Usually, visitors come to Japan in the spring to see the cherry blossom events that take place all over the country. However, Japan is just as interesting in the winter. In fact, it offers a variety of adventures for the true snow addicts out there. From festivals to popular ski resorts, Japan will show you the delights of snow and give you the perfect reason to visit during all seasons.
If you want to see Japan in winter, here are some of the must-visit places that will be amazing even for the most demanding snow addicts and winter fun enthusiasts.
Nikko is a UNESCO World Heritage site that will show you the fascinating Japanese culture and history. Here, you will be able to visit Nikko Toshogu Shrine, home of the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate and first shogun. In winter, this whole area looks as though from a fairy tale and many find it to be a serene and calming place to spend snowy holidays.
This location is dedicated to Buddhist teachings and philosophy, which is attested through many shrines and temples. The Shinkyo bridge leads to this complex of temples and helps you start your spiritual journey. The most famous are near Mount Futara were founded by Saint Shodo. If you’d like to take some Buddhist training, Lake Chuzenji is ideal.
Thanks to the heavy snow in Hokkaido, Sapporo Snow Festival takes place for seven days every February. This is an event where hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures are exhibited all over the area to celebrate winter in Japan. Statues depict people, buildings, and events important to the Japanese culture, and they are also accompanied by musical performances and snow-made maze.
During the winter, the Blue Pond looks absolutely magnificent with the bluest water radiating against the fallen white snow. Many come here at five at night to enjoy this sight when the lighting is just right to make the colors more surreal. The multi-cascade Shirahige Waterfalls near Shirogane Onsen is a hundred feet high bliss that looks awe-inspiring during winter for snow addicts.
Ginzan Onsen is a popular hot springs town in Yamagata, which looks like it was taken straight from Japanese winter postcards in the ’80s. Wooden inns are sprawled along the banks of the Ginzan River and gas street lamps add to the nostalgic and warm ambiance of this cozy place.
Ginzan is the perfect town for snow addicts wanting to feel the true magic of hot springs during winter in Japan.
Indeed, Yamadera temple, situated on the mountaintop near Yamagata City, attracts thousands of pilgrims each year with its 1,100-step climb. You may even find snow monsters, or juhyo. What are they? A winter phenomenon on the mountains of Zao Onsen, when pine trees get frozen under snow and appear like an army of creatures.
If you want to visit some of the most beautiful ski resorts in Japan, the best place to start is Niseko, since it’s one of the most famous. It consists of groomed terrain and is a number one ski resort when it comes to the amount of snowfall. Trails are perfect for both snowboarding and skiing, but are also available for all types of skiers, experienced and beginners, so no one will be bored.
The largest ski resort in Grand Hirafu is located in Hirafu Town, which has a wide array of restaurants, bars and karaoke evenings to entertain snow addicts after the hill. You’ll also find Shu Ogawara Art Museum, dedicated to the local artist, Ogawara, and his impressionistic art style. However, if you want to try a Japanese hot spring, or onsen, you’re also at the right spot to enjoy an outdoor bath while watch the snow fall.
In 1998, Nagano Winter Olympics made Hakuba world famous and opened its doors to more guests. More importantly, this is the place where the most skilled skiers come to perfect their technique and practice, as well as to enjoy the biggest challenges of this winter sport.
However, this destination is also famous for another unique sight – snow monkeys. During winter, snow monkeys like to bathe in onsen of the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park. Besides these creatures, Hakuba is also the home of one of the oldest castles in Japan – Matsumoto Castle, which features familiar Japanese architecture.
Japan has so much to offer to its guests that people are sometimes overwhelmed and can’t decide what to experience. So, it’s best to start with a certain season, like winter, since there are many must-visit places for snow addicts in Japan. Just bring your bathing suit to try one of the onsens and keep an eye that it’s not already occupied with a family of snow monkeys!
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About the Photo
The photo in the header above is of skiers and the snow monsters, or juhyo, of Japan. Juhyo are a winter phenomenon on the mountains of Zao Onsen, when pine trees get frozen under snow and appear like an army of creatures. Photo by Pen_Ash.
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