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5 Popular Winter Activities in Japan to try


As days become colder each week, we are drawing near winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Autumn leaves in some parts of Japan have completely shed off and we’re entering winter within a few weeks. The Japanese winter season may be a little bit different in some parts of the world as the country has different levels of coldness. But instead of curling yourself inside the blanket, why not go out and explore what Japan has to offer.


Tokyo’s Blue Grotto illumination. Photo by Nagatoshi Shimamura

One of the best attractions in Japan is seeing winter illuminations. It’s not only limited to the Christmas season but it started in the middle of the autumn season when nights are longer than days. At dusk, the lights lit up especially on tree-lined roads, temples, shrines, tourist attractions, and some public parks. The scenes are spectacular at night that you almost forget that it’s freezing outside. Most illuminations are free and government-sponsored. Tokyo and other big Japanese cities have numerous winter illumination spots to explore.


Nabe (hotpot). Photo by Helium Park

Who wants a warm, flavorful soup during winter? Of course, everybody wants to warm up and recharge! Winter has a huge influence on food. One of the most popular food to try is Nabemono or Hotpot. The dish consists of meat (fish, chicken, or thinly sliced pork) or tofu and chopped assorted vegetables boiled slowly in water. The broth is flavored with different condiments. Boiling is usually done at the center of the dinner table for everyone to share.


Skiing in Hokkaido, Japan. Photo by Oliver Dickerson on Unsplash

There are places in Japan that don’t experience snowfall so most people flock to ski resorts or ice skating centers. Even for beginners, winter sports is fun and makes you sweat. Definitely, a must-do activity and it’s also family-friendly.  Ski resorts are mostly located in the mountainous regions in Northern Japan like Hokkaido. For those who can’t travel that far, there are ice-skating rinks in the cities.


Mochitsuki. Photo by minami1777 on Pixabay.

Rice cake or Mochi is a winter staple in Japan. It is a popular New Year’s food in hopes that it would bring fortune to the person who consumes it. The making of rice cakes involves a lot of people. It’s an event created by a family or community It’s a long process and what most people see is the pounding of the rice or mochitsuki until it’s shiny and smooth. After the process, the rice cakes are left to cool and served with different flavors such as soy sauce, kinako, red beans (azuki) or nori (seaweed). If you’re a foreigner in Japan, it’s a highly recommended activity that is not found in some countries in the world.


Japanese Shrine


While some countries celebrate New Year with parties and revelries, it’s the opposite in most areas in Japan. Japanese people welcome the year with prayers by visiting a shrine or temple. During New Year’s Eve, there’s a famous ritual of ringing the bell. The next day on January 1st, people generally visit the temple to give thanks to gods for their life and wish a safe and peaceful new year.




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