While winter in Tokyo and the rest of Japan can be bitterly cold, it’s also one of the most beautiful times of the year. It’s the perfect season for day trips into the countryside.

The sky is clear and blue, the powder snow fresh, and the onsen steaming. If you’re staying in or around the Tokyo area, there are plenty of day-trip opportunities that are not only convenient, but also budget-friendly. Here are seven examples — with details on DIY transport, and package tours where available.

1. Go snow-monkey spotting in Nagano

2 hours and 15 minutes, plus transfer time, from Tokyo Station
Shinkansen to Nagano Station, then bus
¥10,140 (one way), or save money with a package tour

japanese snow monkeys
Japanese macaques on the rocks near the hot springs. | Photo by iStock.com/ANDREYGUDKOV

Want to see something different? Head to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park in Nagano Prefecture, home to the photogenic Japanese snow monkey (also known as the Japanese macaque). The park, tucked away in the forests of Jigokudani Valley, features several monkey-populated pockets, but the man-made pool not far from the entrance gate is where many of the fuzzy wild locals like to hang out and thaw out in hot springs.

You can book a full-day snow-monkey tour, which for ¥14,980 (less than a return train trip) includes transport from Tokyo to Nagano and back, travel guidance in English and Japanese, and a beef sukiyaki lunch.

2. Chill with icicles in Saitama

1 hour 20 minutes, plus transfer time, from Ikebukuro Station
Seibu-Ikebukuro Line to Hanno Station, transfer to Seibu-Chichibu Line for Ashigakubo Station
¥730 (one way), save money with a Seibu Pass

Feel the freeze at this icicle festival.

While it doesn’t typically snow much in Chichibu, Saitama, there is another winter phenomenon not to be missed: icicles.

There are three main icicle formations to see in Chichibu: the Misotsuchi Icicles, the Onouchi Icicles, and the Ashigakubo Icicles. The former two are a little difficult to reach by public transport, but the Ashigakubo Icicles are easily accessed by train from Tokyo (and so we’ll focus on them).

They are lit up in the evening from January to February every year (on Fridays, weekends, and holidays), plus free amazake (a fermented rice drink) will be handed out during the day. Entry during this time is ¥500.

3. Spend a snow day on Mt. Fuji at Fujiyama Snow Town Yeti

2 hours and 45 minutes, plus transfer time, from Shinjuku Station
Limited Express train to Gotanda, then 1-hour bus
¥4,490 (one way), save time with a bus tour

skiers on Fujiyama
Hit the slopes with a view of Mount Fuji. | Photo by iStock.com/smolaw11

Fujiyama Snow Town Yeti is one of the closest day-trip ski destinations from Tokyo. It’s located at the second station of Mt. Fuji and is compact enough to explore in one day comprehensively; however, it still has a decent selection of ski runs that are suitable for all levels.

Snow Town Yeti is the perfect place for those who want to try skiing for the first time, as beginner slopes make up about 50% of the runs. 40% of the site is best suited to intermediate skiers, and the final 10% of runs are advanced level.

Suggested Activity
Go Karting with Cosplay through Asakusa & Akihabara (See Skytree)
Don your favourite video game or superhero outfit and drive go-karts through Asakusa and Akihabara — passing Tokyo Skytree! International driving license required.

You can book a day-trip package that includes ski rental, transport to the mountain and back from Tokyo, and a lift pass for ¥14,000.

4. See the winter illuminations at Ashikaga Flower Park

1 hour 30 minutes, plus transfer time, from Asakusa Station
Limited Express train to Tochigi, then change to Ryomo Line for Ashikaga Flower Park Station
¥2,670 (one way), or opt for a package tour

Photo by Getty Images

The winter illuminations at Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi are well worth bundling up for. Taking place from October to February, the park comes alive with purple in honor of their most famous spring flower, wisteria. But that’s not the only color on display. With millions of lights, the display offers a cornucopia of pinks, greens, whites, and blues. The illuminations are touted as one of the best light-ups in Japan.

Throw in some strawberry picking on this day tour from Shinjuku, or explore more of Tochigi by also visiting Nikkō Tōshōgū Shrine on this two-in-one outing.

5. Admire Mt. Fuji from hot springs in Yamanakako

2 hours 15 minutes, plus transfer time, from Shinjuku Station
Highway bus to Yamanakako Bus Stop
¥2,000 (one way)

You might have company on the shore of Lake Yamanakako. | Photo by Getty Images

If you’re not soaking in a hot spring with views of Mt. Fuji, then are you even in Japan? We say no, and luckily enough we have a convenient spot to achieve just that. Despite being the closest lake to Mt. Fuji, Lake Yamanakako is not as well-known as neighboring Lake Kawaguchiko, so you can expect fewer people.

The lake area is stunning, with a dedicated cycling route, a famous tour of the lake on a bus/boat called Kaba, and an ideal location for the Diamond Fuji phenomenon.

Benifuji no Yu (¥900 for entry) is a hot-spring facility that offers a variety of baths (indoor and out) with some unbeatable views. The eight “magical” ponds of the area, called Oshino Hakkai, are also not too far away (note: these are not for bathing).

If you are keen to combine Yamanakako with a trip to Kawaguchiko, you can head north-west and see views from the ropeway, scream yourself silly at Fuji-Q Highland, or venture out to the famous Chureito Pagoda. Check out our full Kawaguchiko guide to give you some ideas.

6. Get romantic in Karuizawa

1 hour and 5 minutes, plus transfer time, from Tokyo Station
Shinkansen direct to Karuizawa
¥5,490 (one way), a package tour for ¥10,900, or consider the Tokyo Wide Pass to save money

Don’t forget to visit Shiraito Falls surrounded by snow. | Photo by Getty Images

While many think of Karuizawa as a popular summer escape, in winter its snowy streets become the perfect couple’s getaway. As a common date spot on TV dramas gone by (looking at you, Terrace House), it’s got plenty of scenic spots to stroll through, coffees to sip, hills and mountains to ski or sled on, and even open-air bathhouses to take advantage of.

Shoppers can plunder the stores of the local Ginza District and the Karuizawa Prince Shopping Mall, while the scenic Shiraito Falls and Kumoba Pond are a little further from the station but well worth the travel.

If the idea of planning and the possibility of waiting for buses in the cold is putting you off, this day tour offers to take you from Shinjuku to the sights and streets of Karuizawa (and back) in private transport. Places start from ¥10,900 and the tour is available in Chinese or Japanese.

7. Enjoy sledding in Gunma

2 hours and 15 minutes, plus transfer time, from Tokyo Station
Shinkansen to Jomo Kogen, then 1-hour free shuttle bus
¥5,820 (one way), or save with a package tour

Country views and pure-white snow — a day trip to Gunma Prefecture is one unforgettable way to escape city life, if only just for a moment.

If you want to make the most of your time, signing up for a Tambara Ski Park tour from Tokyo is a great way to see a lot in a short amount of time, and on a budget.

This one is perfect for the family. The day tour includes transport to and from Tokyo, and an afternoon of sledding. It starts from ¥10,353, and you’ll be back in Tokyo in time for dinner.

Tokyo winter day-trip FAQs

Does it snow in Tokyo in winter?

Tokyo can expect only a few days of snow per year, and usually, this is very light. To see snow while you’re here, it’s better to go farther afield.

Where can I find snow near Tokyo?

If you go north from Tokyo, you’ll find plenty of places that boast truckloads of the white stuff each year. Aside from places on this list, you can check out spots for winter sports near Tokyo.

Is it worth going to Tokyo and Japan in the winter?

Yes. Not only are the skies generally clearer (more opportunities to spot the majestic Mt. Fuji), but there tends to be fewer people. Still stuck? We’ve compiled a list of the best time to visit Tokyo, as well as Japan.

Can you do a winter day trip to Kyoto?

Yes — but it’s going to be tiring and expensive. It takes around 2 hours 15 minutes on the fastest bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, but it also costs ¥14,170 one way, without a Japan Rail Pass. You also have to get from Kyoto Station to the main spots around the city, which are quite spread out. Also note that if Kyoto gets snowed under, it may make getting around the city even more difficult.

Discover more winter activities in Japan.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. This article was originally written by Lucy Dayman, and was first published in January 2020. Last updated in December 2023, by Alex Ziminski.

Ask our local experts about Tokyo

Get our Tokyo Cheapo Hacks direct to your inbox

Watch this next