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Japan Weather in December 2023, Travel Tips (for First-Timers)

Japan Weather in December 2023, Travel Tips (for First-Timers)

By RitaUpdated May. 18, 2023

December sees the arrival of winter (December to February) in Japan, with bright skies and cold temperatures throughout the country.

Snowfall typically hits north Japan more frequently in late December when the skiing season is approaching. Meanwhile, central and south Japan stay dry most of the time. Additionally, you can expect warmer temperatures earlier in the month.

Exotic oriental culture, fantastic winter illuminations, and traditional hot spring bathing make Japan an ideal destination for Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Find out about average temperatures, rainfall, and tips on where to go and what to wear in Japan in December below...

Japan Weather in December: Averages

Japan Weather in December
  • Temperature range: 5–11°C (42–52°F)
  • Rainfall: 65 mm (3 inches)
  • Rainy days: 7
  • Sunny days: 24  
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Weather of Japan’s Major Cities in December

Japan City Ave. Min. Temp. Ave. Max. Temp. Average Rainfall/Snowfall
Sapporo -4°C (25°F) 2°C (35°F) 113 mm (4 in) of snow
Tokyo 4°C (39°F) 12°C (54°F) 58 mm (2 in)
Kyoto 4°C (38°F) 12°C (54°F) 57 mm (2 in)
Osaka 5°C (42°F) 12°C (54°F) 56 mm (2 in)
Hakone 5°C (42°F) 12°C (50°F) 48 mm (2 in)
Nara 2°C (36°F) 11°C (53°F) 57 mm (2 in)
Hiroshima 4°C (39°F) 12°C (54°F) 54 mm (2 in)
Okinawa 17°C (62°F) 22°C (71°F) 111 mm (4 in)

Hokkaido and Northern Japan: Snow Wonderland

The lovely chocolate factory in Hokkaido The lovely chocolate factory in Hokkaido

In December, north Japan can be freezing and snowy with an average temperature of -1°C (30°F). You can expect snowfall, particularly in the second half of the month.

The snowy weather turns north Japan into a winter wonderland: ski resorts reopen and winter illuminations continue.

Because of the snow, some roads might be blocked. You’re suggested to take a private tour, which is helpful to eliminate the hassles and flexible to avoid such seasonal disruptions.

Suggested reading: How to Plan a Japan Winter Trip>>>

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Tokyo and Central Japan: Great for Atmospheric Winter Celebrations 

Illumination displays in Tokyo Illumination displays in Tokyo

Central Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka…) is cold and dry in December, averaging 6°C (43°F). The sunny weather softens the cold temperatures in the daytime.

You would have the highest chance of getting a clear view of spectacular Mount Fuji in December. Christmas celebrations, winter illuminations in Tokyo, ryokan inns and hot springs in Hakone, and the Japanese Alps area are other December highlights.

As December is usually a great time for family reunions/ vacations, you might be interested in our hand-picked family tour: 2-Week Japan Private Family Vacation>>>  or would like to get some inspiration about planning your family trip in December.

Okinawa and Southern Japan: Winter Getaway

Kushida Shrine in December Kushida Shrine in December

Unlike the cold central and north, southern Japan is still cool and pleasant.

December is the driest month of the year in southern Japan with temperatures ranging from 21°C (70°F) and moderate rainfall of 104 mm (4 in).

Water activities and sunbathing are still available. If you are a nature lover, you can also go on a whale-watching sea expedition.

Learn about how to plan a trip to Japan>>>

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The 5 Best Places to Visit in Japan in December

Best Places to Visit in Japan in December Best Places to Visit in Japan in December

Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka allow a summative view of Japan. You could discover their highlights with few crowds in the first half of December, but to encounter atmospheric festival celebrations, visit around Christmas and New Year.

Snow and hot springs are the themes of winter in Japan. Nagano and Hokkaido won’t disappoint you. Learn more about how long to spend in these cities>>>

1. Tokyo: Most Festive Celebrations, Winter Illuminations

Travelling with our private guide in Tokyo Travelling with our private guide in Tokyo

Tokyo in December is fairly good for outdoor activities with plenty of sunny days. If you prefer a warmer and less-crowded time in Tokyo, visit in early December.

As it is the time for celebrations, Tokyo is full of festival atmosphere. The streets and shopping malls are decorated with shining illuminations from late November.

You could browse Christmas markets, celebrate Christmas with your favorite Disney Characters, and join in the New Year’s countdown parties in late December.

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2. Kyoto: Traditional Cultural Experiences in Heated Buildings

In Kyoto, the average maximum temperature in December is 12°C (54°F).

As Kyoto is an ancient capital, its traditional cultural experiences are great ways to escape the cold weather. Whether you’re on a couple’s vacation or a family trip, Kyoto has something to offer.

Inside heated premises, taste traditional Japanese tea with a geisha, try on a kimono, go for an interactive ninja experience session, and take a swordsmanship lesson.

With a magical atmosphere, the bell-ringing ceremonies in Kyoto’s temples are a special way to welcome the New Year in Japan.

Witness the Highlights of Mountain and Sea in West Japan

3. Osaka: Mouthwatering Food and Super Nintendo World

Playing games in the Super Nintendo World Playing games in the Super Nintendo World

Osaka in December is generally sunny and dry, with some occasional rain or snow.

During the cold days, sampling authentic Japanese food is ideal for warming up and learning about local life. As much as Tokyo is popular for its fancy Michelin cuisine, Osaka is well-known for affordable street food.  

The holiday season is also celebrated in Osaka. Winter illuminations are easily found everywhere, and don’t miss the eye-catching Osaka Castle Illumination. You and your kids can experience a Christmas extravaganza in Universal Studios and play games in its Super Nintendo World.

4. Nagano: Encounter Snow Monkeys

Snow Monkeys are bathing in a hot spring. Snow Monkeys are bathing in a hot spring.

In December, Nagano experiences cold and snowy weather conditions, with average temperatures ranging from -2°C to 6°C (28°F to 43°F). Blanketed by snow, you could fully immerse yourselves in winter fun.

Your Nagano trip would not be complete without a hot spring experience. You could also capture iconic pictures in Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park: photograph snow monkeys soaking in the hot springs. Skiing among the breathtaking scenery is exciting as well.

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5. Hokkaido: Say Hi to Cute Penguins in a Snow World

Penguin walk in Hokkaido Penguin walk in Hokkaido

Travelling to Hokkaido, you’ll step into a snow world. Go skiing, take a dip in an ice village, and stroll the beautifully-lit paths along rivers in Otaru...

If you’re travelling with kids, don’t miss the traditional winter penguin walk in Asahiyama Zoo after mid-December. You could see the adorable penguins waddle along their purpose-built path.

Full of winter illuminations, December offers a great atmosphere of holiday cheer around Christmas and New Year.

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Costs and Crowding in December

 Ginzan Onsen in North Japan Ginzan Onsen in North Japan

You could discover Japan with few crowds and lower costs in the first half of December. You could get around easier and enjoy the iconic attractions without having to fight through crowds of tourists.

However, it gets crowded towards the end of December due to the Christmas and New Year holidays. With high demand, flights and hotels are easily booked up during the holidays. Their prices always rocket as well. Thus, you’d better book your private trip at least half a year in advance to lock in the price and enjoy early-bird benefits.

Check the classic Japan tours or contact us to customize your own private tour! With us, you enjoy 100% refund of any payments made to Aisa Highlights prior to 3 weeks before departure (See more on our booking policy).

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What to Pack in December

If you head to central and northern Japan, heavy winter clothing is essential to keep you warm. Pack overcoats, down jackets, mufflers, snow boots, and heat packs. Don't forget to bring along winter accessories, such as hats, scarves, and gloves.

On the warmer southern islands, “summer/autumn” layers are enough to adjust to the changes of weather in the day and night.

Sun protection is suggested because of the abundant sunny days.

Check more details about the best times to visit Japan: for the most comfortable weather, for the lowest crowds... 

Monthly Weather and Travel Information for Japan

Learn about the weather in Japan for 12 months and find out the best places to visit each month.

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