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Arlington (Virginia)

Patrick from Arlington (Virginia) asked

Cool places to visit accessible via rail pass during winter in Japan?

My wife and I have a hotel next to the Tokyo train station for the various bullet trains going up and down Japan.  We're trying to figure out what would be good things to see during the winter (New Year's week) outside Tokyo in the rest of Japan -- most travel guides talk about things to see in warmer weather.  Anyone have any suggestions?

Japan   Tokyo (Japan)

4 Answers
top answer by
Cameron from Salt Lake City


Doing a day trip by shinkansen is definitely doable, but to get to many places, overnight stays would be recommended. If you are planning to visit Tokyo at New Year's, you need to visit temples and shrines. That is where all the Japanese will be, wishing prosperity and good for the new year. Tokyo's Meiji Shrine is one of the most popular. If you're looking for a great day trip, head over to Kamakura and visit the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū Shrine, while you're there, make sure to see the  Daibutsu (Great Buddha of Kamakura). There are also a dozen other neat temples and shrines in the Kamakura region to check out. As CJ mentioned, Kyoto would be a beautiful trip by shinkansen, but it is a couple hours, so I would recommend at least an overnight stay - if not a couple nights. The Kinkaku-ji shrine is a must visit in Kyoto, as is the Nijo Castle. I also am a huge fan of the Kiyomizu-dera Temple. You could also take an overnight trip to Nara and visit Nara Park.

All that being said, if you are staying next to Tokyo Station, have your hotel concierge make a reservation for you at Manten Sushi. It is walking distance from the train station, is a pre-fixe menu for about $60US and the master sushi chef will delight your taste buds with 20+ different items... It is my hidden gem in Tokyo as most comparable sushi restaurants will set you back $100+. You do need to be adventurous and know that Japanese sushi is Nigiri style and you don't add soy sauce and wasabi to it, unless directed to.

I would also log onto the Imperial Palace website and register for the special tour. It is free and open to anyone, you just need to be registered, because they take you into controlled areas - you may even see the royal family, if you're lucky. A definite great look into the history of the palace grounds and Japan.

Hope this helps!

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Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Meiji Shrine (neighborhood)
  2. Kamakura (city)
  3. Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū Shrine (attraction)
  4. Daibutsu (Great Buddha of Kamakura) (attraction)
  5. Kinkaku-ji (attraction)
  6. Nijo Castle (attraction)
  7. Kiyomizu-dera Temple (attraction)
  8. Nara (city)
  9. Nara Park (attraction)
  10. Manten Sushi (restaurant)
  11. Imperial Palace (attraction)
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answered first by
CJ from Los Angeles

Hey Patrick,

I've had the chance to visit Tokyo a couple times right around the same holiday period you're talking about. It indeed can be VERY cold (colder than NYC) in the winter, but it will still be full of energy.

If you have the time, I would recommend spending a couple days down in Kyoto where you can visit some of the gardens and even catch some of the Geishas at night. It's a very different experience than Tokyo, and well worth it. That being said, things tend to close very early there, so not much nightlife if that's what you're hoping for as well. 

You could easily spend 3-4 days in Tokyo exploring different parts of the city at a leisurely pace, or rush through everything in two days if your timing is tight. For Kyoto, I would recommend no more than two full days and an overnight if your schedule is short.

Have fun on your trip!


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Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Kyoto (city)
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answered by
Kenmei from Tokyo


I am a University student in Tokyo. 

In new year season coming to japan, I must recommend you to go to Shrine to see how Japanese people do "hatsu mode", which is a new year praying for a good luck of coming year. 

It is not saying which religious you believe, but some what like a traditional japanese customs. A lot of people will come to Shrines, temples and do praying. It might be a unique experience only in this season,only after July first.

Meiji Jingu Shrine is one of the largest temple in Tokyo.

but if you would like to go furthur tokyo, you can try Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.It is colse to Narita Airport, you can also stop by befoer get on plane if your flight time is convenient.

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answered by
Maari from Helsinki

The city of Takayama in Gifu prefecture is quite amazing during winter, surrounded by high snowy mountains. Maybe an Onzen visit to keep off the cold?

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Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Takayama (city)

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