With seasonal features, and weather that ranges from autumnal cool to real winter chill, Japan can be breathtakingly stunning in December.

Japan’s Oshogatsu holiday season comes at the end of the month with Christmas being more of a token event. Crisp, clear winter skies make mountain vistas pop against azure backgrounds with everything seeming that little bit extra special at year’s end.

Winter weather conditions vary greatly throughout Japan.. Mountainous areas begin to get snow in late autumn and the thermometer may dip below zero in colder places like Nagano and Niigata. Sunny days in Tokyo can feel warm, but Kyoto gets shockingly cold.

Originally a Western import, Christmas is celebrated in Japan, but is very different from the family-oriented holiday in English speaking countries. Decorations are everywhere but very few presents are exchanged. Christmas turkey is unheard of, with a Yuletide trip to KFC being the preferred practice. Couples go out for romantic dinners rather than spending time with family and Christmas cake is unrecognisable.

As with fireworks, Japan excels at making lavish light displays in the wintertime. Many start in mid-November and continue through the winter adding a certain frisson to chilly city nights.

You’ll find major displays all over Tokyo and, if you have time, you can even take the Yamanote Line around the city to see a few of them. A short walk from Shimbashi station, the Shiodome Light Display runs from November 16 to February. The Midtown Christmas event near Roppongi station has a shorter run from November 15 to December 25.

Many of Japan’s ski resorts double as hot spring resorts or at least have a selection of onsen bathing spots nearby. Worth a visit for the baths in their own right, they offer pleasurable post-ski relaxation or a viable alternative to skiing and snowboarding.

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