Cookies help us to deliver our services. By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn more.

10 Things to Do in Tokyo in January

Are you ready for a trip full of culture and new traditions? Then you should come to Tokyo during the month of January. Participate in traditional events, go to festivals and eat the best food typical of the Land of the Rising Sun.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

12 min read

10 Things to Do in Tokyo in January

Tokyo in January | ©OiMax

One of the things you can see and do in Tokyo is to participate in the different traditional celebrations of this month. As it is the beginning of a new year, the citizens perform various rituals that you can also experience. You won't always be able to actively participate, but I can recommend some plans for you to experience Japanese culture in a different way.

Besides skiing, visiting temples and going to sumo tournaments, I recommend you to try the gastronomy of Japan. Particularly in January you will find dishes that are traditional in Tokyo and throughout the country, either because it is winter or because of its symbolism. Be sure to travel to Tokyo in January and take advantage of the time to taste authentic Japanese food.

1. Go to the Furusato Matsuri festival Tokyo

Furusato Matsuri Tokyo| ©COMSEVENTHFLT
Furusato Matsuri Tokyo| ©COMSEVENTHFLT

The Furusato Matsuri Tokyo festival is held in January and brings together around 300 companies from different regions of the country. Each one promotes a gastronomic specialty of the region, such as craft beer. In addition to the sale of these products you can enjoy plays and traditional dances, making it a cultural festival.

This festival is held at the Tokyo Dome City, a stadium with huge entertainment facilities. Here you can find a large stadium, an amusement park and a natural hot springs spa. You will also find stores, restaurants and other sites worth visiting.

The festival is held for 10 days in mid-January. You can enter the event without paying admission, you only have to pay for what you consume. When you go be prepared to meet many people as the festival is usually attended by around 400 thousand people over the course of the days.

Book a gastronomic tour in Tokyo

2. Attend a sumo tournament in Tokyo

Sumo in Tokyo| ©Ben & Gab
Sumo in Tokyo| ©Ben & Gab

Sumo is a very popular martial art in Japan and the world. If you want to see a sumo tournament, you can take advantage of the month of January, as it is one of the three months in which the sport is held. Other opportunities are in May and September, but if you go in January you will be able to witness the first tournaments of the year. In Tokyo, these wrestling matches are held at the National Ryogoku Kokugikan Stadium.

Before watching a tournament, I advise you to read a little about the origins of sumo, what the training ritual of a sumo wrestler is like, and the rules of the tournament. This will help you understand much better what is going on in the stadium.

If you want to attend one of these tournaments it is important that you buy your tickets in advance, as they sell out very quickly. In Tokyo you have the opportunity to experience real sumo wrestling, or even live a ninja or samurai experience, where you can reverse the roles and be the main character. Don't you like the idea?

Practical information

  • Location: Ryogoku Kokugikan National Stadium. 1 Chome-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida City, Tokyo 130-0015.

  • When to go: held in January, but also in May and September.

  • Price: between 30 € and 200 €.

  • Schedule: exact times are published on the Japan Sumo Association website.

3. Eat oden, a typical winter dish

Oden| ©ayako
Oden| ©ayako

If you like typical Japanese food, you should not miss the opportunity to try oden when you are in Tokyo. It is a stew with ingredients prepared in dashi, a broth made with kombu seaweed and katsuobushi strips. Other important ingredients are eggs, fish, among others. All these foods are cooked together and each person can choose the piece they prefer from the stew. Each one of them costs less than 1 €.

If you like the idea of getting to know the culture of Japan through its food, I recommend you to take a gastronomic tour in Tokyo. In any case, keep in mind that oden is perfect to maintain a warm temperature while it is cold in Tokyo. You can get it in restaurants, fast food stalls and in the typical kombinis.

Traditionally oden was found in street markets and was traditionally prepared in winter during the Edo period (1603-1868). However, today it is common to see it prepared at other times of the year. You can even find restaurants specializing in this stew or easy-to-prepare oden vending machines.

Book a gastronomic tour in Tokyo

4. Enjoy an onsen in the winter season

Onsen in Winter| ©miki yoshihito
Onsen in Winter| ©miki yoshihito

Onsen are traditional Japanese baths that take place in hot springs. It is one of the things you can do in Tokyo in winter and January is an ideal month for this. The capital has different hot springs and public baths that you can go to. The price of tickets can vary between 5 € and 15 €, approximately.

Inside the onsen there are different areas. The shower area can be divided by gender, however it is possible to get mixed onsen. The main area of the onsen is the ofuro or pool that all visitors share. Note that you should not wear any clothing to use it.

Some of the onsen you can visit to keep warm in this cold month are the Saya-No-Yudokoro or the Musashi Koyama Onsen Shimizuyu. Visiting the onsen is even an opportunity to visit pilgrimage trails, traditional in Japan.

Practical information

  • Location: you can get an onsen in different areas of Tokyo. The ones mentioned above are located in Itabashi City and Shinagawa City, respectively. You can get a first approximation of the areas by hiring a bus tour and then choose the one you like best.

  • When to go: they are open all year round but it is advisable to go in cold months such as January to take advantage of the warmth of the hot springs.

  • Price: in all sites the entrance fee varies between 5 € and 15 €, approximately. However, they offer more services and products such as towels and soaps, which can increase the price a little more.

  • Opening hours: the typical opening hours of the onsen are from 9 am to 11 pm, but may vary.

Book a bus tour of Tokyo

5. Taste Osechi Ryori on the first day of the year

Osechi Ryori| ©Dave Nakayama
Osechi Ryori| ©Dave Nakayama

December and New Year's celebrations in Japan are held for good luck. If you are in Tokyo on the first day of January, it is essential that you eat the typical Osechi Ryori. This dish is served in lacquered or wooden boxes that have different compartments or tiers. All the food has a special meaning and can be eaten on the first 3 days of the year.

Although they used to be prepared at home, it is now easy to get them in supermarkets. However, it is not a very economical meal: its price varies between 70 € and 350 €. In any case, you can get options with fewer floors that are a little more accessible. Some foods you will get in them are the following:

  • Kuromame or black beans: this food symbolizes that you will be able to work hard in the new year.
  • Kazunoko or herring eggs: traditionally eaten in order to have children.
  • Kuri kinton: it is mashed sweet potato and chestnut and due to its yellow color it represents wealth.

In total the boxes have up to five tiers and the last one is left empty as a symbol of prosperity for the future.

Book a food tour in Tokyo

6. Attend the New Year's greeting to the emperor

Imperial Palace in Tokyo| ©Ivan PC
Imperial Palace in Tokyo| ©Ivan PC

The Emperor's New Year's Greeting or Shinnen no ippan is celebrated on January 2nd every year, so if you travel to Tokyo from this date, you can take the opportunity to live a traditional experience. To celebrate it , people go to the Imperial Palace, being this one of the two dates in the whole year when you can access the inside of the Palace.

However, not all people manage to enter. If you want to do so, you must take into account certain details. The main entrance is at the Nijubashi Bridge and you must enter between 9:30 am and 2:10 pm, after this time the entrance is closed. I recommend that you do not carry too many things and go well in advance. Before entering there are long lines because security personnel must inspect all attendees.

Once inside people wait for members of the imperial family to appear on the balcony and greet. This is one of the few traditions of Shinto that are still maintained. Please note that for this event you should not bring potentially dangerous objects such as flags, drones to take pictures or suitcases. I recommend that you dress comfortably, with shoes that do not cause discomfort when standing for several hours.

Practical Information

  • Location: Imperial Palace. 1-1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 100-8111, Japan.

  • When to go: Held annually on January 2.

  • Price: admission is free.

  • Hours: you can enter the palace from 9:30 a.m. to 2:10 p.m., when the event ends.

7. Admire the Dezome Shiki Parade

Dezome Shiki| ©GetHiroshima
Dezome Shiki| ©GetHiroshima

On January 6, while many parts of the world celebrate Three Kings Day, Japan celebrates Dezome Shiki. In Tokyo the firefighters make a big parade that passes through the streets of Odaiba. This also takes place in cities like Hiroshima. To see it you only need to be in the streets where the parade will pass and you can take pictures.

During the parade the firefighters do several exercises that demonstrate how the work of Japanese firefighters has evolved since the Edo era. It is an entertaining way to see the change in the techniques used to extinguish the fire. From the use of bamboo poles to access difficult areas to the use of advanced technologies.

This parade takes place on the morning of January 6. You can watch it as a family at the Tokyo Big Sight, an international convention center in the city.

8. Skiing around Tokyo

Gala Yuzawa skiing| ©Rudy Herman
Gala Yuzawa skiing| ©Rudy Herman

Japan is one of the favorite destinations for skiing and snowboarding lovers. If you are one of them and you travel to Tokyo in January, it can be your perfect opportunity to ski. However to do so you will have to travel to places close to Tokyo, but it is not very complicated to get there.

The ski resorts I recommend are so close to Tokyo that you can come and go the same day. One of them is GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort, a resort with about 17 slopes, ideal for beginners. Shiga Kogen Resort is ideal if you already have skiing experience.

Tickets can vary in price, but are usually between 40 € and 20 €, the latter being the price of children's tickets. This is one of the things you can do with children in Tokyo, if they like snow sports.

Practical information

  • Location: GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort is located in Minamiuonuma Ward, Niigata. Shiga Kogen Resort is located in Shimotaki District, Nagano.

  • When to go: the ski resorts are open from December to March, provided there is enough snow.

  • Price: Admission can vary from about €40 to €20.

  • Hours: Typical skiing hours are during the day.

Traveller Tip
If you have never skied before, I recommend that you talk to the managers and ask for special treatment. It is better to prevent accidents and have a pleasant experience.

9. Participate in Seijin no hi, a coming of age celebration

Seijin no hi| ©Guilhem Vellut
Seijin no hi| ©Guilhem Vellut

Seijin no hi or coming of age day is a traditional celebration in Japan. It is held annually on the second Monday of January and young people who turned 20 years old the previous year celebrate their coming of age.

To celebrate this day , the government organizes ceremonies in towns and cities that are held at district boards or town halls. During the Seijin no hi ceremony, those in charge welcome all young people to adulthood, as well as tell them what their responsibilities are as adults in Japanese society.

If you are in Tokyo during this celebration, there are several things you can do. I recommend wearing a traditional kimono and visiting one or more temples in Tokyo, which are part of the tradition, because young people visit them as part of their ritual. Among the shrines you can visit are the Meiji-Jingu, the Yasukuni Shrine, the Zōjō-ji Temple, among others.

10. Take advantage of the winter sales and buy the lucky bags

Harajuku| ©Vincent
Harajuku| ©Vincent

Winter is eagerly awaited by many people as during this season companies and stores offer discounts on all kinds of products. During December you can get home appliances at good prices, while in January, especially the first days of the month, stores want to sell all the remaining inventory from the winter. This can be your opportunity to buy clothes or any other product you get on sale.

If you are in Tokyo I recommend you to go to one of the main shopping districts of the city. Among them is the Harajuku district where you can find a wide variety of clothing, fast food and much more. If you are looking for more exclusive brands you should go to Ginza, where you will find high fashion clothing stores. In Shibuya and Shinjuku you will also find a variety of stores worth visiting.

During this month it is also a tradition that stores sell the well-known fukubukuro or lucky bags. Buying them is quite a random experience, you do not know what they may contain, you can only have an idea of what they have depending on what the store where you buy it sells. There are even long queues because they are very cheap bags, being worth about 2 €, although they can cost more.

What is the weather like in Tokyo in January?

Tokyo in January| ©Danny Choo
Tokyo in January| ©Danny Choo

January is a winter month, so if you are traveling to Tokyo at this time of year it is important to be prepared. Daily temperatures are recorded between 6°C and 10°C. If you plan to do or see things at night in Tokyo, be aware that temperatures can drop as low as 2°C.

However, there is very little rainfall, so you can rest easy on that front. What you should be aware of is that on average during the day there are only six hours of sunshine. This may be a bit surprising for many people who are not used to it, so you should make the most of your daytime activities.

Book a bus tour in Tokyo

What are Tokyo's crowds and prices like in January?

Tokyo| ©Yosomono
Tokyo| ©Yosomono

Being one of the coldest months of the year, the tourist flow during January in Tokyo is very low, especially after New Year's week. If you are willing to vacation during the winter, you can take the opportunity to stroll around without finding many people crowded in the streets.

Another advantage of traveling in this month is that prices are not very high. You can get hotel rooms for 100 € with maximum comfort for the whole family. Likewise, flights are also cheaper, always depending on your place of origin. In the Japanese archipelago itself it is possible to find discounts on airline tickets to other locations.

Book a private tour of Tokyo

What to pack to visit Tokyo in January?

Preparing your luggage| ©Marissa Grootes
Preparing your luggage| ©Marissa Grootes

When traveling to Tokyo in January, it is important to bring winter clothes. You can bring a good coat to protect you from the cold. Make sure it is a waterproof coat in case it rains or snows, but in general, your priority will be to stay warm.

I also recommend you to bring comfortable shoes that will also protect you from the cold. If you plan to take advantage of the discounts during the first days of the month, it is better not to take too many clothes. It is good to have enough space in your suitcase to buy souvenirs and original traditional kimonos, which you can enjoy at home when you return.

Book a private driving tour of Tokyo