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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

GUIDE January

A bright, colorful and cold start to the year

Beginning with the New Year holidays, January is one of the colder months on the calendar. A spike in travel during the holiday season can make it difficult to book tickets and accomodations early in the month. It is, however, a good time to experience many aspects of Japanese culture with shrine visits and other events open to the public. It's also a great time for winter sports and relaxing hot spring stays.

Know Before You Go

  • Expect prices to be higher and options more limited when seeking hotels or booking plane or train tickets around New Year
  • Many shops and big department stores hold sales running through the first week of January
  • January is peak ski season with heavy snowfall and powder conditions reported at the country's top resorts
  • Many of the biggest illumination events and light displays, beginning in November, continue through January

Hot spring resorts like Ginzan Onsen in Yamagata receive record numbers of visitors in January

Experiencing Oshogatsu

Despite it being a family oriented-holiday by nature, there are ways you can enjoy Japanese New Year as a visitor. Hatsumode is the practice of visiting shrines at the very beginning of the year. Even if your interest is purely secular, the festive atmosphere and food stalls make such events worth a look.

One shrine with an especially colorful New Year celebration is Itsukushima-jinja in Miyajima , Hiroshima . From January 1 through 5, traditional dance performances are held attracting large crowds. For the full New Year experience, you can travel to the island on December 31 to take in the Chinkasai Fire Festival then stay up to catch the first sunrise on the following day.

Itsukushima-jinja with a rare dusting of snow

Shop till you drop

Among the significant “firsts” of the New Year, hatsuuri (or “first sale”) commands special prominence in big cities. Scores of people line up in front of department stores and other shops with the hope of snagging a major deal on a desired product. One of the more unique practices is that of the fukubukuro, an opaque bag packed with several random items for a total value well beyond their individual prices.

From either January 1 or 2, stores open their doors to eager shoppers at major Tokyo nerve centers like Ginza, Shibuya , Harajuku , and Aoyama. Ginza offers upscale fare while Shibuya caters to a younger crowd. Check individual store opening schedules to stand a chance of snagging one of the best bargains.

Along with Omotesando, Ginza is one of Tokyo's most iconic shopping districts

Coming of age rituals

Following hot on the heels of New Year, Japan celebrates Coming of Age Day at city halls and public spaces around the country on the second Monday of the month. As with other family-oriented holidays, it's not something you can participate in directly, but you may spot groups of exotically coiffured twenty year old women moving between social engagements in expensive kimono. And there are some places where the event takes on a more public dimension.

Held on January 14 every year, the Omato Taikai archery tournament at Kyoto's Sanjusangendo honors the centuries old tradition of firing arrows, the length of the temple's main hall. More than 2000 practitioners of kyudo—many of them 20 year old women—gather at the hall clad in a wide array of colorful kimono. Whether or not you're familiar with the art, the dedication and pageantry on display makes for quite a spectacle.

The peak ski season

January is peak ski season with great winter sport options from beginning to end. Where early December may suffer from limited snowfall and late February may already be warming up in some places, January generally has the driest and highest quality snow.

If winter sports are a priority, consider staying at a major resort location in Hokkaido , Nagano , or Niigata . Hokkaido benefits from a long season, with high quality powder and a wide range of off piste skiing to choose from. Those based in Tokyo may wish to explore the resorts more conveniently located in the Northern Japan Alps and Myoko range .

Nagano's resorts are invitingly white in January

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