Japan probably isn’t the place to go if you’re looking to celebrate a traditional Christmas. Only 1% of the population is made of Christians and December 25th is treated like any other day of the week – children go to school and people go to work as usual. However, in spite of this, many Western traditions have been adopted by the Japanese. Christmas trees are decorated and many people enjoy Christmas parties. In spite of the fact that Japan has does not consider Christmas a major holiday, however, there are still some fun activities you can consider trying at this time of year.
The Emperor’s Birthday. The Imperial Palace, in Tokyo, is usually off limits to the public. However, on December 23rd it opens its gates to the public in honor of the Emperor’s birthday celebration. The only other occasion the public has access to the grounds is January second.
Snow skiing. You may not traditionally think of skiing when you think of Japan. However, there are some beautiful ski resort towns with amazing skiing. Ski Niseko boasts the best powder in the country and has three major ski resorts.
Hot springs. When the cold winter sets in and the winter ices you to the bone, what’s better than slipping into a hot spring bath? Japan is full of them, from north to south. While the idea of getting into an outdoor bath in the cold may seem daunting, these hot springs provide a spectacular view of the Japanese snowy landscapes.
Festivals. There are always festivals going on in Japan, and the winter months are no different. Consider taking in the 47 Ronin Festival in Kyoto or maybe the Kasuga Wakamiya Festival, in Nara.
Tsukiji Fish Market. No trip to Japan is complete without a visit to the world’s largest, busiest fish market. Go at 5 a.m. and catch the live tuna auctions, although make sure you check the website first to make sure the public is permitted that day. Also keep in mind that only 120 people can be admitted total, with 60 at a time.
Shibuya Station. It would be unfortunate to go all the way to Tokyo and not visit the famous intersection outside Shibuya Station. This intersection resembles New York’s Times Square and is the busiest in the world. When the light turns red at the junction, they all turn red simultaneously to allow the hoards of pedestrians to spill out onto the road.
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Do you have any other recommendations for Japan in the winter? What will you be doing this year for the holidays?