Japan’s Winter Scenes

It’s no secret that Japan is beautiful all year round, be it the sakura blooms in Spring, colorful fields of flowers in Summer, bright red and orange hues in Autumn or a blanket of white in Winter. Since you pretty much can get wonderful scenery all year round, why do some people brave the bitter cold in Winter? We reveal some of Japan’s best winter scenes and who knows, you may be packing your coat and bags and head on the next flight out.

Kinkakuji golden pavilion, kyoto

Arguably one of Kyoto’s most famous landmark well-loved by both locals and tourists alike. It is certainly beautiful in the glistening summer sun, but when it’s shiny golden roof is covered in snow, it is another sight to behold. It doesn’t always snow in Kyoto during Winter, so if you happen to chance upon it, better grab the opportunity! Rumor has it that the beautiful scenery makes one forget the cold, but we still recommend you to bundle up.

ginzan onsen, yamagata
Photo courtesy of Fast Japan

Ginzan Onsen is a secluded hot spring town nestled in the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture. Commonly known as one of Japan’s most scenic onsen towns with traditional ryokans lined up along the river, it feels like one has stepped back into the edo-era. When the sun sets, the town is lit up with a nostalgic orange glow exclusive during winter, giving the town a dreamlike landscape. Be sure to realx and soak in one of the onsens after admiring the view! Also, anyone else feels like this place really looks like a scene the movie Spirited Away?

Tokamachi rice terrace, Niigata
Photo courtesy of All About Japan

I’ve never seen a rice terrace covered in snow before, have you? The colors of the rice field changes with each passing season and I’m sure that they’re all beautiful but an all-white rice terrace just makes it a little more special. The magical hours happen at morning and evening when the rice fields float up out of the fog and the paling sky. Though accessibility to this village is extremely limited, the breathtaking view more than makes up for it.

shirakawa-go, gifu

It’s like a scene right out of a fairytale, Shirakawa-go in Gifu is a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site famed its highly-valued beautiful view and this scenery comes at a price. This area has one of the heaviest snowfalls in Japan, especially so from late December to early March where the villages get completely covered with snow. While it is a place of interest for most of us, the villagers have to endure the harsh winters every year. The unique part of this village really lies in their traditional Gassho-zukuri style farmhouses, some of which dates back more than 250 years.

Yokote Kamakura Festival, akita

The Yokote Kamakura Festival is held every year on 15-16February in the city of Yokote in south-eastern Akita and has a history of about 450 years. The festival features many igloo-like snow houses, called kamakura, which are built at various locations across the city.

Within each kamakura there is a snow altar dedicated to the water deity, to whom people pray for ample water. A charcoal brazier is set up to provide warmth and grill rice cakes. In the evenings (18:00 to 21:00), children invite festival visitors into their kamakura and offer them rice cakes and amazake, a type of warm sweet rice wine with zero or very low alcohol content. In return, the visitors make an offering to the water deity at the altar. – Japan Guide

What a magical atmosphere this festival boasts!

Jigokudani Monkey Park, nagano

The Japanese macaques, more famously known as snow monkeys inhabit all parts of Japan except Hokkaido and Okinawa. During winter, they soak in hot springs to relieve themselves of the cold harsh winds, just like humans would! Make no mistake, this is not a zoo, nor an animal sanctuary, these are wild monkeys in their natural environment who are so used to people snapping photos of them soaking, that they just behave as they would in the wild.


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