January is in mid-winter in Japan. It's the coldest and driest month of the year. With its long extent from north to south, the further south in Japan you go, the warmer weather you can get (Sapporo averages below freezing and Okinawa is mild in January).
Snow falls more frequently than in December (though less in quantity). Thus, January is the best time for winter sports and experiencing a ryokan (Japanese inn) with hot springs.
At the end of the holiday season, Japan's festive celebrations provide an atmospheric way to welcome in the New Year with your beloved and family. After the first week of January, you're likely to enjoy discounts on hotels/flights and quieter attractions.
Find out about average temperatures, rainfall, and tips on where to go and what to wear in Japan in January below...
Japan Weather in January: Averages
- Temperature range: 2–9°C (35–48°F)
- Rainfall: 67 mm (2 inches)
- Rainy days: 8
- Sunny days: 23
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Alisa Liu was my contact person for Asia Highlights. She was remarkably punctual, she was thoughtful, and she handle an emergency on my end, with grace and patience. She recommended great hotels in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka Japan that put us in the center of the action. The guides she choose were personable, punctual a knowledgeable about their cities.More
Brent Zadorozny, Oct 2023
Started using Asia Highlights to plan my trip to Japan. Sharon was very helpful, giving me all the information I would need for the tour. I would definitely use Asia Highlights again, when planning another trip to Asia.More
Rachel Nelson, Oct 2023
Our airport pick-up went very smoothly. Our guide, Vivian, on the second day was very nice, very accommodating, took into account our preferences. In Osaka, our trip to the castle was a very long walk with lots of steps to climb and quite honestly wasn’t very interesting. But Dotonburi is a must-see and we enjoyed that very much.Our trip to Hiroshima was very memorable. I highly recommend it. Our guide, Etsuko, was very knowledgeable and kind. The trip to Miyajima island, on the other hand, wasn’t too memorable. Our next city, Kyoto, is a truly wonderful place to visit. All the temples we went to were very interesting and very distinctive from each other (Kinkakuji temple, Nijo castle, Sanjusangendo temple,Kiyumizo temple, Fushimi Inari shrine, Kasuga Taisha shrine, Tojaidi temple). The sake tour was a downer and wouldn’t recommend it.Our guide, Ritsuko, was a darling. She was very knowledgeable too and kind and warm and easy to talk to. Our last tour in Tokyo was a rainy day and Sue, our guide, was able to change our tour to the next day. She was so efficient and so accommodating and so kind and very knowledgeable too.More
Mrs Cristina Hidalgo Loris, Oct 2023
Very good tour of Japan
Very good tour around Japan for 10 days, including Tokyo, Hakone and Kyoto. Excellent guides and experiences. Albee, the tour organiser, was always available to sort out changes to itinerary or extra requests.More
Guy Slimmon, Oct 2023
Everything is good
All of the hotels were wonderful and our guides were super friendly, knowledgeable and flexible. We had a 10 day trip that included multiple cities and lots of different sights, we squeezed in as much as we could, including a 2 day hiking trip to Mt. Fuji (our guide Sun Nan was awesome!). Our guide in Tokyo, Jennifer, was lovely and our guide for 2 days in Kyoto, Dennis, was also super great. We did a food tour in Osaka with Vivian which was nice Sallie Fujimoto-SwunMore
Ideale Tran, Oct 2023
Thank you for the wonderful experience…
Thank you for the wonderful experience we all truely enjoyed. From the beginning (making first contact with Sharon from Asia Highlights) to the end (Saying good bye to our amazing guide Lilly) the experience was top notch. Great communication while preparing the trip and excellent local knowledge of our tour guide. I can highly recommend Asia Highlights and would not hesitate to use them again for our next trip.More
Dany Gruosso, Oct 2023
Vacations in Japan
The guides Jessie and Vivian were very kind and professionals and the drivers as well. In a future vacation we will get in touch with Asia Highlights without a doubt.More
Hilda Andrade, Oct 2023
Experience with Asia Highlights
This was my first time working with a travel agent to plan an international trip and because of the seamless experience I had, I have decided to always work with an agent when booking international trips. Asia Highlights did an amazing job in ensuring we found a trip that worked well for our budget and provided us with special experiences in Japan that exceeded our expectations. From travel logistics in Japan to lodging and activities, we felt taken care of. If I had known that travel agents were this helpful, I would have worked with them in my prior travels. I definitely plan to book my next trip to Asia with this agent.More
Adie Ballantyne, Oct 2023
Jason and Cathy from Asia Highlights…
Jason and Kathy from Asia Highlights did a great job for us. They were very responsive and professional. Hotel choices and attractions made for a wonderful first time trip to Japan.More
Norman and Mary Van Zante, Sep 2023
This was one of the best experiences in…
This was one of the best experiences in Travel that I have ever had... and I have traveled extensively. The reliability of the the driver and guide, the kindness each displayed (different people in different cities same result) and the flexibility to work with my family's requests was outstanding. I now wish for this experience where ever I may travel next!More
Donna Huck, Sep 2023
First and foremost, this review is based strictly on prompt response from Asia Highlights.I was browsing Asia Highlights website on the night of September 17th 2023 and really impressed of the positive reviews. So I decided to send an e-mail for an estimate of a private tour guide in Tokyo Japan for 6 days/7 nights including hotel accommodation for my 90-year-old father and I. I provided as much information as I can what areas of interest we would like to visit. I was really expecting a 72-hour delay response from Asia Highlights given time difference in California and Japan. The following day, I received an e-mail from Kate Long. Impressive! Kate provided a very detailed suggested itinerary with great consideration for my 90-year-old father. I truly appreciated her thoughtfulness! I will definitely reach out to Asia Highlights on our next trip! Thank you Kate!More
F K, Sep 2023
Perfectly planned and organized
Albee at Asia Highlights created a diverse, fun-filled itinerary for our trip. She listened carefully to our interests and made sure that we made the best use of our time in Japan. Our local guides, drivers and vehicles were excellent. Albee was always available to answer all my questions with a lightening fast response time. A very memorable experience and I would definitely book with Asia Highlights again.More
Carol Ann Paget Brown, Sep 2023
Sharon provided great service while…
Sharon provided great service while planning and booking our Japan trip! Unfortunately, we had to cancel due to family medical reasons. Sharon was very understanding of this and helped process the cancellation and refund in a very timely manner. When we are ready to book our trip again, I will certainly be reaching out to Sharon and Asia Highlights!More
Ali Tahir, Sep 2023
I just wanted to tell you how pleased…
I just wanted to tell you how pleased we were planning and coordinating our recent Japan trip with Alisa Liu. Alisa was responsive, answered questions in a timely manner despite our 15 hour time difference, and coordinated a trip for a 6 person multi-generational tour to everyone's satisfaction. (ages7-70!)We were particularly thankful for her help as 2 typhoons bore down on Japan during our stay. She helped us rearrange train and hotel reservations, and was able to get us a refund from a hotel that would not typically offer that. I have referred other friends to her with confidence.More
Berdine Bender, Sep 2023
Not only Albee was great! Each of our guides and drivers were also a joy. Daniel was our first knowledgeable guide who spoke excellent English and was so much fun throughout the day. Jeremy was our guide for the next few days and he also was fun, flexible, and had so many interesting tidbits to share with us throughout the day. Kiko was our guide on the next leg of our journey. She had such a joyful sense of adventure and curiosity that was such a hoot. Vivian was also professional and very aware to what our needs were in the moment. Tian was incredibly flexible and when our plans literally changed when he picked us up, he showed great flexibility and took us to some really fun places at the last minute that were some of our best experiences. And finally Charlie was our last guide and he was so thoughtful and consistently anticipated our needs. By the time we realized we might need something, he would already have it taken care of. All of our guides were so thoughtful and conscious of either making sure we got time to ourselves or of being available right when we needed them. They were each fun and had their own personal flavor that they brought to the experience. We are so grateful for the consideration and flexibility that Asia Highlights showed us consistently and would highly recommend them for anyone interested in visiting Asia. Thank you so much! It was an amazing trip!More
Leah Stine, Aug 2023
Alisa is awesome!
We have been looking to go to Japan for a long time. The food, the culture, and the rich history have always intrigued us. We tried many times to set up pieces of the trip on our own, but couldn’t put together a sensible vacation. Then we found Asia Highlights and Alisa! She helped us tailor a remarkable adventure to Japan! She answered our many questions and shifted our itinerary to maximize our time in each city. I highly recommend Alisa to help you put together the trip of a lifetime. We are looking forward to our journey!More
Mark Linn, Aug 2023
Sharon has been very helpful since the…
Sharon has been very helpful since the beginning coordinating our itinerary in order to accommodate everything we want to see, it been great working with herMore
May, Jul 2023
When I first book I was scared of what…
When I first book I was scared of what to expect, but oh my God! What an amazing experience this has been, from Sharon to all the guides Shawn and Mr. Ho, such amazing people! Their work is excellentMore
Saul Velez, Jul 2023
Albee was very helpful and responsive…
Albee was very helpful and responsive in helping me make plans for their 10 day Japanese tour.More
Bhavini Patel, Jul 2023
Alisa was a perfect tour consultant
Alisa responded to my numerous questions with efficiency and accuracy. She was constantly suggesting options to make the trip more enjoyableMore
Matha Goram, Jul 2023
Weather of Japan's Major Cities in January
|Japan City||Ave. Min. Temp.||Ave. Max. Temp.||Average Rainfall/Snowfall|
|Sapporo||-6°C (21°F)||0°C (32°F)||137 mm (5 in) snowfall|
|Tokyo||1°C (34°F)||10°C (50°F)||60 mm (2 in)|
|Kyoto||2°C (35°F)||9°C (48°F)||53 mm (2 in)|
|Osaka||3°C (37°F)||10°C (50°F)||47 mm (2 in)|
|Hakone||-3°C (28°F)||8°C (46°F)||54 mm (2 in)|
|Nara||0°C (32°F)||9°C (48°F)||52 mm (2 in)|
|Hiroshima||2°C (35°F)||10°C (50°F)||46 mm (2 in)|
|Okinawa||13°C (55°F)||19°C (66°F)||143 mm (6 in)|
Tokyo and Central Japan: Full of New Year Celebrations
Packed with sunny days, your trip would be less affected by the weather in cultural and historical cities, like Tokyo and Kyoto, as you could experience most of the highlights inside heated buildings.
Unlike slightly warmer December, central Japan gets cold enough for occasional snow in January. But the cold weather also brings benefits of the lowest prices and the least crowding after the New Year holiday.
For New Year celebrations in Japan, early booking is advised to guarantee room availability and avoid rocketing prices.
You're also suggested to stay in major cities, like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, because shops and restaurants are likely to be closed during the New Year holiday (December 29 to January 3) in remote areas.
Okinawa and Southern Japan: Off-Season for Beach Activities
Although January is the coldest month, Southern Japan (Kyushu and Okinawa) still experiences mild and comfortable weather. The average daily temperature range is from 15°C to 20°C (59°F to 68°F).
Being a winter month, January's cool water keeps most people away from the bays, so you're likely to have the beach to yourself.
Hokkaido and Northern Japan: Powder Paradise
Northern Japan, particularly the Hokkaido and Tohoku regions, average -3°C (28°F) in January. Blessed with abundant snowfall, northern Japan becomes an excellent destination for skiers and photographers.
If you're a wildlife enthusiast, head to Tsurui (eastern Hokkaido) to spot red-crested cranes.
5 Best Places to Visit in Japan in January
Winter activities are the highlights of January. Hokkaido is ideal for skiing and winter illuminations. You could overlook Mt. Fuji and pleasantly soak in hot spring baths in Hakone. For a tranquil experience, see the exotic snow wonderland with its charismatic lighting-up event in Shirakawa-go.
If you want to celebrate New Year with your family in Japan, Tokyo and Kyoto are great destinations that are full of New Year celebrations.
Learn more about how long to spend in these cities>>>
1. Tokyo: Experience the Best New Year Celebrations
January is the second sunniest and second driest month in Tokyo with only 52 mm (2 in) of precipitation (mostly snow) on 5 days on average.
Traveling with kids, Tokyo has so much to offer indoors: anime centers like the Pokémon Center, science museums with walking robots or hands-on train models, and an exciting ninja or sumo classes... Don't miss the first sumo tournament (Jan. 14 to 28, 2024) of six annual sumo tournaments in Japan as well.
You could experience the best New Year celebrations in Tokyo, whether you're looking for something traditional like The Oji Fox Parade or a modern countdown party. For something special, you could visit the closed inner grounds of the Imperial Palace on January 2nd in an even year like 2024.
Further reading: How to Plan Your First Trip to Tokyo
2. Kyoto: Soak in Snowy Temples and Culinary Delights
January is the coldest month in Kyoto, with an average high temperature of 9°C (48°F). The occasional snow is part of an average precipitation of 50 mm (2 in).
Kyoto is an attractive year-round destination, no matter the season. Blanketed by snow, the ancient temples and gardens become more impressive. The winter illuminations also create a romantic atmosphere.
Food hunting could be an interesting experience for couples or families, which also perfectly avoids the cold. Browse the indoor Nishiki Market, attend a tea ceremony, and end with some fine dining, like kaiseki (traditional Japanese cuisine).
3. Hakone: Warm Up in Hot Springs with Mt. Fuji Views
With cold and dry weather, maximum temperatures average around 8°C (46°F) in Hakone. The amount of rain and snow in January on average is around 54 mm (2 in).
During the cold days, charming ryokans offer the best winter getaway. Staying in these traditional Japanese inns, you could have personalized service, taste traditional kaiseki (multi-course fine cuisine) and soak in its private hot springs.
To see iconic views of snow-capped Mt. Fuji, you could take a romantic stroll through Hakone Shrine, or take a scenic cable car ride to soak in the breathtaking winter scenery.
4. Shirakawa-go: Find Serenity in a Rural Village with Enchanting Illuminations
In January, the daily temperature in Shirakawa-go peaks at 2°C (36°F), with an average of 11 snowy days during the month. Hidden in the mountain areas, Shirakawa-go offers an off-the-beaten-path experience in January.
It features Gassho-zukuri farmhouses (traditional Japanese farmhouses have long thatched roofs). The most Instagrammable pictures come with the snowfalls and lighting-up events between January and February, typically on weekends and holidays.
5. Hokkaido: Immerse Yourself in Winter Fun
Hokkaido averages -4°C (25°F) with 200 mm (8 in) of high-quality snow in resorts in January — ideal for winter sports.
When celebrating New Year, what could be better than skiing on powder snow, then enjoying a delicious hot meal of local Japanese cuisine and a soak in an onsen (hot spring)? An iceberg cruise could make your trip more adventurous as well!
Early January is peak season in Hokkaido, so you'd better make reservations at least 6 months. Contact us to book your private Hokkaido tour with early-bird benefits!
Suggested reading: How to Plan a Japan Winter Trip>>>
Costs and Crowding in January in Japan
In northern Japan, January is the peak season. You have to prepare for high costs and more travelers in ski resorts and hot springs spots, especially on weekends and holidays.
For central and southern Japan, January is considered the off season, with lowest crowding and prices, except in the first week of January. The popular cities (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima) are not so busy with tourists in January.
During the New Year holiday (December 29th to January 3rd), last-minuting bookings always mean limited availability and price hikes. Contact us at least 3 months before to enjoy early-bird deals.
Shrines and temples are full of Japanese people praying for good luck at New Year. If you're not keen on cultural traditions, visit them after New Year.
You could learn more about trip costs in Japan: How Much Is a Trip to Japan>>>
What to Pack in January
As the coldest month in Japan, you're suggested to bring heavy winter clothing, such as heavy coats, down jackets, and thermal underwear for northern and central areas.
Warm accessories are advisable as well, such as hats, gloves, and other winter gear to keep warm. Additionally, you'd better prepare waterproof boots for potential snowy days.
The only exception is the southern islands, where autumn clothing, like layers to cope with changeable temperatures (sweaters, light jackets…), is fine.
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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