Things to do in Japan in December
In December, month of annual celebrations, Japan dresses up with many nocturnal lights, pleasing both children and adults. When students finish their second term exams, Japanese companies organize their end-of-the-year party, called bonenkai, which mostly consists of gathering with colleagues in izakaya pubs to drink.
The end of the year has one of the lowest tourist attendances. Most tourists during this period are families coming to spend an enchanting and unique Christmas. You can also find groups of young adults coming to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
Accommodation and transportation are still busy in December as Japanese people book two to three days at the end of the month to visit their families and escape from the cities to visit countryside towns and mountains.
Climate and weather
December is the first month of winter. Temperatures drop in most regions, though they are not as cold as in January or February. On average, temperatures in Tokyo and Kyoto range from 7 to 12°C (44 to 53°F). Depending on the year, the temperature can be warmer; during the day, the temperature can be around 15°C (59°F), though it can be less than 0°C (32°F) in the mornings. It can also snow, and snow has already settled in Hokkaido or the Japanese Alps by this time.
In the south, Kyushu has a warmer atmosphere that reaches temperatures above 10°C, even during the night, though it also has a higher humidity. Colder weather is usually also drier, meaning a clear blue sky. Even though there isn’t a lot of sun (about 10 hours a day), it is balanced with a stronger intensity, which allows to appreciate beautiful outdoor walks.
National public holidays
In 2019, December 23rd is not a National public holiday anymore. From 2020 on, the Birthday of the Japanese Emperor (Tenno Tanjobi) will be celebrated on February 23rd to comply with the new emperor Naruhito’s birthday.
However, note that many stores, restaurants, museums and gardens are closed from December 29th to January 3rd.
Top things to do
Urban tourism offers many attractions. At the beginning of the month, you can still see Japanese maple 🍁 trees, while Christmas lights are already illuminating the city at sunset. Daytime visits can easily continue into the evenings, when end-of-the-year animations cheer up visitors and Japanese people in bars and malls. Note that Christmas in Japan is a commercial celebration, and not a religious one: everything remains open on December 25th.
Here are some activities to plan in December:
Travel packing tips
We recommend bringing typical warm winter clothing to visit Japan in December. Choose a comfortable, warm and flexible coat. Scarves, hats and gloves are essential items for all travelers. You should also bring thick tights, sweaters and warm underwear.
Trains and metros, as well as stores and other indoor shopping centers are largely heated (sometimes too much), while temples remain at outdoor temperatures.
We advise bringing your own usual beauty and skincare products as they are adapted to your skin and guarantee optimal protection against the cold.