Japan in Winter – Explore the Wonders of this Majestic Country
When the cold winds blow and land is bathed in snow, it means winter has come once again. Japan is a beautiful country and the winter season brings with a new dimension to explore. Snow festivals in the northern regions, spotting the rare red-crowned cranes or dashing down the mountains on skis, there’s a bountiful trove of experiences exclusive to the winter season waiting for you to explore.
Spot the Elegant Red-Crowned Cranes
Head north towards the eastern parts of Hokkaido to the Kushiro Marsh, one of the best places in the world to find flocks of re-crowned cranes. It’s the largest marshland in Japan and home to a multitude of species of plants and animals such as eagles, salamanders, foxes etc. However, it is the red-crowned crane that truly draws people to the area. A symbol of happiness, longevity and fidelity, the elegant birds are a sight to behold and have held a special place in the artistic works of Japan for centuries.
You’ll need to go to one of the feeding sites such as Tsurui-Ito Tancho Sanctuary to have a chance to witness these beautiful creatures.
Journey to Toyama’s Snow Country
Deep within rural Toyama prefecture lies the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Gokayama and its villages of Suganuma and Ainokura, granted such status for their gasshō-zukuri houses. These houses were named after their look which resembles that of hands in prayer.
The houses at Suganuma sit by a scenic riverside but, if you wish to stay a night under one of these historic houses, Ainokura offers accommodation with a traditional living experience to visitors. Yusuke and Syoshichi are two such gasshō-zukuri, 150 and 200 years old respectively, that offer an overnight stay with a dinner sourced from local produce.
An Igloo Building Tradition Over 450 Years Old
In Japan’s Akita prefecture, a tradition exists that goes back 450 years and is still as popular as ever even today. During the Yokote Snow Festival, more than 80 kamakura igloos are created along with hundreds of miniature kamakura, all of which are lit from inside by candles to create a truly enchanting scene. The festival takes place on the 15th and 16th of February each year.
Take a stroll along the town’s many streets to find illuminated kamakura, old samurai residences and, at the end of the path, the Yokote Castle beautifully encapsulated in snow. If you’re a fan of art, make sure to head to the Akita Museum of Art in Akita City which houses an exceptional collection of paintings by the famous artist, Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita.
Have Fun on the Slopes at ski-out Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono
Winter sports enthusiasts from all over the world have long considered Niseko to be a must-ski destination. It’s one of Japan’s most foreigner-friendly ski resorts, with English being widely spoken. It’s known for its exceptional powder snow, challenging tree lines, varied trails, and cosy village offering plenty of après-ski options.
The Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono is the ultimate ski-in, ski-out luxury resort with breathtaking views of Hokkaido’s Mount Fuji. The hotel’s diverse dining options will easily satisfy your hunger after a day on the slopes working up an appetite. Go on a journey through China’s rich culinary heritage at China Kitchen, feast on the best Hokkaido ingredients from land and sea prepared with a French touch at Molière Montagne, and dine on exceptional sushi from a Michelin-starred chef at Molière Montagne.
Aside from incredible snow, there’s one more thing that Japan has to offer skiers that other countries don’t: a soak in a natural onsen hot spring bath. After a long day of skiing, this is the perfect way to relax your muscles.