5 Reasons Why You Should Travel to Japan in December
Traveling to Japan in December is really the perfect time to travel to Tokyo and other parts of Japan. Here are some compelling reasons why you might want to plan your trip in December and also, what to wear in Japan in the winter.
1. It’s Cold Enough to Enjoy a Hot Onsen
Traveling to Japan in December is perfect for if only one reason – onsen weather, or even better, snow onsen. One of my favorite things to do in Japan is to enjoy an onsen. If you’re not familiar with the term, an onsen is a Japanese hot spring. You can read my post Flawless Onsen Etiquette, if you want to learn more.
But in December, you can travel to places like Nagano and indulge in beautiful snowy onsens. This is one of my all-time favorite travel experiences! I still enjoy a good onsen in the summer, but there’s nothing like a hot onsen in cold weather. The Hotel Myojinkan in Matsumoto is one of the top onsens in all of Japan!
Winter in Tokyo is a perfect time of year as well to get away to nearby Hakone. Hakone is known for its onsen hot-spring properties. There’s also a lot of nature and hiking there as well. You can easily plan a day or two from Tokyo to Hakone to experience some of the most beautiful onsen in the world. Hakone is also a fabulous day trip destination as well from Tokyo.
I spent a weekend at Kai Hakone which is an affiliate of Hoshino Resorts. These properties are absolutely stunning and offer some of the finest hospitality and design in Japan.
This property isn’t cheap, but if you can split a room with someone, it’s an extraordinary experience. You basically sip tea all day in the lobby between dips in the onsen.
2. There are Fewer Tourists in Japan in December
Another great part about traveling to Japan in December is that it’s a low point in tourism. Although I love seeing Fall and Cherry Blossoms, these times of year are very busy. I think Japan is just as enjoyable in the low season. There are few people and it has a nice and relaxing vibe.
Christmas in Tokyo is actually really cool because of all the amazing illuminations around the city.
Roppongi has a stunning display of Christmas decorations and illuminations, as well a yearly Christmas market at Roppongi Hills. The market was impressively very similar to the one I went to in Bruges one year with Christmas treats, ornament shopping, and lots of Belgian waffles. If you’re actually curious about Christmas in Bruges, read my article here.
3. Prices are Cheaper in Tokyo in December
Prices for hotels and airfare in Japan are higher during peak times. If you travel to Japan in December, you will pay slightly less for nicer hotels like the Park Hyatt in Tokyo. You can snag a lot more deals this time of year. Read my review of the Park Hyatt Tokyo. I actually stayed here in December for half the price.
4. Skiing in Hokkaido is Amazing
Skiing in Hokkaido, Japan is one of the best places in the world. Skiers from all over the world, especially Australia and Asia, come to Hokkaido for its fresh powder and snow.
5. The Snow Monkey Onsen in Nagano
Another great part about traveling to Japan in December and in the winter is that you can not only travel to Nagano, but you can visit the famous snow monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park. This snow monkey onsen is one of the most popular attractions in all of Japan. Simply purchase a JR Pass, take the Shinkansen to Nagano and explore!
Tips for Traveling to Japan in December
If you want to travel to Japan in December, there’s really not a lot more that you need to account for except for the weather which isn’t too bad. But, I’m used to Boston winters so that’s another story.
I highly recommend looking into a day or weekend trip to Hakuba if you’re in Tokyo. I swear you’ll never forget your first snow onsen experience. If you enjoy nature and a hot bath, trust me it’ll feel like Narnia.
The best way to travel Japan is via rail, but you need to purchase a rail pass before you leave for Japan. If you plan on doing any traveling at all outside of Tokyo on the Shinkansen, the rail pass is 99% of the time a better deal in terms of hassle-free travel and savings.
Japan in December – What to Wear
What to wear in December isn’t too different than the fall. I don’t find it exceedingly cold in Tokyo, but you’ll definitely want to bring a coat and some layers if you’re prone to getting cold.
The weather isn’t that cold either in Tokyo, but I recall it was a bit colder in Kyoto. Bring a comfortable jacket and walking shoes. Of course, if you’re heading to the mountains, definitely bring more layers.
UNIQLO is all over Tokyo and Japan and they have the best winter layers you can possibly find. They are light and effective. So that’s always an option too and that’s actually what I did the last time I traveled to Japan in December.