Hi I am traveling to Japan (primarily Tokyo and Kyoto) between Dec 18th and Dec 31st. Are places generally open during the holiday season toward the end of the year? Is there anything I should be aware of (availability of domestic travel, hotels etc). Thanks!
Everything will be open around that time, even on Christmas so I wouldn’t worry about anything being closed. In fact, stores (like my favorite, Takashimaya) are even open on Christmas . Even though Christmas is celebrated there it’s not quite as serious a holiday as it is other places—it’s more of an excuse to go out for dinner. With that said, you should definitely book restaurants, etc. early because they book up on Christmas for this reason.
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Yes, most stores are open during that time so don't worry! Japanese people celebrate Christmas but in a different way; Christmas is the most romantic day for lovers like valentine's day for Americans. So you will see illumination, events and lots of couples on the streets. After 25th, all the Christmas decoration will be taken down and they will get prepared for New Year in a very traditional Japanese way. I always find it interesting to see how they shift from western Christmas atmosphere to traditional Japanese atmosphere during that time. Stores in Japan are usually closed on January 1 because New Year is a day for family gathering like Westerners celebrate Christmas. Hope it helped!
New Year in Japan is very similar to lunar New Year in the rest of Asia, meaning its a time of family gathering, and not so much for "ringing in the new year" as it is in the U.S. Its probably closer to Thanksgiving (without the black Friday sales!). So whats my point?! Some places will be closed between Christmas and New Year. So While 75-85% of places will be open in Tokyo because its the crazy metropolis that it is, Kyoto will be a little less. There's still plenty to see and do, but don't be surprised if a place or two isn't open during this period of time.