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Winter in Tokyo
Winter in Tokyo is a lot of fun, if a bit chilly! The temperature averages 10*C during the day and drops to slightly above freezing overnight. The city itself doesn't get much snow (or rain), but there are plenty of places just outside the metropolis to get your fix.
There's also no shortage of snow-less outdoor and indoor fun to be had, meals to be eaten and shopping bargains to be found. Keep reading for our suggestions on how to make the most of winter in Tokyo with your family!
Indoors in Tokyo
With a scarf, some mittens and a cozy jacket, walking around the city isn't too bad. But, if you'd much rather stay warm without bundling up, keeping indoors during the winter months can still be enjoyable!
There are tons of family-friendly onsen in Tokyo to check out. Though these are great destinations all-year-round, there's an added appeal to their traditional steamy atmosphere when the temperatures drop. Check out Oedo Onsen in Odaiba or SpaLaQua in Tokyo Dome City. Both are located in neighborhoods with a ton of other entertainment so your family can easily make a day of it.
The winter also coincides with the holiday season. While many department stores will put up Christmas decorations beginning in November and some stores participate in Western Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, the big bargains can be found directly after the New Year.
Most shops will be closed on 1 January, but prepared for a spree the next day! You can roll the dice with a "fukubukuro" (lucky bag) which is filled with expensive mystery products at a steal, or take advantage of big discounts on home appliances, winter clothes, accessories and even restaurant meals. TokyoCheapo has a rundown on last year's sales to give you an idea on what you can expect.
Outdoors in Tokyo
You might not find much (real) snow in Tokyo for winter sports, but you can find places to ice skate! In addition to a handful of indoor options, several venues open outdoor rinks as a special treat during the season.
Tokyo SkyTree Town will open its rink in early 2020 and on the other side of town in Futako Tamagawa, RISE's skating garden will open on 14 December. There are also outdoor rinks scattered in and around Tokyo, such as Tokyo Midtown, LalaPort Toyosu, Yokohama's Red Brick Warehouse and more.
Winter is also strawberry season in Japan, which means starting in January, it's prime picking time! At Dragon Farm, there are English-speaking employees on hand every Wednesday and Friday. Kawatsura Strawberry Farm about an hour ride from Tokyo station. Both are in Chiba and offer all-you-can-pick and eat options, so they're perfect if you really have a craving!
Don't forget the many Winter Illuminations and Christmas Markets all over Tokyo, as well! LINK
Most schools, public or international, will have a winter break of some length. If you're antsy to get the family out of the house while the kids don't have class, there are plenty of weekend get-away options to consider.
Hakone is just a little over an hour away by bullet train and has all the nature your family could want! If the weather cooperates Mt. Fuji will be in view, the onsen will be warm and toasty and there may even be a dusting of snow.
If you're looking for a slightly more active vacation, check out Fujiten Snow Resort. As its name implies this place has snow and the winter sports to match. From skiing and snowboarding to low-key sledding and igloo-building, Fujiten checks all the outdoor winter activity boxes. And if anyone in your family prefers the lodge, there's a stunning view of Fujisan from the observation deck.
A bit further out is Nagano's Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort, which combines the best of both worlds! Plenty of opportunity to hit the slopes and unwind in a hot spring at this destination, a former host city of the 1998 Winter Olympics.
What's winter without a hearty meal or two!? And, this being Japan, you can be sure that Tokyo's staple winter dishes are noodle-based. Nabe and Oden (which is itself a type of nabe) are big-time favorites during the winter months. And it's not surprising why! These hot stews are kept warm at the table by a portable stove and are filled with tons of delish veggies, meats or fish that will fill you up. This list from CultureTrip has a few must-try nabe places in Tokyo.
There's also snow crab (pricey), pufferfish ("fugu," potentially deadly!), yellowtail sashimi, yaki-imo, mikan and of course, hot sake (for those of drinking age). Don't miss out on any of these this winter!