January is the coldest month in Japan, with temperatures in single figures (30s/40s Fahrenheit) and dipping below freezing in Honshu. It is also a dry month in all but the west coast. January is good for scenic views, New Year festivities, hot spring relaxation, low season touring, and skiing…
Hokkaido, the cold north island of Japan averages -4°C (25°F) with 80 mm (3 inches) of high-quality snow in January — ideal for winter sports.
January Weather Quick Facts
- January weather summary: cold and dry
- Honshu temperatures: around 0–10°C (30–50°F)
- Honshu rain/snow: 50 mm (2 inches), 6 days
- Niseko temperatures: around -2–-7°C (20–30°F)
- Niseko snow: 100 mm (4 inches), 18 days
- New Year (Jan. 1) is Japan’s most important festival.
- January Highlights: winter scenery, skiing, hot springs, festivities
Why You Should Visit Japan in January
January is a good time to experience many aspects of Japanese culture with shrines and other events open to the public for New Year (Jan. 1).
The cold and dry weather makes it a great time for sightseeing with fewer crowds, iconic views, skiing in Sapporo and Niseko, the Mount Fuji landscape, and hot springs to enjoy.
January Average Temperature
January Average Rainfall
January: Best for Winter Sports in Japan
January brings cold winds and heavy snowfall for northern Japan. January is the most reliable month for winter sports. Early December may suffer from limited snowfall and late February may already be warming up in some places.
The northern island of Hokkaido is the best choice. It offers plenty of open space and rolling mountain terrain. Sapporo and Niseko are the most popular destinations for ski tourists and winter travelers.
Skiing in Japan
The number of (ski) tourists is very high during January in Hokkaido, so when you choose your travel dates, be sure to make a reservation as soon as possible.
Skiing in Niseko
Niseko is the most famous ski destination in Japan. The top 3 resorts are Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, and Annupuri. The Niseko“All Mountain Pass”can give an access to all three resorts.
Niseko Grand Hirafu Ski Resort is known for Japan's largest ski slope and its finest quality powder snow that is suitable for every level of skiers.
Niseko Village Ski Resort has several resort hotels such as KASARA townhouse and Hilton at the base. The resort offers dynamic and entertaining courses with many steep slopes through the forest, which are more suitable for advanced skiers and snowboarders.
Annupuri is the westernmost of the resorts and less crowded. It offers well-maintained snow slopes with gentle and difficult courses, perfect for both beginners and advanced skiers.
Skiing in Sapporo
If you have a tight schedule and cannot get to Niseko for skiing, Sapporo city has many ski resorts just 20 to 60 minutes away by car, so they can be enjoyed even on a day trip. There have extensive ski equipment and ski-wear rental services, so you can visit the resorts without bringing anything with you.
Sapporo Teine is a great little ski resort located close to Sapporo. It is only 20 km (13 miles) northwest of downtown Sapporo, a 45-minute drive. It is frequented by beginners and also caters really well to day-tripping powder hounds who want powder lines that are steep, deep, and affordable.
Skiing in Nagano, Honshu
If you are only visiting Honshu and want to experience skiing, you can consider Nagano for the great skiing and convenient accessibility (centrally located, west of Tokyo). Ski resorts Happo One and Hakuba rank the most popular among several other resorts in the area.
Traveling during the New Year holiday can make it difficult to book hotels and train tickets. If you are planning a trip during this time, it is suggested to book your flights and hotels in advance.
Tokyo Weather and Travel in January
January is the second sunniest and second driest month in Tokyo with over 184 hours of sunshine and 52 mm (2 inches) of precipitation (mostly snow) on 5 days on average Daily temperatures range from 10°C (50°F) down to 1°C (34°F) on average.
January is a good time to visit Meiji Jingu, one of Japan's most popular shrines. It is where life happens in Tokyo. Weddings, ceremonies, festivals, and events are celebrated there. In the first days of the New Year, the shrine regularly welcomes more than three million visitors for the year's first prayers, which is more than any other shrine or temple in Japan.
Shibuyais one of Tokyo's most colorful and busy districts. You can go people-watching at the manic Shibuya Crossing, say hello to the statue of Hachiko, Japan's much-loved loyal dog or experience Tokyo's best nightlife in Center Gai and Dogenzaka.
Clothing: To stay warm, we suggest wearing long-sleeved T-shirts, a sweater, warm socks, and a down coat, and maybe use heat packs.
Osaka Weather and Travel in January
January is the coldest month in Osaka. The average high is 10°C (50°F) and the average low is 3°C (38°F). And the average precipitation in January is 50 mm (2 inches), 20% of which is snow, falling on 7 days. It has low sunshine (143 hours) and low UV.
January is a nice time to visit Osaka's Universal Studios Japan (USJ), a must-see attraction for many visitors to Japan. It was the first theme park under the Universal Studios brand to be built in Asia. It's busy all year round, so you should plan it in advance to make the most of a visit.
Built at the end of the 16th century, Osaka Castle played an important role in the unification of Japan. The castle tower is surrounded by secondary citadels, gates, turrets, impressive stone walls and moats.
Clothing: Jackets and hoodies are suggested. Please note that most stores and trains are well-heated, so you may feel too hot to wear a thick coat, so layered clothes are recommended inside.
Kyoto Weather and Travel in January
January is the coldest month, with an average high temperature of 9°C (48°F) and an average low temperature of 1°C (34°F). The average precipitation in January is 50mm (2 inches) — mostly snow, falling on 8 days. Sunshine is low at 123 hours, with typically cloudy weather.
January is a great time to visit Nijo Castle, built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokuguwa Ieyasu. Nijo Castle is a large flatland castle surrounded by a moat with a high stone mall. Inside the walls, you can see two palaces known as Ninomaru and Honmaru.
Nishiki Marketis a narrow street of small food vendors with a history of over 700 years. Known as "Kyoto's Kitchen", Nishiki Market has a pleasant but lively inviting atmosphere for those who want to explore the variety of culinary delights and national cuisine that Kyoto is famous for.
Clothing: January is the coldest month in Kyoto, so you will need a down jacket, hat, gloves, and other winter gear to keep warm.
Hakone Weather and Travel in January
The climate in Hakone during January can be summarized as cold and quite dry. Daytime maximum temperatures average around 8°C (46°F), whilst at night it drops to around -3°C (28°F). The amount of rain and snow in January on average is around 54 mm (2 inches).
Of course, the number one reason to go to Hakone is to see Mount Fuji, and January is when you’ll see most snow on the summit.
January is the most suitable time for visiting Hakone Yumoto, historically known for its hot springs since the Nara Period (710–914). In the town you will find hot spring inns and footbaths. You can best experience the welcoming warmth of the famous hot springs for yourself in the cold of January.
The Hakone Open-Air Museum is where you can enjoy art outdoors. The museum exhibits internationally-famous artwork that visitors can explore outside, which balances well with its natural surroundings. Niki de Saint Phalle's "Miss Black Power" is particularly famous and a must-see. There are also many pieces by Japanese artists.
Clothing: Hakone is at a higher altitude and surrounded by mountains, so the temperature and humidity are much lower than in Tokyo. Hakone experiences rather heavy snows and cold during the winter, so be prepared with extra hats, scarves, and gloves, and warm winter clothes.
Hiroshima Weather and Travel in January
In Hiroshima, the average high-temperature is 10°C (50°F) in January, and the average low-temperature is 2°C (35°F). The average rainfall (with hardly any snow) in January is 46 mm (2 inches), falling on 16 days. Often overcast, sunshine hours are lowest of the year at 137.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is the most important sight in Hiroshima, a must-see for those who want to understand the horrors of the atomic bombing and the events that led to it and took place after it.
Clothing:January in Hiroshima is the coldest month of the year. There is a chance of snow, so it is advisable to bring your warm clothes and to wear comfortable shoes to walk.
Festivals and Events in January
January is a month with cultural festivals and events, below are best festivals and events happed at the the first month, it will offer special ways for you to explore Japan’s culture
New Year (Top National Holiday)
New Year on January 1st is the most important holiday in Japan. On New Year's Eve, the Japanese watch the popular music program on TV and visit a shrine or temple at midnight.
On January 1st, it is a tradition to visit a shrine or temple for doing hatsumode, which means to go to a shrine or temple for the first time in the new year and incorporates the wish that "the new year is a good year".
The most popular temples and shrines to experience hatsumode are Tokyo's Meiji Shrine, Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Taisha, Osaka's Sumiyoshi Taisha, and Kamakura's Tsuruoka Hachimangu.
January 1 is a very auspicious day, best started by viewing the new year's first sunrise. And the day is supposed to be full of joy and free of stress and anger, while everything should be clean and no work should be done.
Visiting Japan during New Year can be rewarding, as you have the opportunity to experience Japan's most important holiday, but it can also be frustrating, as many tourist attractions, shops and restaurants are closed, and getting around can be inconvenient, so plan well to avoid any disappointments.
Tokyo’s January Sumo Tournament
Sumo is a Japanese style of wrestling and Japan's national sport. It originated in ancient times as a performance to entertain the Shinto deities. The best way to see sumo is to attend a sumo tournament.
Six tournaments are held every year: three in Tokyo (January, May, and September), and one each in Osaka (March), Nagoya (July) and Fukuoka (November). Each tournament lasts for 15 days.
In 2021, the first Tournament will happen from January 10th to 24th January, and the tickets are sold from December 5th, 2020.
Visiting Japan with Asia Highlights
January is peak skiing season with extensive winter sports options. With Asia Highlights, we can help provide you with a customized trip around Japan that suits your interests.