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Japan Weather in January: Travel Tips for First-Timers

By RitaUpdated Nov. 24, 2023

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

Japan Weather in January
  • Temperature range: 2–9°C (35–48°F)
  • Rainfall: 67 mm (2 inches)
  • Rainy days: 8
  • Sunny days: 23

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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.

Check the classic Japan tours or contact us to customize your own private tour! Your travel expert would call or email you within 24 hours!

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.

Wanna celebrate New Year with your family in Japan? See the well-picked private Japan family tour>>> or read more about planning a trip to Japan>>>

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.

You could get itineraries from the well-organized private Hokkaido tour or contact us to tailor-make your own itinerary.

5 Best Places to Visit in Japan in January

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

Yamanaka Lake in winter Yamanaka Lake in winter

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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