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December Weather in Japan and Travel Tips

December Weather in Japan and Travel Tips

By Albee NingUpdated Jun. 9, 2022

Japan in December is cold and dry, with an average temperature of 6°C (43°F) and rainfall amounting to 80 mm (3 in). The weather in Japan varies across the northern to southern prefectures. While temperatures may dip below freezing in the northern prefecture in December, places like Okinawa in the southern part of the country are cool and pleasant.

The first half of December is the shoulder season in Japan. However, it gets crowded towards the end of December due to the Christmas and New Year holidays. We recommend you plan your travel three months in advance as flights and accommodation usually get booked up fast during the holidays.

December Weather: Quick Facts

  • Weather: cold and sunny
  • Average temperature: 8°C (46°F)
  • Average rainfall: 90 mm (4 in)
  • Clothing: winter clothes (thick coats, jackets, gloves, and warm hats)
  • Tourism: peak month for traveling in Japan, especially around Christmas and New Year holidays

Why You Should Visit Japan in December

As the country experiences clear and dry weather during this season, December is an excellent time to visit Japan. The country is lit up, and there are plenty of skiing opportunities for winter sports enthusiasts. There are special events in Kyoto and Christmas celebrations in Tokyo, making December the perfect time to visit Japan.

december average temperature
december average rainfall

Hokkaido for Illumination and Skiing

In Hokkaido, the average temperature in December is -1°C (30°F). The average maximum temperature is 14°C (57°F), and the average minimum is 9°C (48°F). December is the driest month, with around 90 mm (4 in) of rainfall. You can also expect snowfall, especially in the second half of the month.

This is when ski resorts start to open in Hokkaido, so it is the perfect time for skiing and snowboarding.

Rusutsu and Niseko are the most popular ski resorts with high-quality powder snow. Even if you are not a skiing enthusiast, you can visit onsens (hot springs) or wander around the snow parks.

Hokkaido is also known for its white illumination — a glittering display of colored lights during Christmas and New Year.

Honshu for Illuminations and Celebrations

December in Honshu is cold and dry, with an average temperature of 6°C (43°F) and only 80 mm (3 in) of rainfall. The average maximum temperature in December is 8°C (46°F), and the average minimum is 4°C (39°F).

Given the dry weather, December is a good month to travel to Honshu. Christmas celebrations, winter illuminations in Tokyo, winter seasonal foods like shabu-shabu (a hotpot dish) or sukiyaki (slow-cooked meat and veggies), onsen in Hakone, and the Japanese Alps area are the highlights Honshu offers travelers visiting Japan in December

Okinawa to Avoid Cold and Crowd

Okinawa is cool and pleasant in December, with temperatures ranging from 21°C (70°F) to 16°C (61°F) and moderate rainfall of 104 mm (4 in).

December is the driest month of the year in Okinawa, making it the perfect time to visit. Even better, you can avoid the cold winter and get away from excessive crowds in Okinawa.

You can still experience the sea and try out water sports in winter in Okinawa as the water temperature in December is 23–24°C (73–75°F). If you are a nature lover, you can also go on a whale-watching sea expedition.

Tokyo Weather and Travel in December

Tokyo in December is cold with an average maximum temperature of 12°C (54°F) and an average minimum temperature of 3°C (37°F). The city receives rainfall on about 12 days amounting to an average rainfall of 108 mm (4 in) for the month, which is moderately wet.

December is the best time for visiting Disneyland and DisneySea in Japan. You can see the many attractive Christmas celebrations, such as rides, shows, and parades with popular Disney movie characters. Disney Christmas, a Christmas event, is usually held from November to 25th December. You can spend an entire day at Disneyland. However, as this is the peak season, make sure you book your tickets to Tokyo Disney Resort in advance.

While sightseeing in Tokyo, spend some time appreciating the winter illuminations in December. Shiodome, a high-end business and leisure district in Tokyo, offers dazzling lighting displays with over 250,000 LED lights and iconic songs from movies. The Caretta Shiodome Winter Illumination event is usually held in mid-November and continues until the middle of February.

Clothing: winter clothes, such as jackets or coats, gloves, and scarves

Recommended Itinerary

Osaka Weather and Travel in December

Osaka in December is cold and sunny, with an average maximum temperature of 12°C (54°F) and an average minimum of 5°C (41°F). The city receives rainfall on about six days of the month, totaling to about 44 mm (2 in) of rainfall.

December is one of the best times to visit Universal Studios Japan and experience its Christmas extravaganza. You can witness the most spectacular Christmas show, the “World’s Most Illuminated Tree,” and other Christmas-themed experiences like new magical wand spells and festive food.

The Universal Crystal Tree is a 30 m (98 feet) tall tree that is decked up with lights and crystals. To avoid long queues, it’s best you purchase an Express Pass.

December is an excellent time to visit Osaka Castle, where you can see the Osaka Castle Illuminage. It is a unique winter illumination event as it combines spectacular light design and Japanese historical treasures. The decoration is displayed at Nishinomaru Garden in Osaka Castle from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Clothing: winter clothes, such as coats, winter jackets, and thick pants

Recommended Itinerary

Kyoto Weather and Travel in December

In Kyoto, the average maximum temperature in December is 12°C (54°F), and the average minimum temperature is 3°C (38°F). The city gets drenched with showers on about eight days of the month, with about 48 mm (2 inches) of precipitation in total.

In Kyoto, you can taste traditional Japanese tea with a geisha. Explore the back streets of Kyoto’s geisha districts with a leading foreign geisha culture expert. Taste matcha green tea and enjoy Japanese sweets in the company of a maiko (apprentice geisha) or geiko (geishas from Kyoto). There are traditional songs, dances, and games that will keep you entertained. Click some beautiful photos to capture the good times.

japanese green tea ceremony Japanese tea ceremony

Visiting museums is a great way to stay warm in the cold December weather. Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Museum is the most famous museum in Kyoto. It is an experiential museum where you can take guided tours to learn about the history of samurai and Kyoto. You can try wearing a kimono or yukata (traditional Japanese garments), go for an interactive ninja experience session, try out Zen meditation, and take a swordsmanship lesson.

Clothing: thick coats and layers of clothing to stay warm

Recommended Itinerary

Hakone Weather and Travel in December

The weather in Hakone is colder than in Tokyo. The average maximum temperature in Hakone in December is 9°C (48°F), and the average minimum temperature is -3°C (26°F). With only 43 mm (2 in) of rainfall, December is the driest month in Hakone.

If you plan to visit around this time, you must experience the magic of the natural hot springs of Hakone. There are many ryokans (traditional Japanese inn), hotels, and luxurious onsens (spas) that are excellent for overnight or weekend stays. Since it only takes 1½ hours to reach there from Tokyo, many resorts welcome travelers who come there only for the day.

Onsen series : Blue yukata on wooden bathtub Onsen

If you are looking to stay overnight in Hakone, Ashinoko Hanaori is an excellent choice. Located near Lake Ashi, it has onsens with spectacular views of the lake. If you are planning a day trip, check out Tenzan Onsen, which is easily accessible by a local bus from Hakone–Yumoto station.

Clothing: warm winter clothes, extra hats, scarves, and gloves

Sapporo Weather and Travel in December

Sapporo is cold in December, with an average maximum temperature of 2°C (36°F) and an average minimum of -4°C (25°F). You can enjoy snowfall in December with about 100 mm (4 inches) of precipitation.

It is the best time for winter sports activities and for the Sapporo white illumination, which offers a great atmosphere of holiday cheer around Christmas and New Year. Take a walk along Odori Park or enjoy magnificent views from the observatory of Sapporo TV Tower.

Sapporo is one of the best places for skiing. There are skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and sledding areas suitable for all age groups. Sapporo Bankei Ski Area is the most popular and accessible site, only 20 minutes from Sapporo city center.

Clothing: overcoats, down jackets, mufflers, snow boots, and heat packs

Events and Festivals in December

December in Japan marks the start of winter and the colder months. However, it is the perfect time for enjoying Christmas celebrations and winter illuminations along with traditional festivals and events.

Hanatouro Festival in Kyoto is the most popular festival of this season. The festival is held twice a year (in March in the Higashiyama area and in December in the Arashiyama area) and lasts for ten days.

Hanatouro means a path with flowers and lights. During Hanatouro, the streets are illuminated with lanterns and flowers and light displays.

Illuminations are displayed at some of the famous landmarks in Arashiyama, such as the Bamboo Grove and Togetsukyo Bridge. Typically, the decorations are lit up from 5:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.

Christmas and New Year holiday is the peak season for traveling around Japan. Being the holiday season, the hotels in Japan are usually fully booked. So, make sure you plan your tour at least three months in advance.

Visiting Japan with Asia Highlights

Japan is a great place to visit during your Christmas and New Year holidays. Asia Highlights can help you organize a dream vacation in Japan tailor-made your preferences. You can work with our travel advisor to craft a beautiful journey across Japan.

Why Travel with Asia Highlights During the Pandemic

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