15 Chilled Things to Do in Japan in December

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!!

Yes, we all are familiar with this sweet Christmas song. And December is the month we all wait to enjoy Christmas and open gift boxes.

However, December in Japan is more than just the Christmas eve celebration.

With several special festivals, stunning winter illumination and young-fun activities, December is one of the pleasant times to visit Japan.

So, if you need help to find out the best things to do in Japan in December, here I am, your fairy godmother presenting you with the finest recommendation.

Top 15 Things to Do in Japan in December with Necessary Travel Guide

While planning for a trip, we often suffer from indecision, whether we are choosing the right place or not.

As there are an enormous amount of things to do in this country, it’s not easy to select right away.

So, I suggest you explore each attraction and activity that I am gonna describe from now on.

1. Enjoy The Charm of Chichibu Night Festival

The moment we think of beautiful lanterns and fireworks, our mood lights up too.

Right?

That’s why Chichibu Night Festival has the charm of making people cheerful in the middle of chilly weather at night.

This feast is held in Chichibu Shrine, located at Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture, which is only 90 minutes away from central Tokyo. It is organized annually from December 2nd to 3rd, and is considered one of Japan’s top three float festivals with Kyoto’s Gion Festival and Takayama Matsuri.

During the celebration, the floats are adorned with beautiful lanterns, carpets, and wood carvings. They are accompanied by flute and drum music to represent the festive mood.

Another attraction is the fireworks display that lasts for two to three hours. You will find several standing food stalls lined by the streets offering delicious items.

If you want to catch the main highlight of Chichibu Yomatsuri, then you must have to attend it on 3rd December. The floats are displayed in their relevant neighborhood and Chichibu Shrine from the afternoon to early evening.

Around 7:00 PM, they are being pulled through the streets towards the city hall. And here, the climax takes place when one after another float is pulled up the slope.

You will see fireworks displays from 7:30 PM to 10:00 PM, which can be seen from many places around the town.

After enjoying this site, you can easily catch the last train to Tokyo if you are not willing to stay here overnight.

Okay, due to the feast’s intense popularity, you will see a lot of crowds, especially in front of the city hall. Hence, if you are interested in attending it, then I suggest you go there as early as possible to secure a spot in advance.

You may also watch it on the big screen in front of the Seibu Chichibu Station.

As this feast shows the cultural side, I advise you not to miss it while visiting Japan in December.

However, if you don’t plan to come here in the earlier days of the month, you can still enjoy its vibe.

Yes, even if you miss the main celebration, you may visit the Chichibu Festival Hall, which shows a glimpse of the Night Festival along with the other fiestas in the Chichibu region.

2. Be Mesmerized with The Winter Illumination

One of the top attractions of Japan’s winter month is definitely the glittering illuminations events.

When the daytime is suitable for exploring different attractions, your nights will be more colorful with all of these glittering light events.

Winter illumination

And, the good thing is, most of these winter illuminations take place in urban areas like Tokyo.

For example, you may go to Yebisu Garden Place, Roppongi Hills Christmas, Meguro River Minno no Illumination, Shinjuku Southern Terrace Winter Illumination, Tokyo Midtown Hibiya, Marunouchi Illumination, Odaiba Illumination, and so on.

Shinjuku Southern Terrace Winter Illumination

Most of these events run over the whole month of December, but few are held until Christmas.

So, while visiting Tokyo in December, try to attend as much illumination as possible because each one has a different vibe.

Meguro River Minno no Illumination

But, Tokyo is not the only place where you can admire this type of event.

You will find them in almost every city in Japan, such as Sapporo White Illumination (in Hokkaido), Sendai Pageant of Starlight (in Sendai), Ashikaga Flower Park (in Ashikaga), Sagamiko Illumination (in Kanagawa Prefecture), Toki no Sumika Resort (in Gotemba), Nabana no Sato (in Mie Prefecture), Festival of Lights (in Osaka), Kyoto Illumiere (in Kyoto), and many more.

Sendai Pageant of Starlight

I will say if you are coming to Japan with your spouse, partner, or family, explore at least one of these events during Christmas eve.

3. Go to Shirakawago Village: A Winter Wonderland

Do you want to walk in a place that seems like heaven on the earth?

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Well, maybe you can’t imagine what paradise looks like, but at least you can visit a place which can leave you speechless.

And Shirakawago Village is such a spot that knows how to mesmerize people with its magical panorama.

Shirakawago Village in winter

Although you can visit this town all year round, the winter attraction is unique and breathtaking.

From mid-December, snow starts falling around this town, and the roof of the Gassho Zukuri houses gets covered by it. And this snowfall enhances the beauty of the village to another level.

Even if the daytime panorama is stunning, I admire the night beauty most.

Night view of Shirakago village

In winter, an illumination event is held at night, making the town look straight out of a fairy movie.

The best part is, you can even stay in these old-style houses and enjoy the chilly environment coupled with a mug of hot coffee.

I think, if you want to escape the city lights, this will be a perfect hideout.

4. Explore Biei Town in Hokkaido

Not every lake can look like the ocean!

But, when you are in Japan, you have an opportunity to see something extraordinary.

Here I am talking about the Blue Pond, which is situated in Biei Town, Hokkaido. It was made while preventing mudflow from the outburst of Mount Tokachi reaching the town.

Blue Pond in winter

It became popular as it reflects the color blue. It’s because of the presence of Hydrogen Peroxide in the water, which turns into a rainbow of different blue shades based on the season.

And the best time to witness the blue pond is during winter when it’s encircled with snow because the blue color compliments the pristine white.

Blue pond at night

It looks even more impressive after the evening as the pond is illuminated with spotlights, and the color of the water reflects on the snow.

Well, you won’t come all the way to Biei to see the blue pond only, right?

Even I will not let that happen because you can’t afford to miss the spectacular Shirahige Waterfalls. It is nestled only half an hour drive away from Biei town.

It’s rather unusual compared to other Japanese waterfalls as it flows from an underground river. The elegance of the fall becomes particularly stunning in winter when frost-covered trees and twinkling icicles flatter the blue river below.

Shirahige Waterfalls

The light-up event in the cold season makes the aura more magical, leaving you breathless. 

After you experience the attraction of the whole Biei town, you may go to the Yumoto Shirogane Onsen hotel to stay overnight and enjoy a relaxing bath in the spa’s lukewarm water.

Onsen in Japan

As Biei is one of the good places to go in December, I think you shouldn’t miss out on any of these stunning locations at any cost.

5. Try Out Ice Skating

One of the most trendy winter activities in Japan is ice skating, which can be enjoyed in the chilly environment of December.

You can choose to drop by the Fuji Q Highland amusement park situated nearby Mt. Fuji, in Fujiyoshida city. This park has one of the largest skating rinks where you can satisfy your longing for some fun ice skating.

Ice Sakting

After skating, if you want to do something crazier, then riding the roller-coaster will be a top-notch choice to feel the cool air.

Just put your hand up, and let go of all the fear!

Aside from these, there are other fun rides that you may try out too.

Now, if you want to stay within Tokyo, there are several outdoor ice skating rinks in the central area.

For example, Urban Dock Lalaport Toyosu, Tokyo Midtown, Sacas Square, Tokyo Skytree Town Ice Skating Park, Futako Tamagawa Rise are some of the best ice skating rinks in Tokyo.

Ice Skating at park

You will see people of all ages here, from young couples to cute kids.

So, if you are in Japan with your sweetheart, how about going out on a romantic date. I mean, if your other half doesn’t know how to skate, you can try to hold and spend some fun and romantic moments.

 Ice skating while holding hand

But, even if you don’t know how to do it, then maybe you two are gonna end up crashing on the floor together!

Hmm, not a bad idea to experience a movie-like scene!

Anyway, there are some other winter activities that you may consider too. Hence, check out the next segment.

6. Have Fun with Skiing & Snow-Boarding

Can you imagine winter without not having fun skiing or snowboarding?

I am expecting an answer of No, only if you have zero experience doing them.

However, several top-notch ski resorts in Hokkaido offer great courses and the finest snow powder.

Ski resort in Hokkaido

Although you won’t master skiing or snowboarding in one day, trying to do it with the help of the instructor will be a memory to cherish. You can even take some photos and flaunt them before your friends saying you have enjoyed the activity!

Snowboarding

But, if you do know how to ski and snowboard, just don’t deprive yourself of going.

And, few of the best ski resorts in Japan are Niseko Grand Hirafu Ski Resort (in Hokkaido), Zao Onsen Ski Resort (in Yamagata), Gala Yuzawa Ski Resort (in Niigata), Naeba Ski Resort (in Niigata), Rusutsu Resort (in Hokkaido), etc.

7. See The Gorgeous Autumn Leaves Illumination

What!! Autumn Leaves!!

I guess you are dumbfounded after reading autumn leaves as I am describing December here, which is in the winter season.

Well, luckily, if you come to Japan in early December, you have the chance of catching a glimpse of the autumn leaves illumination event of Hasedera Temple.

Autumn leave illumination

This temple is situated in Kamakura city and was founded in the 8th century. From November to early December, a special light-up event is held to enhance the beauty of the maple trees of the temple’s garden.

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Hence, if you wanna feel the fresh touch of nature in the middle of a chilly environment, don’t forget to attend this illumination event.

8. Visit Kyoto to See Its Attractions

I can’t imagine someone coming to Japan and not visiting Kyoto. As it is one of the top cities of Japan explored by tourists, you will be blessed with many eye-catching sites.

For about 10 days in December, the Arashiyama Hanatouro Festival takes place in western Kyoto.

During the celebration, the Arashiyama area and the Sagano Bamboo Forest are colorfully illuminated with open-air lanterns.

Bamboo forest illumination

These lanterns brighten up the trees and bamboos of the forest, creating a fantastic night time sight.

The lights are being turned on at 5 PM and glitter until 8:30 PM. Several temples and shrines beside the light-up route also remain open for tourists to visit at night.

After wandering around the pathway of the bamboo forest, you may head to Togetsukyo Bridge to see the art display and pale blue lights shining.

Togetsukyo Bridge

Also, the Nonomiya Shrine, Okochi Sanso Villa, Jojakko-ji temple, and the Poet’s hut Rakushisha are all illuminated and waiting for your visit.

Arashiyama Hanatouro

The other must-visit places of Kyoto are Gion District, Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Kinkaku-ji, Nijo Castle, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto Botanical Garden, Philosopher’s Path, Kodai-ji Temple, and many more.

9. Pamper Yourself with Hot Onsen Bath

Experiencing a hot onsen bath is a must-do thing in Japan for every traveler, and the best season to indulge yourself in one is the winter.

When your body is exhausted or wants to escape from the cool environment, a hot spring bath will be the perfect treat.

Onsen in Japan

As we Japanese people love this type of relaxation, there are loads of onsen scattered around all over the country to meet the need.

You can choose to feel the chill of the outside by going on an outdoor onsen like Lake Toya Onsen (in Hokkaido), Matsudai Shibatoge Onsen Unkai (in Niigata), Lake Kawaguchi Onsen (in Yamanashi), Maguse Onsen (in Nagano), and Tamatebako Onsen (in Kagoshima).

All of these hot springs have a fantastic view of mountains, and your moments will be full of satisfaction and pleasure.

Onsen surrounded by nature

By the way, are you a kinda shy person? Then maybe you don’t like the idea of going to the outdoor onsen.

In such a case, there are several indoor onsens available in Japan that you may consider going to. Even some of the hotels and ryokans have private bath hot spring facilities.

Indoor onsen

Indoor or outdoor, whatever you end up selecting, your body is gonna thank you for such a hot! hot! treatment.

10. Attend Special Events of Tokyo Disney Resort

Tokyo Disney Resort brings out the joyful Christmas vibes with their special events in December.

With various decorations and merchandise, there are lots of fun elements to take pleasure in.

If you are here with your children, they are going to love all the people disguised in Disney characters roaming around.

Once you enter the park, you are gonna realize that no one other than Disney knows how to celebrate Christmas to the fullest.

11. Wander Around Some Christmas Market

There are a great number of things to do in Tokyo in December, and one of them is roaming around some Christmas markets.

From munching on delicious Christmas food, watching decorations of trees to purchasing cute merchandise, all are available there.

Tokyo Christmas market

And some of the significant market places in Tokyo are Roppongi Hills, Yebisu Garden Place, Tokyo Skytree, and Hibiya Park.

12. Meet The Cute Snow Monkeys

If you want to see the adorable Japanese monkeys taking a bath in a hot onsen, Jigokudani Monkey Park is waiting for you.

It’s not like only human beings need to be pampered in the winter temperature; animals like macaques also have the same right!

Jogokudani Monkey Park in winter

As the monkeys are wild animals, there are some rules for visitors to follow. Therefore, I advise you to check out their official site to know all the information before heading out there.

Anyway, you can easily visit the park on a day trip from Tokyo and return. Or, you may stay overnight in Nagano to see the city’s alpine beauty.

13. Relish Some Seasonal Dishes

Although there are numerous winter seasonal foods in Japan, my favorite is hot pot dishes.

Hot pot dish Japan

One of the most famous ones is Nabe, which comes with various ingredients and flavors. Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki are also renowned winter hot pot dishes and you will find them in different restaurants in Japan.

Hot Ramen

Apart from them, you may also enjoy Ramen, Oden, Miso Soup, Pressure Cooker Japanese Curry, and Hot Tofu.

14. Plan A Trip to Okinawa Island to Feel Warm!

Okinawa Island is one of the warmest places in Japan in winter. The average high temperature here in December is 69° F. Hence you will experience relatively warmer days here.

So, what do you think? Isn’t it a great idea to explore Okinawa when there are fewer crowds?

 Ishigaki Island of Okinawa

Yes, as it is a coastal area and famous for its attractive beaches, most people come here from June to August. Therefore, you can explore the area in peace without much hazard.

Apart from the beaches, there are plenty of other things to do in Okinawa in December.

Gyukusendo Cave in Okinawa

For example, you can visit Shuri Castle, Churaumi Aquarium, Seifa Utaki, Okinawa Cave, and so on.

15. Participate in The Countdown Events

What do you think of celebrating New Year’s Eve with us?

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Well, I will feel really pleased if you stay in Japan till the 31st night. Who knows, maybe we end up counting from 10 to 1 together without knowing each other in person.

New year countdown clock

I participate in the Tokyo Bay Countdown Cruise most of the time because it shows gorgeous fireworks, and the environment feels more romantic to me.

Also, Universal Studios Japan has its own countdown party, which has a totally different vibe with all of its adorable characters participating along.

You will find countdown parties in almost every big city in Japan that all are equally fun and exciting.

New year foreworks

Just choose whatever place you want and see all the sparkling fireworks that light up the sky of our country.

Finally, I have finished talking about where to go in Japan in December and what to do.

Now, it’s time to know other essential information associated with this topic.

Japan Weather During December

From December to February is the winter season in Japan. As December is the beginning of this season, the cold is milder than in January and February.

The temperature at the start of the month is warmer than later.

Here is a detailed chart of average temperatures according to different cities.

City Name Avg. High Temp. (°C/°F) Avg. Low Temp. (°C/°F)
Tokyo
12.2/54
3.9/39
Sapporo
2.2/36
-5/23
Osaka
12.2/54
3.9/39
Kyoto
11.7/53
2.2/36
Fukuoka
12.2/54
5/41
Takayama
6.1/43
-2.8/27
Okinawa
20.6/69
13.9/57
Hiroshima
12.5/54
3.3/38
Kobe
11.7/53
4.4/40

As mentioned, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Fukuoka daily high temperatures are still relatively warm than other cities.

However, Sapporo (capital of Hokkaido) and the other northern cities are much colder, with low temperatures decreasing to minus degrees sometimes.

On the other hand, Okinawa’s tropical & subtropical islands are nicely warm but not hot.

You may expect snow in Hokkaido and the northern parts of Japan, but there is a possibility of little rain in other places.

Osaka and Tokyo remain sunny in December, which makes up for the cooler environment.

Essential Travel Packing Tips for December in Japan

For your December holiday trip to Japan, here is a list of things you should pack.

1. Insulated Jacket: For visiting northern parts of Japan, you need a well-insulated Jacket. Also, on the mainland, the temperature drops after evening, so you will need them.

2. Warm Innerwear: Innerwear is the extra layer of clothing that will give you the additional warmth you need.

3. Hand gloves/ Finger Gloves: A pair of hand gloves are required in Sapporo and the other colder regions. However, if you are not comfortable holding something with gloves, you can consider taking finger gloves. It will help you hold the camera, coffee mug, and browse your smartphone.

4. Warm socks: Carry a few pairs of warm socks cause you have to take off your shoes in some places like temples & shrines and even while entering someone’s house. So, winter socks are a must-item to keep your toes warm.

5. Long-sleeved t-shirts and long pants.

6. Some light outfits: For relatively warm daytime.

7. Comfy pair of shoes: I suggest you take well worn-off shoes. It will help you not have blisters while enjoying walking tours.

8. High boots: For places where it may snow like Hokkaido.

9. A mid-heavy jacket or cardigan: Some regions don’t feel over-the-top freezy. Hence, it is wise to keep a mid-heavy jacket or cardigan with you.

10. Sunscreen: If you want to go skiing, your skin can be damaged by the sunray. Therefore, pack sunscreen to protect your pretty skin.

11. A mid-sized backpack: To carry your essential travel items while leaving your hotel room for visiting attraction points.

12. Heating pads: It’s not necessary that you have to carry heat pads all the way from your home to Japan. In our country, you can purchase them from any convenience store. And they can quickly warm up your hands and feet.

13. Don’t forget your other mandatory items: Travel documents, toothbrush, mobile charger, power bank, camera, a mini first-aid kit, necessary skincare products.

Tourist Statistics & Expected Costs

Japan sees relatively lower foreign tourists in December. Most of the people who travel during this month are here to spend a delightful Christmas with their families.

You will even find groups of adults and young people coming to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Local Japanese people even take holidays at the end of the month to enjoy the last days of the year. They often visit the countryside to escape from the bustling city life.

Even the winter vacation of Japanese schools starts in late December, which causes rush in amusement parks and other entertainment locations.

That’s why I suggest you book accommodation and train tickets beforehand, if you are traveling to Japan at Christmas time and stay till New Year’s Eve.

And, of course, the hotel price during any event will raise more than usual, hence be prepared to spend a few extra bucks.

But, if you want to avoid as much crowd as possible, I recommend you to travel during early December.

Well, I have nothing left to explain regarding today’s topic.

Therefore, let’s move on to the closure part.

Conclusion

By this time, I hope you have decided what things to do in Japan in December.

I feel honored that I could help you in this regard. And, I will be even happier if you come to our country for your next trip.

Alright, see you later in another writing of dearjapanese.com. Till then, have a great time.