped mountains of the Zao Mountain Range attract plenty of visitors in the winter, many of them drawn by the beautiful frost-covered trees that can be admired from December to March. After a traipse around the snowy fields, warm up with an invigorating soak in one of the many baths in the hot spring town of Zao Onsen. The sulphuric waters here are known to be among the most acidic in Japan, and offers a plethora of health benefits.