My Tokyo Guide
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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 it the ideal season for incredible views across the city and surrounding countryside.
Japanese cuisine flows with the seasons. While summer is a popular time for outdoor barbecues, skewered meats, and chilled noodles—in winter you can enjoy a wide range of savory stews and steaming hot pots.
Nabe hot pots are a staple of Japanese winter. Head to the Ryogoku area, home of the Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena, to sample chanko nabe—the type of hot pot that sumo wrestlers eat. You can also visit the Okubo area, known as "Korean Town" for its many Korean restaurants, to chow down on a kimchi nabe. For the more adventurous, izakaya pubs and specialty restaurants offer motsu-nabe, which contains organ meat.
From humble stalls to high-class restaurants, there are a huge number of places in Tokyo that serve oden—a selection of stewed meats and veggies. Check out the Akabane Ichibangai Shopping Street with its laid-back atmosphere, or one of Ginza's many hidden gems in the backstreets. Track down a great oden place in your own favorite part of town. In the winter months you'll also find oden on sale at virtually every convenience store.
Tokyo winters come alive with extravagant illuminations and festive decorations for occasions like Christmas and Valentine's Day. Popular spots for illuminations include the tree-lined streets of Omotesando, Ginza, and Ebisu. There are famous displays at Caretta Shiodome, which is connected to Shiodome Station and near Shinbashi. Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi, and the Meguro River in Nakameguro are also popular.
Caretta Shiodome: This event will not take place in 2022.
Winter Illumination Guide
Winter is the perfect season to enjoy a traditional bath or take a dip in a hot spring. Tokyo has numerous public baths on offer.
Onsen & Bathhouses
While summer offers vibrant festivals, bon-odori dance, and firework displays—winter also has plenty of traditional 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.
If you happen to be in Japan over the New Year's holiday, head to Meiji Jingu Shrine on January 1st (starting at midnight) to partake in "hatsumode" (the first temple/shrine visit of the new year). Meiji Jingu, which enshrines the Emperor Meiji and his wife, is visited by over 3 million people over the first three days of the new year. It's known for being the most popular place in Japan to go for hatsumode.
February 3 marks the last day of winter on the old Japanese calendar, and the traditional way to celebrate is called Setsubun. On this day before spring, people scatter beans to ward off bad luck and draw in good fortune. At Zojoji Temple, you can try scattering beans 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 people focus on chants for good luck.
Setsubun takes place at shrines and temples all over the city. The lively bean-scattering rituals performed at Zojoji Temple, Sensoji Temple, Ookunitama-jinja Shrine, and Kanda Myojin Shrine draw many visitors.