January is the first month of the calendar year in Japan, it also announces the beginning of the third quarter in schools and universities for pupils and students.
The tourist season is relatively quiet during winter. January ranks among the least popular months of the year by foreign travelers, if not the lowest.
This low-season period gives the best deals to small-budget travelers, who can find flights and accommodation much cheaper than usual. Moreover, not crowded sightseeing spots are so much more pleasant to visit, even if the sleeping nature of Japan does not allow to witness its full colorful potential, especially in Japanese gardens.
Climate and weather
Winter is here from the North to the South of Japan, with more or less intensity depending on the geographical location.
The archipelago hosts numerous snow-covered ski resorts, especially on Hokkaido Island and in the Japanese Alps. Big cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka have a pretty cold winter but not so wet and mostly sunny. Southern islands, from Kyushu to Okinawa, show nicer temperatures.
However, watch out for the sunset, which occurs around 5pm and sometimes implies to wake up early in order to ensure a whole day of visits.
National public holidays
On the other hand, train stations and national airports see their traffic double: Japanese people travel to go to their family’s house or take some fresh air. It is interesting for tourists to stroll around big avenues become strangely calm.
Non-worked days are:
- January 2 -- Emperor’s wishes in Tokyo Imperial Palace
- January 9 -- Seijin no Hi: celebration for Coming of Adult Age (at 20 years old) in Japan
Top things to do
The capital city of Japan happens to be very pleasant in January. More quiet and less touristy, Tokyo is still charming under the soft winter sunlight with a clear skyline. And Osaka always holds on lively evenings to be explored by nightlife lovers.
Below is a list of Japanese seasonal attractions and events in January:
|Date||What to do||Where||Related|
|January 1 to 7||Mingle with the crowd coming to celebrate the new year during the first visit to temples or shrines (hatsumode)||Everywhere in Japan||Tradition|
|January 1 to 15||Do sales shopping and enjoy fukubukuro, a Japanese tradition of buying a blind bag containing several products at a reduced price||Everywhere in Japan||Shopping|
|January 6||Attend the firemen's parade in Harumi||Tokyo||Event|
|January 8 to 22||Watch Sumo wrestling during their first tournament of the year held at Kokugikan Stadium, and then enjoy a chanko-nabe meal||Tokyo||Tradition|
|2nd Monday in January||Attend to Omato Taikai Archery Competition at Sanjusangendo Temple||Kyoto||Event|
|4th Saturday in January||See the Yamayaki burning festival held on Mount Wakakusayama||Nara||Event|
|All month long||Enjoy the last winter illuminations: most of Christmas lights being turn off as early as December 25, e.g. around Marunouchi Station or at Shinjuku Terrace City||Tokyo||Attraction|
|All month long||Go up to the Tokyo Sky Tree on a clear day and admire the view to the snowy Mount Fuji||Tokyo||Attraction|
|All month long||Skiing in the Japanese Alps and elsewhere||Nagano, Niigata, Hokkaido...||Sport|
|All month long||Try an open-air onsen bath||Everywhere in Japan (Beppu, Hakone...)||Tradition|
|All month long||Meet Japanese macaques who enjoying natural hot springs under the snow||Jigokudani||Attraction|
|All month long||Plan on hiking through the most easily accessible mounts||Mount Takao, Mount Mitake, Mount Kurama, Kamakura trails||Attraction|
|All month long||Visit temples and gardens under a white coat||Kyoto||Attraction|
|All month long||Taste crab, the seasonal seafood, in a specialized restaurant||
Everywhere in Japan (e.g. Osaka)
Travel packing tips
In your luggage, layered clothing is relevant to be cold-safe and rain-ready. Thick and brand new socks are useful to walk indoors sacred places or houses. Sunglasses can also be needful in case of any outdoor stroll.
In your toiletry bag, cough and cold medicines must be brought, except for Vicks balm which can be purchase on site.