The New Year in Japan is a unique and wonderful time to travel to Japan. Besides enjoying the beautiful winter season in Japan, visitors have a chance to experience the traditions, culture, and history of Japan first hand.

But what should you know before planning your Japan vacation over the Japanese New Year’s? And what should you do and where should you visit during Japan’s New Year?

To make planning your Japan vacation easier, we’ve listed some of our tips to keep in mind before planning your Japan travels over New Year’s, as well as rounded up our recommendations on what to do in Japan and where to visit in Japan over the winter holiday season.

When is the Japanese New Year's holiday season in 2024?

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The New Year’s holiday season in Japan during 2024-2025 will be from December 28 to January 5. Although only New Year’s Day (January 1) is an official public holiday on the calender, many Japanese will take the chance to travel back to their hometowns during the New Years season. Many shops and restaurants, especially those that are smaller and privately owned, will also close for the season.

To find out more on holidays in Japan: When is the Best Time to Visit Japan in 2024?

Useful Japanese words to know for Japan's New Year holidays

If you’re planning your Japan travels to coincide with the New Year holidays in Japan, it can be useful to know a few Japanese phrases that you will most likely be hearing often.
 
The following are various terms for the New Years that travelers will often hear during their Japan vacation.
 

Shogatsu / Oshogatsu (正月 / お正月): New Year
Oomisoka (大晦日): New Year’s eve
Gantan (元旦): New Year’s Day morning
Hatsmode (初詣): first shrine visit of the year

 
There are also special greetings during the Japanese New Years. Before the year ends, people will say Yoi otoshi wo” (良いお年を), or best wishes for a new year. After ringing in the new year, you say Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu” (明けましておめでとうございます), or Happy new year.

Travel tips when planning your Japan vacation during the New Year in Japan

The new year holiday season in Japan can be similar to the Christmas season in other countries, as many Japanese will travel back to their hometowns or to visit family during this time. It is one of the peak times for travel for Japanese locals, so be sure to keep that in mind when planning your Japan vacation.

There are a few things to keep in mind when planning your travels over New Year’s in Japan:

1.) Be sure to book any Shinkansen bullet train tickets or other transportation which can be reserved in advance.

2.) Plan out where you want to visit in Japan ahead of time. Although shrines and temples will most likely be open to visitors, some museums, shops, and other sightseeing locations may be closed during Japan’s New Year holiday. If open, they may also have different opening hours. We recommend planning out your itinerary, so you’re not surprised with a location closed for the holidays.

3.) Make reservations for meals at restaurants in advance when and where possible. This is for two reasons. One is that many smaller, privately owned restaurants and cafes may close for the holidays, so like sightseeing locations, if you are set on visiting a certain restaurant, it’s best to confirm whether they are open during your intended Japan travel time. Secondly, restaurants may offer special New Year’s meals or courses. It’s a great chance to try delicious ‘osechi ryori’, or traditional Japanese New Year’s foods. If you’re interested in osechi ryori, you can also purchase them, as well as many other traditional Japanese and non-Japanese side dishes, at a ‘depachika’ (the delicatessen floor of a high-end department store).

4.) Be ready to explore and experiment! Japan’s New Year season can see many local festivals and events, especially at shrines and temples.

What to do during the Japan New Years holidays

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So what should you do during your Japan vacation over the Japanese New Year’s? We’ve rounded up our recommendations on where to visit in Japan, what to do in Japan, and what to eat in Japan to help you plan your Japan itinerary.

Where to visit during New Years in Japan

Japan’s New Year holiday season is during the winter, which means some of the best places to visit over the Japanese New Year are the best winter destinations in Japan. For visitors who enjoy winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, locations like Mt. Zao in Yamagata prefecture makes for a great holiday destination for New Year’s. If you enjoy delicious seafood, be sure to add Kanazawa city to your Japan itinerary. To experience the unique bathing culture of Japan and enjoy an onsen bath, try out Ginzan Onsen.

For more recommendations on where to visit in Japan: Winter in Japan: Best Destinations During the Winter Season

What to do during New Years in Kanazawa City

The Hokuriku region, where Kanazawa city is located, is known for the snow during the winter. That’s not all, however, as the proximity to the sea means some of the best winter foods in japan, including snow crab and hot pot, can be found in Kanazawa, Japan. Besides delicious Japanese food, you’ll also find that Kanazawa city is full of traditional (and non-traditional!) sightseeing locations to visit during Japan’s New Year’s. From historical shrines like Oyama Shrine and Ishiura Shrine to one of the great gardens of Japan, Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa city in Ishikawa prefecture makes for a great destination to add to your Japan itinerary during the Japanese New Year’s.

For more ideas on what to do in Kanazawa city: Winter in Kanazawa: What to Do & What to Eat in Kanazawa, Japan

Best foods to enjoy during winter in Japan

One of the best parts of Japanese New Year’s traditions is the delicious food.

It is customary to eat ‘toshikoshi soba’ on New Year’s Eve in Japan. As soba noodles can be easily cut, they are eaten to ‘cut away’ the previous year and any hardships that occurred. Depending on what part of Japan you are visiting, topping can differ.

It is also customary to enjoy ‘osechi ryori’, or osechi for short. It is a traditional Japanese winter food served over the New Year’s holidays and an amazing representation of Japanese cuisine. Osechi will contain many different dishes, all with their own meanings and well wishes for ringing in Japan’s New Year’s.

Besides traditional dishes enjoyed during the holidays, the New Year’s in Japan falls during the winter time. Winter time in Japan is synonymous with delicious and fresh seafood. If you’re a fan of seafood and want to try fugu, nodoguro, crab, and more during their best season, then be sure to add it to your Japan itinerary!

For more information on foods to enjoy in the winter in Japan: Must Try Foods During Winter in Japan

Plan your Japan vacation during the Japanese New Years holidays

Traveling during Japan’s New Year holiday season can be an amazing way to experience the culture, history, and traditions of the country during your Japan vacation. We hope our travel advice helps you in planning out your future Japan travels!

Where to stay when in Japan

MACHIYA INNS & HOTELS

Stay in a traditional Japanese-style accommodation during your next visit to Japan.

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