Things to do in Japan in February

February is a studious month for pupils and students that follows the last trimester of the academic year. It is also the season for university entrance exams, the most prestigious of which remain very difficult to pass. Yet, February arrives in a warm and son is also in February, which happens to be the second least visited month by foreigners, after January. National tourism compensates for this loss: winter breakers are mostly Japanese or expatriates. Therefore, the occupancy rate at lodging is high for skiing resorts, such as Hakuba, close to Nagano; Yusawa in the Niigata region; and Niseko and Furano in Hokkaido island.

Climate and weather

As the last full winter month, February shows cold weather of between 0 and 5°C (32°F to 41°F), with temperatures below 0°C (32°F) in the mountainous regions facing the Sea of Japan, where snow is abundant. With February's cloudier sky than January, the sunshine's duration is lower, while the humidity starts to slowly increase.

Progressively, the transition to spring can be felt, with warmer temperatures in the south of the archipelago and also the first blossoming trees in some regions of Honshu, mostly on the Pacific coast.

National public holidays

The second month of the year has only one unworked public holiday:

  • February 11 -- Birthday of Japan’s Foundation Day

Other big national festivals are celebrated outside working hours:

  • February 3 -- Setsubun, a festival involving throwing beans to celebrate the arrival of Spring
  • February 22 -- 猫の日 neko no hi, National Cat Day in Japan
  • February 23 -- Mount Fuji Day

Top things to do

Skiing and other sliding sports remain a must. The season is at its top, with a white, thick coat of snow for several weeks and it melting down only the next month. Moreover, thermal spas offer a great and warm break for hikers. Several events span the month: snow and ice festivals are at their fullest in countryside, while popular festivals are coming back to the cities. It is also an occasion to celebrate the plum trees blossoming season during the ume matsuri, from the south to the north of Japan.

Below is a list of Japanese seasonal attractions and events in February:

Date What to do Where Related
February 3 Attend the beans throwing during the Setsubun festival at shrines (Yasaka Jinja and Heian Jingu in Kyoto) and temples (Senso-ji in Tokyo) Everywhere in Japan Event
One week early February Find out the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, one of the most popular snow festival in Japan Sapporo Event
One week early February Admire the Yuki Akari no Michi, the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival at night Otaru (Hokkaido) Event
February 14 Spend a romantic evening for Valentine’s Day on the top of an observatory deck Big cities (Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, etc.) Tradition
February 22 Enjoy Cats’ Day and find souvenirs and sweets with their likeness Everywhere in Japan Shopping
February 23 See the winter fireworks of Lake Kawaguchiko from Oike Park starting at 8 pm (there are also fireworks every weekend during February before this day) Fujikawaguchiko Event
February 25 Visit the Bai-en Plum Tree Garden at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine and enjoy a tea ceremony with Geiko and Maiko of Kamishichiken Kyoto Event
All month long Admire the ice sea and the seasonal fauna in Shiretoko National Park Shiretoko Peninsula (Hokkaido) Visit
All month long Spend a night in a traditional Japanese house in mountain Shirakawa-go Visit
All month long Enjoy an open-air ice-skating rink (FujiQ Highland, Akasaka Sacas in Tokyo, Akarenga in Yokohama, etc.) Everywhere in Japan Sport
All month long Savor fresh seasonal fish and seafood including sardines, mackerel and oysters Everywhere in Japan Food
All month long Attend one of the plum festivals that are held in parks and gardens, in and around cities, and taste umeboshi (salted and marinated plums) Everywhere in Japan (including Atami in the Izu Peninsula, Odawara and Tokyo) Event
All month long Attend the Kawazu-zakura Cherry Blossom Festival Kawazu (Izu Peninsula) Event

Travel packing tips

A diverse range of clothing should be prepared. Warm sweaters, coats and waterproof clothes will protect visitors while they enjoy outside day trips. Also, hats and gloves are essential in case of wind, especially for children. Indoors and public transportation are sometimes overheated, so it is wise to uncover quickly and only keep on an isolating layer that will dry quickly.

Moisturizing creams must be used for hands and faces. It is recommended to take your own stock of tissues, as they are extremely thin in Japan, like those distributed as marketing gifts in the streets.

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