Tokyo is well located for a host of winter snow activities within easy reach by train. Get out of the city and enjoy these day trips (or weekend getaways) to truly appreciate the diversity of Japan’s climate, mountain scenery and culture.
Winter Activities at Yuzawa
Situated 200km from Japan’s capital, Yuzawa town is just 77 minutes away from Tokyo, thanks to the efficient bullet train service. Yuzawa is the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, providing fresh clean air and stunning mountain scenery far from city crowds.
The resort of Yuzawa is a winter sports paradise with 16 ski areas and plenty of opportunity to take to the slopes in this town of snow and lights. In winter, the town is enhanced by candles, colourful lights and fireworks lighting up the pristine white backdrop. Resorts compete to offer memorable themed fireworks extravaganzas to thrill visitors and pleasure-seekers. Beyond the snow activities, you’ll find restaurants, karaoke bars, museums and homely Japanese inns to enhance your winter visit.
Scenic Onsen Bathing
One of the best places to experience an onsen (hot springs) is Manza Onsen, a resort town some 1800 metres above sea level on the snowy slopes of Mount Shirane volcano. There are both indoor and outdoor baths with wonderful views. These hot natural spring waters are the most acidic and sulphurous in Japan and are said to provide healing to all types of skin ailments, joint pain, poor metabolism and sluggish circulation.
The open air baths are in a tranquil setting and are truly therapeutic when you relax and take in the surrounding natural beauty. Stay overnight at one of the local ryoken (inns) to give you time to explore the nearby walking trails through the valley to the scalding yubatake (hot water fields) which are too hot to bathe in. The nearby observation point provides wonderful views of the town.
Fun at Karuizawa Prince Snow Park
Just an hour from Tokyo you can be out on the slopes at the Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort which offers superb skiing for all levels from nervous beginner to competent intermediate. Non-skiers may prefer the tubing and snowboarding in the Snow Park or visiting the huge shopping complex nearby! Kids have their fun with a snow escalator for sledging, keeping them off the faster slopes.
With 10 trails in the 30 hectare snow park and a vertical drop of 215 metres on runs exceeding one kilometre, Karuizawa Prince Resort is a top place for winter sports.
Pick Strawberries in Winter!
Strawberries are commonly associated with sunny summer days but there are several strawberry picking gardens around Tokyo that are open from late December to late March. Strawberry picking is usually charged as a fixed price for a set amount of time, so you can pick and eat to your heart’s content for your allotted time.
One of the oldest strawberry farms is Kawatsura at Chiba. This family-run totally organic operation is best visited in the morning as ripe fruit is usually picked out by noon. Expect to pay up to 2,000 yen (US$18) in high season.
Popular Iijumia Flower Garden at Kanagawa offers 30-minute slots for strawberry picking but visitors often have to wait their turn. You can also pick other fruit and vegetables including cabbage, daikon and sweet potatoes in the winter months and tomatoes and melons in summer. The nearby Strawberry House at Kanagawa offers a variety of different strawberries and is only open on weekends and national holidays.
Enjoy the Christmas Illuminations Around Tokyo
The winter illuminations around Tokyo are well worth planning your visit to see. Districts compete to put on the best illuminations keeping standards high and illuminations plentiful. As well as strings of twinkling LED lights, the illuminations include projection mapping and choreographed digital effects in this twinkly extravaganza.
Best places to see the illuminations are at the Caretta Shiodome, Keyakizaka shopping street in Roppongi Hills, the trees and gardens in Midtown and the stunning illuminations in Omotesando Hills.
Christmas Illuminations and snow fun around Tokyo starts in mid-November, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy all that this world-class city has to offer during the winter season.