things to do in japan in January

15 Things To Do In Japan In January 2024 | What To Do In Japan In January?

05 June 2024Shopify API

Visiting Japan in January? Here are some fun things to do in Japan in January. Check it out!

Welcome the new year amidst ancient traditions and dazzling illuminations! January in Japan is a kaleidoscope of experiences, where serene temple visits mingle with fiery festivals and winter wonderlands shimmer under starry skies.

From witnessing the solemn Hatsumōde (first shrine visit) to indulging in New Year's sales and soaking in the Yokohama Minato Mirai's breathtaking illuminations, Japan in January promises an unforgettable winter adventure.

Brace yourself for frosty mornings, steaming onsen dips, and the heartwarming embrace of Japanese culture.

Come, paint your January with vibrant memories in the Land of the Rising Sun!

What To Do In Japan In January

One of the common questions that some of my foreign friends asked me: Is January a good time to visit Japan?

And I assume that every traveler has this query in their mind.

That’s why I will give you an answer to this, first.

Okay, the month of January holds a special place in Japanese culture as it is the start of the year with new expectations and fresh beginnings.

From the new year celebration Shogatsu to many fun winter activities, yes, January is one of the best months to visit Japan.

Alright, it’s time to know what events are waiting for you, so let’s move to the fun part.

Celebrate The Japanese New Year

Shogatsu has been celebrated on 1st January since 1873, when the country adopted the Gregorian system (new calendar style) over the previously used lunar cycles.

It is believed in Shinto culture that kami (spirit gods) come to peoples’ houses at the new year.

And everyone should greet them with a clean house, all the debts repaid, and any arguments settled if they want to receive great fortune and success from the gods.

Most of the people here spend their holiday (typically from 29th December to 3rd January) with families and watch the famous music program “Kohaku Uta Gassen” that is telecast on New Year’s Eve.

Also, Japanese people eat the traditional New Year dish called Osechi during this time.

New Year Food Osechi

Anyway, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo also opens its entrances on 2nd January for visitors to look inside the ground.

Note that they only open the gate twice a year for locals, so don’t miss the opportunity anyway.

Even the emperor greets everyone by waving from the balcony on this day.

Some people choose to participate in a countdown event, especially held in many locations in Tokyo.

New year fire works in tokyo

Enjoy The Sanjusangendo Archery Contest

The second Monday of January is the Coming Age Day in Japan.

During this time, ceremonies are held across the country for young people who turn 20 years old and become an adult.

You will see the young girls wearing kimonos and men in suits for the occasion.

Young girls wearing Kimono

There is an event linked to this Coming of Age Day called the Sanjusangendo Archery Contest that takes place in Kyoto on 14th January.

This contest is also known as Ohmato Taikai, which dates back more than 400 years and is held annually at the Sanjusangendo Temple.

Each year about 2,000 seasoned archers and new 20-year-olds gather around here to celebrate and compete by firing the first arrow of the new year.

Rows of young women dressed up in bright kimonos are the main highlight of the feast.

Japanese archery

These youthful girls celebrate their new status as adults by hitting targets standing 60 meters away.

Take Part in Hatsumode

One of Japan's most regular New Year activities is having the first visit to a temple or shrine, which is known as “Hatsumode.”

From midnight of new year's eve, Japanese people start to visit the temples or shrines to pray.

Japanese temple

It is considered a great start of the year by getting the blessings of God. You can choose to pray as well or explore the areas.

Some of the famous shrines that are worth visiting are Meiji Shrine (in Tokyo) and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu (in Kamakura).

But, expect a huge crowd to these shrines as thousands of travelers visit them in January while already being packed with local Japanese.

Japanese religious item (darumi)

Moreover, you will find many vendors and shops in these temples selling amulets and other religious decoration pieces to purchase.

Soak in A Winter Hot Spring

Whether you are in a traditional ryokan, a beach resort, or even outdoors in the forest & mountains, nothing can compete with the absolute relaxation provided by the onsen.

Hot onsen in japan

Ginzan Onsen in Yamagata is very famous in January and also Takaragawa Onsen is highly recommended.

Ginzan Onsen in winter

But, the bonus fact is, Ginzan was the real-life inspiration for the beautiful onsen town in the animation film “Spirited Away”.

You can reach there by taking the JR Yamagata Shinkansen (railway service) from Tokyo to Oishida Station.

From there, you will find buses that leave for Ginzan Onsen every 60-90 minutes.

outdoor onsen

In case you want to enjoy the winter scenery with snow everywhere, an outdoor onsen will be a perfect treat for your desire.

To name a few outdoor onsens with a spectacular view is Lake Toya Onsen (Hokkaido), Lake Kawaguchi Onsen (Yamanashi), Maguse Onsen (Nagano), Tamatebako Onsen (Kagoshima), and Matsudai Shibatoge Onsen Unkai (Niigata).

Meet The Cute Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani Park

Although the park is open throughout the year and you can meet the monkeys anytime, the only season you are gonna capture them soaking in a hot spring like a human surrounded by white snow is during winter.

Jigokudani monkey park

And, the best time to go there is indeed January or February when the snow gets thicker.
monkey in snow

To know the park’s opening hour, admission fee, and rules & regulations, visit their official site.

Be A Part of The Tradition “Dondo Yaki”

Dondo Yaki is an event that takes place at the thousands of shrines in Japan, usually on 14th or 15th January.

The event involves burning the last year’s lucky items such as Omikuji or Daruma dolls at a large bonfire.

As you have already learned, during Hatsumode, people buy various religious decoration items, usually keeping them for a year.

Daruma doll burning

And then, instead of throwing them away in the garbage, which is considered bad luck, they burn the lucky charms in a bonfire of the Dondo Yaki ceremony.

You can watch other people throwing their items in the fire or add your own ornaments as well.

Since this feast is held in most of the shrines in Japan, you don’t need to go to any special place.

However, if you are staying in Tokyo and looking for a specific location where you can enjoy this festival, then head to Torigoe Shrine (in Taito city) or Oyama Dairi Park (in Machida).

Although the celebration varies from shrine to shrine, it always includes a large bonfire.

At some shrines, people roast daidai fruit and mochi on the fire with a stick and eat them.

Mochi grill

Therefore, you can try out roasting a stick for yourself and taste it too.

Watch An Entire Mountain Set on Fire!!

The name of this fiesta is Wakakusa Yamayaki which usually takes place in Nara on the 4th of January but can be postponed to another date due to bad weather or other circumstances.

Mountain burn Nara

The mountain located at the eastern side of Nara park is set on fire during the celebration.

When it’s alright, the fire can be seen from anywhere in the city.

Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Shrine, and Kofukuji Temple are all engaged with this ceremony.

Now the real question is, why do they do it?

Okay, one theory claims that the burning procedure started during boundary conflicts between Nara’s temples, while another says the fire was set to drive the wild boars away.

Now back to the main point, the actual event starts at noon with a rice cracker throwing competition from 12:30 to 15:00.

Around 17:00, people who are involved in lighting up the hill begin a procession from the Tobino area and make a stop at the Mizuya Shrine to light up the torches.

About 17:30, the march arrives at the bottom of Mount Wakakusa and lights up the much-awaited fire.

Wakakusa Yamayaki

Hundreds of visitors gather around to watch this spectacular event, and for safety, there is a barrier.

Also, at night, the city's sky lights up with several fireworks.

I will say this event is one of the reasons why Nara is one of the best places to visit in January.

Attend Some Winter Illumination Event

The Japanese winter illumination starts from the Christmas season. Many of the events can still be enjoyed in January, even till the cherry blossom season of March.

As the days are short in January, the night gets brighter with all the lighting illuminations.

In case you are staying in Tokyo, you have numerous options inside the capital city.

Winter illumination japan

To name a few illumination events in January are Yebisu Garden Place, Marunouchi illumination, Meguro River Minna no Illumination, Shinjuku Southern Terrace Winter Illumination, Nihonbashi Illumination, Tokyo Midtown Hibiya, and Yomiuriland Jewellumination.

And when you are willing to attend a lighting event outside the capital, then consider going to Sapporo White Illumination, Jewel of Shonan (Enoshima Island), Toki no Sumika (Gotemba City), Nabana no Sato (Mie Prefecture), and Tobu Zoo (Saitama).

In short, there are countless such events that I can’t mention all here, but you will surely find one wherever you are.

Whichever you end up attending, I can assure you will be mesmerized by the eye-catching lighting effects.

Skiing & Snowboarding

From December to March, many travelers come to Japan to enjoy winter sports like Snowboarding and Skiing.

As January is the coldest month in Japan, you will find the best snow powder in the Japanese mountain area.

You will find the best ski resorts at the northernmost land of Japan, like Hokkaido.

Skiing at Hokkaido

For example, Niseko, Rusutsu, Furano, and Sapporo are some of the famous ski resorts in Hokkaido.

There are also several ski resorts that can be visited from Tokyo like GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort (Niigata), Hakuba Ski Resorts (Nagano), Snowtown Yeti (Shizuoka), and Naeba Ski Resort (Niigata).

Now tell me, do you wanna go to Mount Fuji?

Well, if you are in Japan, it is one of the best places to see in January, as the snow covers the whole mountain, making it look unearthly.

So, when you want to enjoy skiing or snowboarding with this breathtaking view of Mount Fuji, Fujimi Panorama Resort, and Fujiten Snow Resort is your way out.

Drop By The Shirakawago Village

Although Shirakawago Village is not the exact replication of the movie’s town, the picturesque view of it is no less either.

The moment you see this traditional Japanese village, you will be stunned by its visuals.

Shirakawago Village

Yes, that’s why it was able to take place on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Shirakawago is situated in Ono District, Gifu Prefecture, Japan.

Even though this place displays magnificent scenery every season, I must say that the winter (especially December, January, and February) has the better panorama than other periods of the year.

winter night in Shirakawago village

Several light-up events are held in January and February when the snow covers up the entire village.

Kindly check their website to ensure the light-up event schedule and other travel guidelines.

The Icicles of Misotsuchi

The Icicles of Misotsuchi is one of the best vistas, which is created by nature.

As it is placed in the Chichibu area of the west part of Saitama Prefecture, you can easily travel there from Tokyo by train.

Anyway, the gigantic icicles become about 30 m wide and 10 m high during January and February.

Icicles of Misotsuchi

Hence, traveling there during this period will give you the best view.

Also, a light-up event of the icicles takes place at night, turning the ices into an incredible art of nature.

So, a day trip to this place is recommended when you are in Japan in January.

Don’t Miss The New Year Sales in Japan in January

On 2nd and 3rd January, various stores like clothing and electronics offer a great deal on their items.

The most special thing you can grab is the mystery bags (Fukubukuro in Japanese) filled with discounted goods, which are only sold in the New Year.

Lucky bag japan

Even the fun part is, you can’t know what is inside the bag before buying it.

Thus, opening the bag after purchasing is like a surprise for you.

But don’t feel like you will be scammed, as the items usually cost more than what you pay for.

Therefore, when you are gonna travel to big cities like Tokyo or Osaka, I will suggest not missing a chance to hunt for the big new year’s sale.

Witness The Rising Sun (Hatsuhinode)

Hatsuhinode is another seasonal event that Japanese people love so much.

It is also renowned as the first sunrise of the year. It might sound a little strange, but there are many spots where people go to witness the first sunrise of the year.

And, undoubtedly, you will get the best view of the rising sun from a mountaintop.

sunrise view from Mount Fuji

As it is considered good luck, many locals and tourists climb up to a high place to see it on 1st January.

The most popular destination is, of course, Mt. Fuji, so expect a lot of crowds there.

Toka Ebisu Festival

One week after the new year celebration, Toka Ebisu Fest takes place for five days, where thousands of people come to pray to Ebisu (the God of fortune).

Lucky items hanging from bamboo branches are sold for prosperity and good luck.

lucky charm

This feast is held in many shrines throughout Japan; one of them is Imamiya Ebisu Shrine in Osaka.

You may take the Kodama and Hikari trains on the Tokaido Shinkansen lines to reach Osaka from Tokyo.

What's the weather like in Japan in January?

Japan’s weather in January is the coldest compared to the rest of the winter. Most of the country is covered in snow with some rain and very little sun. The humidity is pretty low. And light breezes. The weather drops down to about 36°F in January in Japan in the mornings and in the afternoons to about 50°F.  

Is January a good time to go to Japan?

January is definitely a good time for Japan as it’s low season and the crows are slightly less. But it’s also the coldest month of the winter with temperatures dropping to 35°F. The cheapest time to travel to Japan is towards the end of January too. 

Is Japan still snowing in January?

Yes, it can still snow in Japan in January. The amount of snow that falls in January varies depending on the region. In the northernmost parts of Japan, such as Hokkaido and Tohoku, it is common to have heavy snowfall in January.

In the central and southern parts of Japan, the amount of snow is usually less, but it is still possible to have snow flurries or light snowfall.

Weather of Japan in January 2024

Japan’s weather varies a lot from region to region. Yet, January is the coldest month of the year.

In Hokkaido, the average temperature is around -4° C.

While in Sapporo, expect an average high of -1° C and a low of -8° C.

Hokkaido city in january

The larger cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, are relatively warmer, but some snowfall can be seen.

The average high temperature in Tokyo during January is 10.2°C (50°F), and the average low is 1.8°C (35°F).

However, on the island of Okinawa, the weather is mild.

Naha, the capital of Okinawa, experiences a high of 19° C and a low of 14° C.

Moreover, the rainfall is usually low in January, and it typically falls in the form of snow.

What To Pack When Traveling To Japan in January

Since you are traveling in the peak wintertime, pack the below items to keep yourself warm.

  1. Thick sweaters, jackets, or coats.
  2. Long sleeve tops.
  3. Long trousers and pants.
  4. Boots and trekking shoes.
  5. Woolen gloves and socks.
  6. Ear warmers.
  7. Heat pack.
  8. Woolen scarves.

Traveling To Japan In January 2024 Cost

Compared to other months, tourists visit Japan less in January due to the country’s cold temperature.

However, since it is high time for skiing and other winter sports, you will see more crowds in Hokkaido and central Honshu.

On the other hand, Sapporo’s Snow Festival is held in early February, and many travelers start coming to this place in late January.

That’s why the accommodation cost will be a bit higher in Hokkaido and Sapporo at this time.

I will ask you to book your flights and hotel in advance if you are willing to stay in these two cities.

Other destinations such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima are not much packed with tourists in January.

Therefore, you will find relatively less crowd there.

Well, we are at the edge of our writing.

Let’s wrap it up here.


Today, I have included the top 15 things to do in Japan in January that can make your trip full of joy and cheerfulness.

If possible, try out all the things.

I can assure you that only remarkable memories will stay in your mind at the end of your tour.

And lastly, have a nice day…

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