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Japan's Picturesque Winter Destinations

The seasonal beauty of spring and autumn in Japan is well known, but scenic winter has its own share of unforgettable sights and sounds that can more than hold a candle to the delights of the other seasons. Here are a few highlights!

Drift Ice in Ohkotsk Sea (Hokkaido)

Off the coast of Hokkaido lies the Ohkotsk Sea. During the cold winter months, drift ice, or frozen sea water that floats on the surface of the sea, is a popular attraction. The currents push the pieces of ice which collide, and often join together into ever larger planks of ice. The eerie noise you hear as the ice shifts and bumps together has been incorporated into the 100 Soundscapes of Japan, which includes sounds of certain birds, insects, animals, waterfalls, festivals, bells, etc. To further enjoy your drift ice experience, you may visit the Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum, board a train or take an ice breaker cruise, visit the Okhotsk Tower, or take a walk on the drift ice. You'll be amazed at the animals, fish and birds that live within this special ecosystem.

For more information, please visit here.

The Kushiro Shitsugen National Park (Kushiro, Hokkaido)

This national park, one of Japan's newest designated national parks, houses the Kushiro Tancho (Japanese red crowned crane) Nature Park, Japan's largest protected wetland. The park is known for being the site of the first successful artificial breeding of the cranes. Twenty cranes can be seen here year round, but they are especially striking in winter, as their black and winter feathers and red crown contrast magnificently against the snow. Other birds and animals also make their home at the park. There are observatories, a crane sanctuary and other centers where you can learn about this area and its residents.

For more information, please visit here.

Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival (Akita)

Over 100 softly illuminated small huts carved out of snow await you when you visit the festival. This 400 year old event, originated to honor ancient sacred deities, continues generation after generation - altars for the deities, along with offerings, are carved into the rear wall of the little igloo-like structures. Local children make the snow huts, and as passers-by walk along, they call out to you, inviting you inside for some local snacks, sweet fermented beverages and mochi, grilled on charcoal braziers which provide a bit of heat, as well! It's a charming way to learn about local history and warm your tootsies at the same time!

For more information, please visit here.

Ice Monsters at Zao (Miyagi and Yamagata)

After you encounter the thousands of nearly frozen solid snow and ice coated trees found at the top of Mount Zao, it's fun to ski or walk around, taking photos and seeing if any of these emtombed frozen trees, which look eerily like faceless monsters, resemble anyone back home. You can take the night lift up to the summit in the evening to see them illuminated as you enjoy warm drinks which are available at the summit lodge. After nearly freezing solid yourself, thaw yourself out at the wonderful outdoor hot spring for which Zao is also well known!

For more information, please visit here.

Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani (Nagano)

The Japanese macaques that live in Jigokudani, or Hell Valley, (so named because of the steam from numerous hot springs that rises up along the steep cliffs), Yaen-koen Park (Monkey Park) are wild animals. This can be hard to forget when you glimpse them soaking in what appears to be a completely blissed out state in the hot springs, or when one wanders fearlessly near to you, curiously peering at your new camera. The monkeys are fed by the facility, not by guests in the park, but all guests are welcome to observe and photograph the animals as long as they are not disturbed in any way. After you have had your fill of macaques, time to go to the wonderful hot springs designated for humans and bliss out yourself!

For more information, please visit here.

Shirakawa-go (Gifu)

This UNESCO World Heritage site is located at the base of Mount Haku-san in Gifu. When the snow falls in this area, as it does heavily and often, the deeply steepled thatched roofs of these 11 traditionally thatched farmhouses in their pristine village look like something out of a fairytale. Tourists can enjoy illumination events on designated Saturday and Sunday evenings. The village is still lived in, which gives it a warm, welcoming feel, quite different than a staged, artificial site. The largest village in the area is a nice day trip from Takayama, but if you like, you may stay overnight at one of the farmhouses. They get booked solid way in advance, so remember to reserve early!

For more information, please visit here.

Nabana-no-Sato (Mie)

Nabana-no-Sato is a theme park on Nagashima Island with a beautiful small botanical garden and even a hot spring! From mid-November to mid-March, the garden becomes a winter wonderland via the millions of LED lights used to create beautiful scenes; there is a Tunnel of Lights, a Cloud of Lights, and a major flower display area is also gorgeously illuminated. The theme of this year's illumination is Mt. Fuji, which was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013.

For more information, please visit here.

Nagashima Resort Guidebook:


The winter delights of Japan are many and varied. You'll never truly feel the icy sting of winter when you are enjoying the beauty, warmth and hospitality to be found wherever you go in your travels!

Information is provided as a courtesy to users of this website. Though the JNTO endeavors to ensure the information is accurate, users of the information are to act on such using their own judgement and at their own risk. Neither the JNTO nor any holder of copyright to the information shall be held responsible in any way whatsoever for any loss or misunderstanding, either direct or indirect, that is incurred as a result of utilizing the information.












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