Winter in Tokyo is rather cold, but instead of staying inside all day, there are lots of activities for you to enjoy. I hope you have fun with the list of 10 activities below.
1. See beautiful Christmas illuminations
In case you don’t know, “Illumination” is the word used to describe the decorations with lights, especially in Christmas, sometimes it may lasts until February. Every night of the period, all the lights are turned on with the beautiful and variation of colors.
So where to enjoy the lights?
Last year they featured an illumination event called “White Sacas” whose highlight is an outdoor skating rink. Commonly from the beginning of November until the end of February.
– From Tokyo station, take the Marunouchi Subway Line to Kokkaigijido-mae Station (7 minutes) and transfer to the Chiyoda Subway Line for Akasaka (2 minutes)
– From Shinjuku station, take the Marunouchi Subway Line to Kokkaigijido-mae Station (12 minutes) and transfer to the Chiyoda Subway Line for Akasaka (2 minutes)
Operation hours of Akasaka Sacas:
Shops 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Restaurants 11:00 a.m. – 11.30 p.m.
Illumination starts from 4:00 p.m. to midnight.
Besides having its own vast ocean of LED lights, nearby Shiodome City Center puts on its own illuminations. From the end of November to mid-February.
5mins walk from Shimbashi Station
Operation hours of Caretta Shopping center:
Shops 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Restaurants 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Illumination starts from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Shinjuku Terrace City
The illumination starts from mid-November to mid-February, 5pm to midnight.
2mins walk from Shinjuku Station South Exit
The illumination lights along Marunouchi Nakadori from Tokyo station to Yurakucho.
2mins walk from Yurakucho Station or Tokyo station
From the end of November to mid-January 3:00 p.m. to midnight.
From the beginning of November till the end of December, The “Artelligent Christmas” event held at Roppongi Hills displays illuminations around Mori Tower and along Keyakizaka Street, which located in the back of the tower.
– 5mins walk from Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line Roppongi Station
– 15mins by subway from Tokyo Station
– 10mins by subway from Shinjuku Station
5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Tokyo Dome City
The illuminations spread around Tokyo Dome and the adjacent amusement park, starts from mid-November to mid-February.
– 5mins walk from Toei Mita Line or JR Sobu Line Suidobashi Station
– 8mins by subway from Tokyo Station
– 15mins by train from Shinjuku Station
Operation hours of illuminations:
5:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. the day after.
Five million LED lights are used for this illuminations, which goes along most of the street’s length between Harajuku and Omotesando stations.
2mins walk from Omotesando Station.
Entire December from sunset until 9:00 p.m.
The Decks Odaiba is a shopping center, which offers illuminations around the year, including the “Daiba Memorial Tree”. Several other places in Odaiba area, such as Venusfort and Diver City, also offer seasonal illumination events.
25mins by train from Shinjuku Station
Find out more about Christmas lights in Tokyo from our article: 7 Places to See Beautiful Christmas Lights in Tokyo
2. Go to onsen
Winter in Tokyo is cold, but the hot of onsen will warm you up right away!
Onsen located near Tokyo but in other prefectures
Manza Onsen Hotel in Gunma: http://www.manza.co.jp/mob/manza.php
Bankyu Hotel in Tochigi: http://www.bankyu.co.jp/english/ and other onsen in Kinugawa area, Tochigi Prefecture.
Hakone Onsen: one of the popular hot spring areas located only one hour and a half away from Tokyo by car or train.
Access to Hakone Onsen: 20 minutes ride by bus from Odawara Station, JR Line/Odakyu Line
Onsen in Tokyo
Oedo Onsen Monogatari
The most famous onsen in Tokyo, with six different types of bath, from open-air baths, saunas, traditional and more, this Edo era onsen theme park is a must-visit destination! You can even plan your weekend plan here because they also serve overnight accommodation, shopping and dining!
2-57 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo. 5mins walk from Telecom Center Station
11:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. the next day (last entry 7am)
Adults ¥2,480 (Mon-Fri), ¥2,680 (Sat, Sun & hols)
Elementary school students and under ¥1,000
late-night surcharge (after 2am): ¥2,000.
Located inside Tokyo Dome City, this bath house provides from bathing to various types of beauty treatments after bathing, plus, it also opens over night!
Access to Tokyo Dome City:
– 8mins by subway from Tokyo Station
– 15mins by train from Shinjuku Station
11:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. the next day
Healing Baden 11:00 a.m. -11:30 p.m.
Children (elementary school students and older) ¥1,944
late-night surcharge (after 1:00 a.m.) ¥1,890
Healing Baden ¥864 (adults only)
Jakotsuyu Bath House
Running since the Edo period, plus never get too many tourists traffic – this onsen is truly a bargain!
5mins walk from Asakusa Station
1-11-11 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Wednesdays – Mondays 1:00 p.m.-midnight
Closed on every Tuesday
Asakusa Kannon Onsen
Although you may thrill at the archaic facilities, coated in a patina of dirt, but most locals give the place a wide berth.
10mins walk from Asakusa Station
2-7-26 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
6:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Closed on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays
3. Enjoy winter dishes
Besides common Japan’s winter dishes: oden, stew, baked-sweet potato, etc., Tokyo is very famous for various kinds of nabe and raw oyster.
Raw oyster is winter’s favorites dishes. Although it’s a little luxury, but once you taste it, you cannot stop loving it!
In Tokyo, Nabezo is one of the most famous nabe chain-restaurants, which also has more than 30 restaurants located in Tokyo and nearby area such as Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba.
How to get to Nabezo in Shinjuku;
5mins walk from Seibu-Shinjuku Station
8F Shinjuku Takano Bldg No. 2 3-30-11 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Mon-Fri Lunch 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Dinner 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Sat/Sun/Holidays 11:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
4. Strawberries picking
Winter is the season of strawberries. You can check out the When and Where to Do Fruit Picking in Tokyo for some interesting orchards that offer strawberry-picking!
5. Do a pilgrimage
Many people go on a Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage (Shichifukujin Meguri in Japanese) in January, in order to pray for lucks, blessings from the Gods. You can walk, bike, or even drive. Both JR and Tokyo Metro provide route maps at their stations around New Year so you can do the pilgrimage by train or subway. The pilgrimage doesn’t need to be done in a day, so many walk to the various shrines or temples over a period of several days.
As an important ritual, besides saying a prayer at each location, you should carry a shousasshi (booklet) or shikishi (square formal certificate) and to have each priest stamp them with an official hanko or seal. The shikishi is usually framed and hung after the pilgrimage is completed. The charge for stamping the hanko is usually ¥200.
There are many locations in which to pay your respects, depends on which location is convenient for you, but commonly will be Buddhist Temples (tera) or Shinto Shrines (jinja). You can also get maps at shrines and temples dedicated to one or another of the shichifukujin. Some specific temples and shrines for this occasion are: Tamon Temple, Shirahige Jinja, Kofukuji and Mimeguri Jinja.
6. Be a part of winter festivals
Although summer is the perfect time for festivals, but there’re also many more festivals in winter for you to enjoy! Some significant festivals are:
Tori no Ichi Festival
Held every 12 days in November, the most popular place to join the festival is Otori-jinja Shrine, near Asakusa.
8mins walk from Iriya Station.
3-18-7, Senzoku, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Jingu Gaien Icho Matsuri
The times of the event is flexible base on the time when the leaves turn to yellow, mostly from mid-November to early December, so check out the websites for more. information: http://www.meijijingugaien.jp/event/ginkgo-festa.html
7. Go skiing
Besides going to onsen, this is one of the best activities to do outside in Tokyo’s winter. Especially, all ski resorts offer rental ski wears and equipments so you don’t have to prepare and bring along things by yourself!
There’re many ski resorts around Tokyo you should check out:
JR provides direct access by shinkansen to Gala Yuzawa. It is also has interconnected with Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort.
75-80mins by Shinkansen from Tokyo Station.
2mins by train from Echigo Yuzawa Station.
80mins by bullet train to Echigo Yuzawa, and then a 10mins complimentary bus to the resort.
8. Join a Candle Night
It’s commonly held in both Summer and Winter, you can also enjoy it in Osaka and Tokyo, plus, it’s free!
Check the website for more information: http://candle-night.tokyo/
9. Go shopping
Around New Year, you can get some great deals by looking for the “fukubukuro,” – “lucky bag”. A fukubukuro is basically a bag filled with products, all selling for the same price. The fun is, you don’t know what is in the bag, so it makes the shopping cheap and fun!
You can look for these bags elsewhere in shopping malls and individual shops.
10. Celebrate New Year and join Countdown Events
Japan celebrates New Year in their own way. Most people go visit a temple and pray for good fortune in the New Year after watching the popular music program “kohaku uta gassen” on TV with their families. In major cities, you can join countdown parties, or watching fireworks in Tokyo! Especially enjoy the special tradition dish of New Year “Osechi” and join the Hatsumode. Meiji Shrine or Narita Shinzan are the most popular Hatsumode destinations.
For more about Japanese New Year, find out in our article: The Japanese New Year Oshougatsu Marks a New Beginning
Thumbnail image is from Flickr