10 Things to do in Tokyo at Christmas

In Tokyo, Christmas is celebrated in a very special way, without the religious significance it has in other countries, but with a lot of romanticism.

Lorena Morales

Lorena Morales

8 min read

10 Things to do in Tokyo at Christmas

Lighting in Tokyo | ©Ken Yamaguchi

Celebrating Christmas in the Japanese capital is one of the most interesting things to see and do in Tokyo. In Japan, this holiday has become a very special celebration, without the religious significance it has in other parts of the world. This is because the majority religions are Shinto and Buddhism.

Also, in Japan, Christmas is not a holiday, that is, it is a working day, but it is a time to celebrate with your partner, friends and family. If you are in Tokyo at Christmas, you can attend special shows, fairs and festivals, enjoy amazing Christmas illuminations and decorations, visit street markets or taste Japanese Christmas specialties.

1. Visit a Christmas market in Tokyo

Hibiya Tokyo| ©Mark D
Hibiya Tokyo| ©Mark D

Tokyo's flea markets are inspired by the best markets in Europe and Christmas is an excellent time of the year to visit them:

  • The Tokyo Christmas Market is usually set up in Shiba Park or Hibiya Park. It's inspired by the markets of Germany and there you'll find gifts, crafts, decorations, typical German foods and mulled wine and even live concerts and workshops. Oh, and a 14-meter-tall Christmas tree brought all the way from Germany!
  • The Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse features a skating r ink and is inspired by the Nuremberg market.
  • The Roppongi Hills is also German-inspired.
  • At Ebisu Garden you will feel like you are at a flea market in France.

Winter in Tokyo is cold, so a good way to visit the Christmas markets in a comfortable and warm way is to hire a private car tour of 10 hours and whose itinerary you can fully customize, so you can take the opportunity to discover the most interesting places in the Japanese capital.

Book a private driving tour of Tokyo

2. Marvel at the Christmas and winter illuminations

Caretta Shiodome at Christmas| ©Andy Yeo
Caretta Shiodome at Christmas| ©Andy Yeo

At Christmas time, you will find the streets, parks, stores, etc. of Tokyo lit up in spectacular fashion as only this Japanese city can. It is not only Christmas lights, but also the typical Japanese neon lights and the special illumination with which Japan is used to welcome the winter.

And if you also want to take with you an unforgettable memory, nothing better than booking a night photo tour of Tokyo where you will learn how to take pictures at night while watching the amazing illumination of the streets of Shinjuku and Shibuya.

Other places whose lighting will leave you speechless are the blue forest of Caretta Shiodome and the old Shimbashi Station.

Caretta Shiodome

At Caretta Shiodome you will see a spectacular illuminated blue forest. In addition, every 30 minutes a light and sound show begins that will leave you in awe.

You can see it from November to mid-February, except on public holidays from January 1-3, from 5pm to 11pm, at 1 Chome-8-2 Higashishinbashi, Minato City, Tokyo 105-7090.

Former Shimbashi Station and Shinbashi Space Train

The old Shimbashi Station operated until 1914 and then was destroyed, until 2005 when the original building was rebuilt and a museum dedicated to the history of the railroad began operating there.

An illuminated train can be seen in the museum's courtyard, and is the place many couples choose to have a romantic Christmas photograph taken.

Another famous illuminated train is the Shinbashi Space Train, which is accompanied by vintage train sounds. It is located at 2 Chome-17 Shinbashi, Minato City, Tokyo 105-0004.

Book a nighttime photo tour of Tokyo

3. Enjoy a traditional dinner at the Kentucky Fried Chicken

At Kentucky Fried Chicken| ©Mark Clifton
At Kentucky Fried Chicken| ©Mark Clifton

It is said that the custom of eating fried chicken at Christmas was established by foreigners living in Japan, since they could not get turkeys. Whatever its origin, today it is a tradition and many people reserve a table for that day at Kentucky Fried Chicken months in advance.

But if fried chicken is not your thing, you can take the opportunity to try typical Japanese dishes and get to know their unique gastronomy by taking a food tour in Tokyo. Delicious!

Book a food tour in Tokyo

4. Taste the traditional Christmas cake

Christmas Cake| ©clvs7
Christmas Cake| ©clvs7

And after the fried chicken, or the typical dishes you have chosen, it's time for dessert and the tradition is a delicious cake made of sponge cake, cream and strawberries decorated with Christmas motifs.

It is believed that the Fujiya store popularized this tradition in the 50s of the twentieth century, so it is one of the most chosen when ordering this Christmas cake.

But there are also many bakeries that offer this dessert, such as Daimaru Tokyo, Patisserie Coco Ange or Patisserie Monte Rosa.

Book a gastronomic tour in Tokyo

5. Celebrate New Year's Eve in Tokyo

New Year's Eve in Tokyo| ©Yusuke Kawasak
New Year's Eve in Tokyo| ©Yusuke Kawasak

New Year's Day in Tokyo is a holiday, and even the festivities continue for two more days: not only January 1, but also January 2 and 3 are days of celebration in Japan. Their way of welcoming the new year is also different, but very interesting to learn more about their culture.

One way to celebrate the new year in Japan is to go to a Buddhist temple to listen to the 108 chimes, the Joya no kane. One of the best known temples to go to hear them is Zojoji Temple, located near the Tokyo Tower, or Sensoji Temple, in the Asakusa neighborhood.

But if you are looking for something more festive, in Tokyo you will find many street parties such as at the crosswalk in the Shibuya district or in front of Tokyo Tower, where many people gather to see the change of date on the facade of the building.

Book a tour of Tokyo's Asakusa district

6. Dazzle at a fireworks display

Fireworks at Rainbow| ©Takahiro Hayashi
Fireworks at Rainbow| ©Takahiro Hayashi

Every Saturday in December at 7 p.m., a fireworks show takes place over the Rainbow Bridge in Odaiba Park, of truly amazing dimensions. The show, which is accompanied by music, lasts only 5 minutes, but manages to light up Tokyo's winter sky.

The special illumination of the Rainbow Bridge complements very well the fireworks that are launched during the month of December. It is such a large show that it is possible to see the lights even from afar and from both sides of Tokyo Bay

Another fantastic way to see the Rainbow Bridge is to pass underneath it, aboard a cruise with panoramic views of Tokyo Bay, which is the highlight of a 10-hour bus tour of Tokyo that is not to be missed.

Book a bus tour of Tokyo

7. Attend a traditional Japanese festival

Hagoita Ichi Fair| ©shuets udono
Hagoita Ichi Fair| ©shuets udono

If you visit Tokyo in December, you can attend very interesting festivals that take place during the end of the year celebrations in Japan. At these festivals you will have the opportunity to soak up the Japanese culture and buy special gifts to give as Christmas presents.

Some of the festivals I recommend are:

  • The Hagoita Ichi Fair, held between December 17 and 20 every year at the Sensoji Temple in Tokyo's Asakusa district. There, hagoitas, kites, New Year's decorations and sacred objects are sold.
  • The Akiha fire festival, held in Hamamatsu.
  • The Chichibu Yomatsuri festival, very close to Tokyo, which includes a parade of floats, fireworks and a fair.
  • The Akō Gishi Sai, which is a tribute to the 47 ronin of Ako, and is held at Sengakuji Temple in Tokyo.

Book a tour of Tokyo's Asakusa Ward

8. Delight in the snowy season

Shirakawa-go| ©Simon Desmarais
Shirakawa-go| ©Simon Desmarais

Japan is a country of long winters where it snows a lot, mainly between December and March. However, the city does not usually experience heavy snowfall, so if you want to enjoy the white cherry trees or snow-capped Mt. Fuji, I recommend a trip to Mt. Fuji from Tokyo.

If you book a trip to Mount Fuji you can admire the views from the 5th Fuji Station, which is 3776 meters high, and also enjoy a cable car ride in Hakone. An unforgettable Christmas experience.

If your stay is extended, you can also go to villages such as Shirakawa-go, Ginzan Onsen or Koyosan, where you will find a dreamy winter setting of low houses and snow-covered temples.

Book a trip to Mount Fuji

9. Celebrate Christmas the romantic Tokyo way

Christmas couple in Tokyo| ©mrhayata
Christmas couple in Tokyo| ©mrhayata

Japan has its own particular way of celebrating Christmas, different from countries with Western traditions. So if you are planning to travel with your partner, you will be happy to know thatChristmas in Japan is celebrated as a couple, just like Valentine's Day! For the same reason, gifts in that country are made for both of you.

In Tokyo, to celebrate Christmas, especially Christmas Eve, couples book tables in restaurants and rooms in hotels. So now you know, if you are traveling to Tokyo on those dates be sure to book in advance, as it can be difficult to get a table. And if you're not traveling as a couple, you can also celebrate with friends or family.

10. Attend a show at Tokyo Disneyland or Disneysea

Tokyo Disneyland| ©fortherock
Tokyo Disneyland| ©fortherock

During Christmas, the Tokyo Disneyland Resort theme park dresses up in a special way. Christmas decorations, special shows, rides, lights, giant Christmas trees and the magical environment that always characterizes Disney, will welcome you to celebrate a different kind of Christmas.

From December 8 to December 25, Tokyo Disneyland Resort presents special shows every year: "A Christmas Fantasy" and "Christmas Wishes", in its two parks, Disneyland and DisneySea. Visiting Disneyland and DisneySea is one of the best things to see and do in Tokyo with kids, especially at Christmas!

If you don't know which park to choose, keep in mind that Tokyo Disneyland is built in the same style as Disney California and Disney Florida. DisneySea, on the other hand, is inspired by the sea and has attractions that you will only find in Tokyo.

More information

  • Location: Tokyo Disneyland, 1-1 Maihama, Maihama, Urayasu 279-0031 Chiba Prefecture
  • Hours: 8 am to 10 pm daily.
  • Price: Around 80 € for adults; 70 € for teenagers; and 53 € for children.
  • How to get there: You can take the JR train line or one of the buses leaving from Tokyo.
  • Recommendations: Try to buy your ticket in advance and try to arrive as early as possible.

The weather in Tokyo at Christmas

Tokyo at Christmas| ©Dainis Matisons
Tokyo at Christmas| ©Dainis Matisons

December to February is winter in Japan, and very cold. Temperatures in Tokyo average 12°C during the day and 5°C at night, and can go as low as -3°C on very cold nights and mornings. The days have approximately 6 hours of sunshine, so many places of interest close at 5 p.m.

Tokyo's climate is dry, with little rain, although in recent years there has been snowfall in the city.

Ideally, wear layered, breathable clothing with a waterproof coat. Gloves, hat and scarf are a must. And if you plan to enjoy the snow more intensely in natural environments, such as Mount Fuji, you will need specific clothing and appropriate boots.