What did you do at the end of last year? If you follow our instagram @AnakJajan, you would probably knew that we were having our #TravelWithAnakJajan new year winter trip to Japan from the end of December 2014 till the first week of January 2015.
PS: check out the following link for Complete Japan TRAVEL GUIDE & TIPS
AnakJajan’ve been wanting to write a travel diary from this trip and wanna show you how winter in Japan looks like and what to expect in Japan during winter.It’s just 2015 has been a very busy year but finally the winter travel diary has finally been completed, after all it’s better late than never right? 🙂
This winter trip was my second trip to Japan so I have quite enough experiences in doing preparation already, besides writing our experience, hopefully some informations in this post also could be useful for all of you who are planning to spend holiday in Japan during winter. Winter in Japan normally starts from December till February.
Based on our experience, in December the best time to visit Japan would be during Christmas before New Year to get the festive Christmas decoration and ambiance. Visiting Japan during New Year can be an unique experience but also quite frustrating since lots of shops and tourist attractions are closed between December 29th and January 4th.
UPDATE: Many of you asked for recommendation on what to do from the 31st of December till the 4th of January since most shops are closed during that time of period. Well, you don’t have to worry since there are still tons of things that you can do.
I think almost all shopping malls are open even during that time of period, so you can still do a shopping and restaurant hunting activities in the mall. Then you can still do sight seeing to touristy places such as park, temple, etc, also don’t forget to visit the annual Lights Illumination in town.
New Year is Japan’s most important holiday, unlike other countries that celebrate New Year’s Eve (NYE) with party and fireworks, New Year’s Eve in Japan is kinda different, instead of partying, it’s a time of reflection. Japanese people normally will watch the popular music program on television and visit shrine or temple around midnight on NYE.
The temperature in Tokyo was around -1 to 10 °C in Tokyo and -1 to 8 °C in Kyoto during our trip in the end of December 2014 and beginning of January 2015. We did expect some rain but not with snow as I double checked weather forecast in Accuweather before flying to Japan and it said that there won’t be snowing.
1st January 2015, we visited Zojoji Temple in Tokyo near Tokyo Tower (in walking distance) to experience the festivity of Hatsumode where Japanese people welcome the New Year by visiting shrine and temple across Japan during the first day of the year to pray and purchase lucky charms.
Lucky lucky lucky us!!! It was snowing suddenly the moment we stepped in to Zojoji Temple!!
The snow was not heavy and only last for a while but it was a priceless and unexpected moment! Talking about first time experiencing New Year like Japanese and first time seeing the snow on the first day of 2015. Magic!!
If you are in Japan during New Year, you can join the crowds doing hatsumode, the year’s first visit to a shrine or temple. Hatsumode festivities are held at practically every shrine and temple across Japan during the first dew days of the year, especially on January 1st.
Also there are lots of food stands that are very inviting and hard to resist with their tasty looking dishes.
During New Year, most business are shut down, you’ll experience a very very quite Tokyo as most of the people travel back to their hometown to gather with their family. The situation is kinda similar to Jakarta during Eid or Lebaran holiday.
Miracle continued when we visited Kyoto for the first time. The minute we reached Kyoto, our eyes were opened wide startled by the white town of Kyoto covered by thick fluffy white snow. OHHH MY GOD!! THICK FLUFFY SNOW!! It was an unexpected yet unforgettable moment for us.
The temperature was between -1 to 7 °C, it was cold but luckily Kyoto is not as windy as Tokyo so we can survive the cold weather with ease. On the other hand, it was quite challenging for us to drag our heavy luggage through the snowy streets from station to our ryokan.
As I said earlier, we didn’t expect to encounter snow at all since the weather forecast said that there won’t be snow during our trip, so we didn’t prepare for that kind of situation. Mr. Jajan had a shoes disaster situation, he wore that kind of leather boat shoes with lots of stitches on the soles and it made his feet wet when the snow melts, lucky me my shoes were water resistant.
We stayed at Kyoto for two days, Kyoto is totally different compared to Tokyo. We just love the calm and traditional vibes of this city, the scenery became even more beautiful with the thick white snow. I’m gonna share with you list of must visit places in Kyoto next time.
Here are our first snowman ever!!
Winter in Japan is wonderful as you can enjoy annual winter lights illuminations across the cities that are normally available from November for one until four months where they normally start to turn on the lights from 5pm till midnight.
This one is our personal favorite illumination at Caretta Shiodome Tokyo around 5 minutes walk from Shimbashi station, Caretta Illumination an annual illumination event that is available starting 19th Nov 2015 till 14th Feb 2016 from 5pm till 11pm. Here’s the video:
Shinjuku Southern Terrace, south of JR Shinjuku Station
Haneda International Airport
Here are some informations or tips about winter trip to Japan that we think would be important or helpful for you:
– Check the up-to-date weather forecast everyday to make sure you are well prepared with the weather (bring umbrella if it’s going to rain, thick coat if it’s going to be cold, etc)
– Bring proper outfit to keep yourself warm for example thick and warm coat or sweaters. For innerwear, we love the Heattech innerwear from Uniqlo, it’s a thin and comfort innerwear that is pretty similar with long john but with heat retaining feature to keep the body warm. (FYI, it’s way cheaper in Uniqlo Japan than in Uniqlo Indonesia)
– Purchase Touchscreen Winter Gloves, in that way you can use your smartphone without needing to remove your gloves and getting cold. It’s available in most shops, I bought mine in Uniqlo.
– Bring proper shoes that are warm, not slippery and water resistant especially if you visit snowy places, to avoid shoes disaster.
– Most shops are closed during New Year from 29th Dec till 4th January, most shops update the holiday announcement on their website or social media so make sure you check it first to avoid disappointment. But most shopping malls are open even during that time of period, so you can still do a shopping and restaurant hunting activities in the mall, and do sight seeing at the touristy places such as park, temple and don’t forget to visit Lights Illumination in town.
– Each season has its own unique cuisine, don’t forget to enjoy Winter cuisine and eat a lot!! You’ll get hungry easily in cold winter 😀
– Vending machine usually provides hot drink, pay attention to the color of vending machine’s buttons. Blue for cold drinks and Red for hot drinks.
– Purchase Fukubukuro or Lucky Bag or Mystery Bag. During new year, most shops will provide bags filled of unknown random items and sell it for a substantial discount, usually more than 50% off. It’s an event that should not be missed by any shopaholic 🙂
– Have fun visiting Winter Lights Illumination. You can search “Winter Illumination” on Japan-Guide website for up-to-date schedules and locations.
– Last but not least, don’t forget to have fun!! For full detailed guide, you can check our Ultimate Japan Travel Guide / TIPS https://anakjajan.com/2014/08/14/ultimate-japan-travel-guide-tips/
Overall, twinkling lights, fluffy snow, cold hands, warm hearts, we left our hearts once again in Japan. Thank you again Japan for showing your magic and gave us another unforgettable memories.
We’ll share a complete itinerary guide on where to go and what to eat in Japan on our next Japan Travel post, stay tuned! Let’s Travel!!
Check link below for more Japan Travel posts https://anakjajan.com/category/location/japan-location/
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