Japan is one of those places on earth that most of us associate with paradise. The country welcomes all four seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, and decks on new attire for all four. In Spring, Japan dons a beautiful cherry blossom dress and mesmerizes visitors with its ethereal beauty. For summer Japan opts for vibrant attire, that compliments the golden sunny days. When autumn rolls around, the country goes for the most beautiful auburn autumn foliage dress that leaves tourists and locals alike in a state of awe. And lastly, when the month of winter knocks at its door, Japan welcomes it by donning a cape made of the whitest of snow.
Although, most of us tend to visit the beautiful country when it is filled with cherry blossoms, or when its yellowing leaves begin to fall, indicating the arrival of cold days, what most of us don’t know is that winter in Japan is truly the most magical of all seasons. Therefore, for you our dearest reader, we decided to list down the top 10 most beautiful winter destinations in Japan that you can visit this year.
Japan also seems to love the cool weather as it goes all out for the winter season, organising stunning ice festivals that will leave you awestruck. From spending your time at a sprawling ski resorts or basking in the beauty of a snowy onsen towns, the beautiful country harbors many options for you to enjoy the wintery days. Best of all, after spending a day in the snowy outdoors, you can ward off the cold by dipping in a hot spring or slurping a warm hearty bowl of ramen. Nothing beats the comfort of that warm ramen soup going down your throat, warming up your belly.
If you know us, you are well aware by now of our fascination with Asia and know that if given the chance we will keep on rambling nonstop. However, we promised to tell you about the top 10 most beautiful winter destinations in Japan, so how about we get to that?
Top 10 Most Beautiful Winter Destinations in Japan – A Quick Glance
Top 10 Most Beautiful Winter Destinations in Japan – An Overview
Japan becomes a literal winter wonderland in the winter months, with its shimmering white snow, snowcapped mountains, and beautiful pine trees trying to poke their heads out of the snowy blanket. If you travel to the country during the winter months you will be able to see a whole new side of Japan, one not many are familiar with as we mostly tend to visit the country during the warmer months. However, if you are thinking of spending Christmas in this winter wonderland don’t forget to visit the places mentioned below in the top 10 most beautiful winter destinations in Japan list.
1. Hakodate, Hokkaido – Offers the Most Beautiful Night View among the Top 10 Most Beautiful Winter Destinations in Japan
Hakodate is one of the most beautiful winter destinations in Japan and is the third largest and one of the main cities on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. The city is located in the southern part of the island and plays a vital role as a transport hub, connecting Hokkaido to the main island.
Hakodate is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan and welcomes almost 5 million visitors every year. During the winter months, the climate in Hakodate remains relatively mild and the city receives far less snowfall as compared to other areas in Hokkaido. Therefore, people who want to see the wintery beauty of Japan but despise the cold to their very core should consider traveling to Hakodate.
What to Visit?
From January to February, the city is blanketed in white snow that enhances the city lights, transforming Hakodate, into a glittery, shimmery piece of heaven. During the winter months the locals also ready the city for snow festivals and several areas of Hakodate like Bay Area Goryokaku Park, and Motomachi Park are decorated with beautiful illuminations. If you are traveling with the love of your life don’t forget to enjoy the romantic night view from Mt. Hakodate observation deck.
Mt. Hakodate lies in the southwestern part of the Hakodate City, standing 334 meters above sea level. At the summit of the mountain, lies an observation deck, that is accessible via ropeway, taxi, and bus. Those who have glimpsed the night view of Hakodate from the observation deck claim it to be the most impressive one in Japan. The night view is so beautiful that it was also included in the top three best night views in the world list.
When visiting Hakodate, a place that should not be missed is the Goryokaku Park. Goryokaku was Japan’s first French architectural fortress that was constructed in the 1860s. Characterized by its pentagonal star shape, the Goryokaku was the last base of the Shogunate Army in the Battle of Hakodate. Goryokaku is currently maintained as a park and you can freely stroll there, basking in the wintery breeze as you take in the remnants from the Battle of Hakodate.
What to Eat?
When in Hakodate don’t forget to treat your tastebuds to the fresh seafood of the city that is caught and delivered directly from the Hakodate port. Hakodate boasts fresh seafood that can be enjoyed all, year round, however, winter is definitely the best season to enjoy it. You can savor the delectable seafood by visiting the Hakodate Asaichi, which is a lively market, harbouring 250 small shops and restaurants that specialise in selling high-quality seafood and other local specialties.
2. Monkey Onsen, Nagano – Most Popular among the Top 10 Most Beautiful Winter Destinations in Japan
In the Nagano Prefecture lies the Snow Monkey Park which is one of the most beautiful winter destinations in Japan and is a popular tourist attraction in the area. The park is home to wild monkeys, and during the winter months, visitors can enjoy watching these monkeys bathe in outdoor hot springs. If you are lucky enough you might come across 50 to 60 monkeys bathing together in the relaxing hot spring.
While visiting the place, take cute pictures of the adorable monkeys, however, keep in mind that touching and feeding them is not allowed. Feeding the monkeys can result in an altercation or the primates becoming agitated. Moreover, giving Macaques external and human food can impact their health. So, is best to refrain from feeding the monkeys anything. When visiting the place, make sure to wear walking shoes as you will have to hike a steep path to get to the park which is located about 850 meters above sea level.
Best Time to Visit?
The monkey onsen is open year-round, however, the best time to visit the place is during the winter months. During winter, the monkeys are in the water most of the time. So, if you have your heart set on watching adorable monkeys bathing, then winter is best time to visit the place.
3. Ginzan Onsen, Yamagata – Best for Snow Lovers among the among the Top 10 Most Beautiful Winter Destinations in Japan
Among the top 10 most beautiful winter destinations in Japan, Ginzan Onsen is the one that offers the most breathtaking sights of the deep north of Japan. Housing traditional Taisho Era buildings, tightly packed along the river, this small onsen town is located deep in the mountains and is a dream destination for all those who are lovers of Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away and wish to kick in those childhood nostalgic feels.
The area was accidentally discovered by people working in a silver mine nearby during the Edo period. This is what gave the area its name, Ginzan Onsen, ginzan means silver mine in Japanese. The water at Ginzan Onsen is crystal clear, a bit salty, and from it, wafts a smell of hydrogen sulfide that carries many health benefits. Time at the beautiful place seems to move at a slow pace as it surrounds you with a peaceful atmosphere created by historical buildings and inns that date back to the Taisho period. Winter is especially magnificent in Ginzan Onsen, as it brings it with a lot of snow, that blankets the entire area, converting it into a postcard-worthy scenery.
What to Do?
When in Ginzan Onsen, don’t forget to visit Warashiyu. Warashiyu is a complementary foot spa, that is located adjacent to the Shirogane-bashi Bridge. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions and utilizes the same natural water sources as all the other onsens in the area. Warashiyu offers visitors the opportunity to experience the rejuvenating properties of the onsen waters.
Also, those who are seeking the ultimate hot spring experience should visit the Public Bath Shirogane-yu. The Public Bath Shirogane-yu supports a distinctive triangular building and is an architectural masterpiece that was designed by the renowned architect Kengo Kuma. The bath is quite spacious and can accommodate four to five people simultaneously. The water used there is sourced directly from the natural hot springs, and shampoo as well as body soap is also provided.
Another place that lies in the heart of the town and is not to be missed is the Shirogane-Koen Park. The Shirogane-Koen Park is a captivating attraction that is widely known for its 22-meter tall waterfall, Shirogane-no-Taki Falls. The major aspect of the waterfall that enthrals the visitors is that it divides into two very distinct streams. On one side, a rapid waterfall plunges down. Whereas on the other side, a gentle stream flows serenely.
What to Eat?
When in Ginzan Onsen, make sure to try the curry bread from Haikarasan-dōri Street. The curry bread costs about 210 yen and is made from locally produced Nebarigoshi wheat from the Yamagata prefecture. This delectable treat is first filled with scrumptious curry and then fired to perfection, which results in an exterior boasting a satisfying crunch and crispiness, while the interior supports a soft, mochi-like texture.
In addition to curry break, another treat that you must try when visiting the place is the Tachi-kui Tofu. Nogawa Tofuya is a long-standing establishment that supports one hundred years’ worth of history, with its specialty lying in Tachi-kui Tofu. Priced at 170 yen, the tofu is meticulously handmade every morning and boasts an exceptional flavor with a velvety texture.
4. Shirakawa-go, Gifu – The Most Breathtaking among the Top 10 Most Beautiful Winter Destinations in Japan
One of the most breathtaking destinations among the top 10 most beautiful winter destinations in Japan is without a doubt the immaculately persevered Japanese village of Shirakawa-go, which is especially a sight to behold during the winter months. The Shirakawa-go Village is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and is made up of numerous gassho-zukuri thatched-roof farmhouses. These farmhouses have been converted into hotels, restaurants, and museums, welcoming tourists and locals alike to bask in the beauty of this World Heritage.
What to Visit?
The main attraction of Shirakawa-go is the Ogimachi Village which features about 59 gassho houses. These houses are widely known for their unique steep thatched roofs that are shaped like a gassho or praying hands. One interesting fact about these houses is that no nails were used to build their roofs. When visiting Shirakawa-go, don’t forget to tour the Ogimachi Village which is an absolute sight to behold as the white snow blankets it during the winter season.
A main event that is widely famous and is not to be missed when you visit the Shirakawa-go is the Shirakawa-go Winter Light-Up Event. During this event the village’s gassho zukuri farmhouses are illuminated after dark, creating a truly magical scene. If you are visiting the place during 2023, and want to witness this magnificent event, then note the following dates in your calendar:
- January 14, 2024 (Sunday)
- January 21, 2024 (Sunday)
- January 28, 2024 (Sunday)
- February 4, 2024 (Sunday)
- February 12, 2024 (Monday, a national holiday)
- February 18, 2024 (Sunday)
What to Eat?
When visiting Shirakawa-go in Gifu don’t forget to try Hida Beef. Gifu is home to one of the finest cattle in the world, that yield even finer meat. The Hida Beef is Gifu’s specialty and is characterized by an appealing color and a mouth-watering flavor. You will find many restaurants in the area selling Hida Beef, each using their own distinct methods to cook the dish. One of the most famous places in Shirakawa-go, that sells this particular beef is Gassho, and is a must-visit if you want to savor the local cuisine.
5. Kamakura Snow Hut Village, Nagano – The Most Magical among the Top 10 Most Beautiful Winter Destinations in Japan
The enchanting igloo village of Kamakura in Nagano is actually a restaurant, that opens its doors to the locals and tourists in the months of winter. This place is the most magical one among the most beautiful winter destinations. The resultant Kamakura Village is made up of 20 pop-up igloos and is nestled in the snowy Japanese Alps in the quaint town of Iiyama. Each igloo is spacious enough to fit up to four people, and guests are treated to a special noroshi nabe which is a tasty local hot pot made with pork, miso, and local veggies. Only those with reservations are allowed to enter the village. Reservations can be made via the restaurant’s website or by phone.
Reservation Price via Website: Credit Card Only
Lunch: Adult, 5,500 yen ($36.34) per person; child, 4,000 yen ($26.43) per person; 0 to 5 year-old, free
Dinner: Adult, 6,000 yen ($39.64) per person; child, 4,400 yen ($29.07) per person; 0 to 5 year-old, free
Single charge: Lunch, 9,500 yen ($62,78); dinner; 10,400 yen ($68.71)
Reservation Price via Phone: Cash
Lunch：Adult, 6,000 yen ($39.64) per person; child, 4,500 yen ($29.73) per person; 0 to 5 year-old, free
Dinner: Adult, 6,500 yen ($42.94) per person; child, 4,900 yen ($32.37) per person; 0 to 5 year-old, free
Single charge: Lunch, 10,000 yen ($66.06); dinner, 10,900 yen ($72.01)
6. The Blue Pond, Biei, Hokkaido – The Most Serene among the Top 10 Most Beautiful Winter Destinations in Japan
In the Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido, near the town of Biei, hidden by the dense forest lies the Blue Pond, which is a beautiful patch of sky-blue coloured water and is one of the serenest destinations among the most beautiful winter destinations in Japan. The lagoon-like pond came into being when excavations were made to prevent mudslides from the eruptions of Mount Tokachi from reaching the town. The hollow left from the digs got filled with water, and so came into being one of the most beautiful places on earth, the Blue Pond.
Whenever man tempers with nature, the result is mostly a disastrous one. However, the case was completely reverted when it came to Blue Pond. One aspect that makes the pond so special is the chemicals it contains that turn its water into varying hues of blue depending on the season. The best time, to see the Blue Pond is during the winter season, when the ethereal blue of the water strikes a strong contrast with the pristine white of the snow blanketing the surrounding area.
Other Things to Do in Biei in Winter
Biei is a quaint town and the area around the Blue Pond is not touristically developed, however, there are still several things that you can do there during winter. During the winter season, Biei is surrounded by Instagrammable snow-covered landscapes, that serve as a stunning backdrop for winter wonderland-inspired photos, you can also visit the volcanic Mount Tokachi which lies only half an hour’s drive from the town.
Just three minutes outside of the town of Biei lies the Biei Shirogane Onsen hot springs and hotel. There you can stay overnight and enjoy therapeutic bathing in the spas’ thermal waters. Lying close to the Shirogane Onsen is one of the area’s main attractions the stunning Shirahige Waterfalls. The multi-cascade falls are ethereal, standing a hundred feet high, and look extra magical when lit with their wintertime illuminations.
7. Yuzawa Ski Resorts – Best Winter Sports Destination among the Top 10 Most Beautiful Winter Destinations in Japan
If you have an insatiable hunger for winter sports that you want to satiate on your trip to Japan, then a visit to the Yuzawa Ski Resorts will do you well. The Yuzawa Ski Resorts are some of the country’s top winter sports destinations. Yuzawa which lies in the picturesque Japanese Alps is world famous for its hot springs, ski trails, and snowboarding. Due to its geographical location, the Yuzawa receives excellent snowfall throughout the winter season and has a prolonged cold spell.
Yuzawa lies just an eighty-minute train ride from Tokyo, making it highly accessible. Moreover, traveling from Yuzawa to any of the resorts is not a problem either as the place harbors a great public transport network.
Yuzawa Ski Resorts
Yuzawa harbors about twelve ski resorts that offer skiing and other snow-related sports to participants of all ages. However, if winter sports aren’t really your thing, you can just make snow angels and snowballs with the ample snow in the area. The resort that is most easy to access is the Gala Yuzawa. The Gala Yuzawa is the only ski resort with a Shinkansen station.
The biggest resort in Yuzawa is the Naeba Aki Resort which also has the honor of being the biggest one in Japan. The resort harbors ski trails for all kinds of skiers, from novice to intermediate, to advanced. It also houses several snow-related activities for non-skiers in their Family Snowland.
8. Fuji-Q Highland, Fujiyoshida – The Most Thrilling among the Top 10 Most Beautiful Winter Destinations in Japan
You might be thinking that visiting an amusement park in winter and that too in Japan is absolutely bonkers. However, you are wrong. Fuji-Q Highland Theme Park which lies at the base of Mount Fuji has some of the most thrilling, adrenaline-rushing rides in the world, and is a perfect place to visit during winter. The park lies in wait for the thrill-seeking crowds and is in close proximity to Tokyo, which makes it even more covet-worthy. During the summer and spring months, the waiting time for rides is often two to three hours long. However, in winter you can cut that time to only sixty minutes max.
Fuji-Q Highland Theme Park is the proud owner of four mega, Guinness World Record holding, roller coasters that will make even the most stoic rides scream. These roller coasters are given the accolades of being the fastest, the tallest, the steepest, and the most unbelievable ones in the world. However, if heights give you the frights but still you desire some thrill in your life, visit the Labyrinth of Fear. This house of horrors is stretched almost one kilometer long and is filled to the brim with nightmarish rooms.
Also, the theme park opens an ice-skating rink in late autumn and onwards which offers magnificent views of Mount Fuji. If you haven’t skated before, but still want to give it a go then Fuji-Q Highland is the right place for it. They give their guests specially designed double-bladed stakes that offer stability and confidence to novice skaters.
9. Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture – Most Pristine among the Top 10 Most Beautiful Winter Destinations in Japan
Nikko is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the most tranquil and pristine among the most beautiful winter destinations in Japan. It showcases beautiful temples and pristine natural beauty, the charm of which is accentuated during the winter months when they become blanketed with white snow. When in Nikko, visit the Toshogu Shrine, which is a masterpiece of Japanese architecture. There you can bask in the serenity of Nikko’s winter landscape as you take in the enchanting architecture. The tranquility of the temple grounds, blanketed in the whitest of snow creates a spiritual and captivating ambiance.
Other Attractions in Nikko
When you are visiting Nikko, make sure to explore its natural wonders, that make it one most beautiful winter destinations in the world. Wonders like Lake Chuzenji, the picturesque Yumoto Onsen, and the stunning Kegon Falls line the region of Nikko. Each of these attractions reveals the majesty of the country’s winter landscape.
10. Sapporo, Hokkaido – A True Winter Wonderland among the Top 10 Most Beautiful Winter Destinations in Japan
One of the most beautiful winter destinations in Japan that is a must-visit is Sapporo which is the capital of Hokkaido and is synonymous with winter beauty. The city is blessed with heavy, beautiful snowfall during the winter months and comes alive during the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. The Sapporo Snow Festival features massive, illuminated ice sculptures that effortlessly transform the winter nights into a whimsical dreamscape. Among the top 10 most beautiful winter destinations in Japan, Sapporo is a true winter wonderland, that boasts renowned snow festivals, an array of pristine resorts, and hearty food.
When in Sapporo, make sure to indulge in a local favorite dish, that is equal parts hearty and warming, the Genghis Khan BBQ. Genghis Khan BBQ is a feast of lamb and vegetables and is cooked over a charcoal grill.
Other Attractions in Sapporo
A visit to Sapporo is not complete without touring its historic Sapporo Beer Museum. The Sapporo Beer Museum celebrates the city’s brewing heritage and is a must-visit. Moreover, don’t forget to tour Moerenuma Park which is an artistic playground designed by Isamu Noguchi, a famous Japanese American sculptor.
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