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Defeat the biting cold with hearty food, warm baths, and enchanting holiday illuminations

The chill of winter means you’ll have to come extra prepared to brave the elements, packing scarves, gloves, down jackets, and more. Once you acclimate to the cold, you’ll find the city is full of enchanting spectacles, soothing food, and centuries-old rituals. What’s more, the crisp air, deep blue skies, and minimal rain make for incredible views across the city and surrounding countryside.

Tips

  • With temperatures averaging between 0 to 8 degrees Celsius, be sure to come prepared with a heavy jacket, muffler, and winter cap
  • If you’re still having trouble dealing with the chill, go to any convenience store and purchase a box of “hokkairo,” disposable heating pads that you can adhere to the inside of your shoes, gloves, and jackets
  • The low humidity in winter results in crystal clear views, so you may be able to see the silhouette of Mt. Fuji from the top of Tokyo Skytree

Hearty food to warm the soul

Japanese cuisine flows with the seasons. While summer is a popular time for outdoor barbecues, skewered meats, and chilled noodles, winter welcomes an assortment of savory stews and steaming hot pots.

Enjoy a relaxing “nabe” hot pot meal

"Nabe" hot pot dishes are a staple of the Japanese winter. "Chanko nabe" is famously eaten by sumo wrestlers, and is mainly served in the Ryogoku area, home to the Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena. A great place for "kimchi nabe" can be found in Okubo, where Korean restaurants line the streets. To enjoy "motsu nabe," made with simmered innards, try Shibuya or Asakusa.

Stewed meats and veggies to go

People all over Japan warm up in winter with a hot bowl of "oden." An assortment of ingredients such as meat, sausage, eggs, and radishes, are stewed in a dashi broth. For a casual take on the meal, try the Akabane Ichibangai Shopping Street. If you want to go upmarket, head to Ginza. In the winter months you'll also find oden on sale at virtually every convenience store.

Enchanting Christmas lights will put you in the holiday spirit

Leading up to Christmas, Tokyo comes alive with extravagant illuminations and festive decorations. For a country that traditionally celebrates New Years’ Day over Christmas, the city nonetheless embraces the holiday season with an intense fervor. Popular illuminations include Caretta Shiodome in central Tokyo, Tokyo Midtown in Shinjuku, and street displays at Omotesando, Ginza, Nakameguro and Ebisu.

Winter Illumination Guide

Escape the winter chill with a relaxing bath

With abundant hot springs and a thriving bathing culture, winter is the perfect season to enjoy a traditional bath. While the city has numerous public baths, you’ll find the most enchanting hot springs experiences a short trip away in Hakone or Nikko.

Onsen & Bathhouses

Festivals

While summer offers vibrant festivals, dancing, and fireworks—winter also has lots of events and customs to take part in.
Note: See 'The Best Festivals in Tokyo and Japan' for more details about festivals held in Tokyo throughout the year.

New Years’ customs

If you happen to be in Japan over the New Years’ holiday, head to Meiji Jingu Shrine on January 1st (starting at midnight) to partake in the biggest “hatsumode” (first temple/shrine visit) ritual in the country. Upon approaching the main hall, place a five-yen coin into the offering box, bow (twice), clap (twice), pray for good fortune and then give one last final bow.

Bean-throwing festivals

February 3 officially marks the last day of winter, and the Japanese way to celebrate is called Setsubun. In this ceremony, people throw beans to scare away demon spirits and wish for good luck. At Zojoji Temple, you can try it for yourself, and enjoy food from various stalls. At Sensoji Temple, people believe that no demons would dare appear before the enshrined Kannon bodhisattva—so instead of throwing beans and shouting "Demons, out!" (which is part of what normally happens in bean-throwing rituals), people simply focus on chanting "Long life and good fortune, in!"
Setsubun takes place at shrines and temples all over the city. But at the most popular locations, including Ookunitama-jinja Shrine, Kanda-myojin Shrine, and the two temples mentioned above, you might even catch a glimpse of celebrities taking part.

Events in December

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Events in January

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Events in February

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More Winter Fun

 

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