5 Japanese Winter Festivals You Must Experience At Least Once

Winter in Japan is a magical time with fluffy white snow covering majestic mountains and plenty of opportunities for skiing and winter sports. Travelers who are in the country during this season will get to experience a winter wonderland in the country with activities such as onsen, skiing, and especially snow festivals. 

Make the most of Japan snow by hitting one (or more) of the many winter festivals throughout the country. 



Sapporo Snow Festival

かがみ~ on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The first snow in Japanese city Sapporo falls in October or November, one of the earliest places that see snowfall in the country. So, it’s only fitting that the city has the most popular celebration of wintertime. 

Two million local and international travelers flock to Sapporo, Japan every year to witness one of the most popular winter festivals in the entire world: Sapporo Snow Festival. For one week in February, ice sculptures of all shapes and sizes are set up in three different zones around the city. Light-up events from sunset to 10:00 pm are a must-see during the week. 

Sapporo is also a good jump-off point for winter sports and outdoor activities in Hokkaido. Book a Lake Shinotsu Ice Fishing Half-Day Tour with KKday

When: February 4-11, 2020



Yokote Kamakura Festival

via Chris Lewis on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Yokote Kamakura Festival features one of the many Japanese traditions that have endured for the past 400 years in the city of Yokote in Akita Prefecture. During the festival, countless of Kamakura or traditional snow huts remarkably similar to igloo are found all over the city. Inside each one is an altar dedicated to the water deity, where locals pray for clean and fresh water. 


via Chris Lewis on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)


Invited by children, visitors can even make their way inside the Kamakura to eat, drink, and experience what it’s like to live in this traditional Japanese home. 

When: February 15-16, 2020



Icicles of Misotsuchi Light Up

Ryo Fujita via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Found in the great natural landscape of Chichibu, the Icicles of Misotsuchi is a natural formation that’s one of the best tourist attractions in Saitama Prefecture. While hikers pass through these forests all year round, winter is hands-down the best time to visit the area when the increasingly cold temperature makes the icicles grow longer and more striking. 

For about a month in the heart of winter, a special light-up event is also held after sunset. Brightly colored lights are set up at the site, illuminating the famous icicles and transforming the frozen landscape into a vibrant work of art. 

When: January 12, 2020 – February 11, 2020



Tokamachi Snow Festival

via Tokamachi Tourist Association

Japanese snow festivals are extremely popular nowadays, with plenty of people from all over the world flying into the country just to celebrate with the locals. As one of the earliest modern snow festivals, Tokamachi Snow Festival played a significant part in popularizing the Japanese tradition to the world. 

Head to the city of Tokamachi in Niigata Prefecture to see a more traditional take on Japanese winter celebrations. While similar to the Sapporo Snow Festival, the three-day celebration in Tokamachi is more laid-back, focused on fostering joy and camaraderie throughout the city. 

When: February 14-16, 2020



Miyama Snow Lantern Festival

via Kyoto Miyama Tourism Association

A small town in the heart of Kyoto Prefecture is Miyama, known for its exquisitely preserved village of thatched-roof houses and beautiful forested backdrop. The arrival of snow in this Japanese rural town transforms it into a postcard-worthy landscape. 

During the Snow Lantern Festival, lanterns light up the tiny village and kayabuki homes are illuminated at night. Witness the awe-inspiring event by booking a day tour from Kyoto via KKday

When: January 25, 2020 – February 1, 2020



*Featured image via 美山かやぶきの里「雪灯廊」 on Facebook