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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For our first guide Jun, he was amazing. Very accommodating. Kept in good communication & kept us on time for our activities. Reached out to me the night before to confirm meet times and locations. Our driver for this time was also so kind & driver was always on time. For our second Guide , Ho. He went above and beyond. He stayed in great communication. Stayed later with us on one of the days because we were worried about riding the train back alone but wanted to visit at the shopping center a littler longer, so he stayed with us and made sure we got off on the right stop! During our time with him he took pictures of us and sent them to us! He was very knowledgeable about every place we visited. He was kind and patient with our large group. He made our trip easy & memorable. The driver we had for this timeframe was also kind & always on time! We felt a bond with both guides given to us! If you want an easy going, stress free trip book with “Asia Highlights”!!!More
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Sharon at Asia Highlights has been a HUGE help in planning our trip to Japan later this year. From her initial contact to finalization of the plan, she has been very responsive, professional, patient, and knowledgeable. She was able to quickly propose an amazing itinerary and helped us customize it for our interests. She also made many great recommendations and gave us tips for the trip. I wasn’t familiar with Asia Highlights before I reached out, but after Sharon’s wonderful service, I have full confidence in them. I can’t wait for the trip and I hope it’s as awesome as Sharon’s service!!!More
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Monica is fantastic. She understood our needs, was very responsive and planned a perfect vacation for us. Highly recommend.More
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Due to circumstances, we had to delay our trip to Japan so this review is only about the process of designing the trip. Albee was always available, responsive to our goals, and competent. Based on how involved he was with our family trip, we know we will be back next year and resuming the plan he built. Really impressed with the quality and extent of resources we found through Albee and KimKim.More
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Sharon’s was very patient and helpful when navigating me through the trip planning process. She helped me plan a very exciting and extravagant trip.More
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Wonderful 10 day trip in Japan!!!
Well planned trip by Alisa . Everything was well scheduled, guides and drivers were excellent!! The cars were extremely comfortable and the hotel she chose for us was beautiful!! Enjoyed planning with her she was very professional and always offered other choices.More
Lianne Stone, May 2023
11 days trip to Japan
I am planning my trip to Japan in November with Sharon's help and she has provided amazing customer service.She is very responsive and put together very quickly an incredible plan for 11 days in Japan. She provided recommendations and made changes based on our interests and budget. She also provided information about visa restrictions and the best way to get tickets for transportation services. Thanks so much Sharon, looking forward to this trip!More
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Hi Cathy! I just want to thank you for making our Japan trip so much fun & memorable! We loved everything that you had scheduled for us! All the guides and drivers were great & punctual! We love Japan so much that we’re planning to go back next year to different part of Japan! We’ll definitely contact Asia Highlights for our trip again! SereneMore
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Alisa was our advisor from Asia highlights and she prepared for us a wonderful 28 day trip to Japan, taking into consideration our needs and desire not to be traveling everyday and to have a mixture of slow and busy days. We've not yet taken our trip, but very much looking forward to it Thank you Alisa for the quick response and wonderful itineraryMore
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Sharon Huang did an excellent job in planningour 15 day Cherry Blossom Japan tour. Shewas available during our trip to answer our questions and readily agreed to the itinerary changes.Everything was arranged - accommodation,breakfast, guide, car, entrance fees and train tickets. The guides were knowledgeable, and managed the tour very efficiently. The drivers were punctual and very patient. We visited must see places in and near Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. We also got to experience Japanese Tea ceremony, Sushi making, Sake tasting, shopping etc.We highly recommend Asia Highlights for your travel needs.More
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I organized a trip to Japan for my
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Weather of Japan's Major Cities in January
|Ave. Min. Temp.
|Ave. Max. Temp.
|137 mm (5 in) snowfall
|60 mm (2 in)
|53 mm (2 in)
|47 mm (2 in)
|54 mm (2 in)
|52 mm (2 in)
|46 mm (2 in)
|143 mm (6 in)
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.
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.
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. 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>>>
2. 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 an Incredible Family Trip to Japan
3. 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).
4. 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.
5. 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.
Costs and Crowding
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 6 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 JapanLearn about the weather in Japan for 12 months and find out the best places to visit each month.
|Japan in January
|Japan in February
|Japan in March
|Japan in April
|Japan in May
|Japan in June
|Japan in July
|Japan in August
|Japan in September
|Japan in October
|Japan in November
|Japan in December
Exploring Japan with Asia Highlights
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Get Inspired with Some Popular Itineraries
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