Updated： November 06, 2018
11 Cool Things To Do In Japan In February!
This article introduces some of the best things you can do in Japan in February. You'll find info on popular festivals, traditions, and food!
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Go To The Sapporo Snow Festival
This is the mother of all snow festivals in Japan. It attracts huge crowds of foreign and national tourists for good reasons. It has the some of the most impressive snow structures that you'll ever see, the food in Sapporo is great, and there are three huge sites where you can enjoy different activities, and see different things. The illuminated snow and ice structures are the highlight of the festival so you can enjoy it well into the evening.
Tokyo Marathon is among the Big Six Marathons in the world and constitutes a major winter event in the capital of Japan. The first and the only country from Asia to hold a major marathon, Japan started the event in 2007 and it became a huge success. 320,794 places are available for both marathon and 10km run race and they get easily filled. It's also fun to be a spectator. The 2018 edition will be held on February, 25.
Join In The "Setsubun" Tradition
Setsubun is the last day of winter according to the eastern lunar calendar. In Japan, they have this tradition of gather at shrines to throw soybeans at people wearing ogre masks. The ogre represents the bad spirits of the past and the idea is to start spring without them. There are also some traditional foods such as a "lucky sushi roll" and some regional variations to celebrate the event. There are some local variations in the way Setsubun is celebrated. In Nara Prefecture, there is the stunningly beautiful event called the Setsubun Mantoro during which 3,000 lanterns are candlelit between 18:00 and 20:30.
Visit Okayama And See The "Naked Festival"
This is called the hadaka matsuri (hadaka means naked), but to be just, people are actually wearing the traditional white underwear called fundoshi. This festival is quite huge in Okayama. It is a mix of purifications rituals and celebrations that culminate in a competition in which only men can participate. A person of religious authority throws a sacred stick into a crowd of fundoshi-wearing men and they have to take it to their goal. You've got to admire their courage because Okayama at night in February is not warm at all.
Admire The Plum Blossoms
Plum blossoms are not as popular as the sakura (cherry blossoms) but they are quite impressive too! They start blooming in mid-February in central Japan. One great place to see them is at the Sazuka Forest Garden in Mie Prefecture (pictured above). If you are in Tokyo, Hanegi Park is the spot. It's located a 5-minute walk from the Umegaoka Station (Odakyu Line) or a 7-minute walk from the Higashimatsubara Station (Inogashira Line).
Go To The Candle Light Festival Of Otaru, Hokkaido
Picture a charming, old Japanese snow-covered town in the foothills of a mountain, that becomes lit up every evening from 5 PM by the warm glow of 120,000 candles. This is exactly what Otaru becomes for a few days in February during its unique snow light festival. The candles' fire is protected from the wind by hand-made snow walls.
Visit Yokote (Akita Prefecture) For Its Kamakura Festival
A kamakura is an igloo-like shelter made by making a mound of snow and digging out the inside. In Yokote, Akita Prefecture, in mid-February for 2 days (2018 edition is on Feb. 15 and 16) from dawn until 9 PM, children invite passers-by to come inside their kamakuras. The guests then sit down for a moment and eat rice cakes and drink "amazake", a type of sweet sake that has very little or no alcohol. Chatting while enjoying these with friends, family or strangers is the best way to enjoy the festival. There are about 100 kamakuras in which you can enter at the festival. Before leaving, you should make an offering to the water deity as the custom goes.
Go To Asahikawa In Hokkaido For Another Great Winter Festival
Asahikawa is a picturesque town in Hokkaido. Although it is much smaller than Sapporo, it has one of the biggest winter festivals in the country. The main snow sculpture is even bigger than the one found at the Sapporo Winter Festival. If you like skiing or snowboarding, it's a good spot to stay at to enjoy the slopes of Hokkaido.
Visit The UNESCO World Heritage Site Of Shirakawa-Go
There is a little village in Gifu Prefecture called Shirakawa-go that is composed of 114 thick thatched roof houses. The village was historically very isolated so the architecture of the houses is something markedly different from what you'll see elsewhere in Japan. The village is especially charming in the winter when it becomes covered with snow.
Eat Like A Sumo!
There are heaps of delicious winter food in Japan. One of them is the chanko nabe (hot pot eaten by sumo). Be on the lookout for these while you are in Japan. They are so delicious and comforting!
Indulge In Sukiyaki
Another type of hot pot dish that is really popular throughout the winter is the sukiyaki. Sukiyaki usually consists of thinly sliced beef, which is slowly cooked or simmered with vegetables. The ingredients are usually dipped in a small bowl of raw, beaten eggs after being cooked in the pot. Sukiyaki is a must try, delicious staple Japanese dish!
There are many cool things to do in Japan in February. This is just a very short list of the most popular events and traditions. One thing is for sure is that the winter food in Japan is amazing and you can enjoy wherever you are in the country. For more information on the winter foods of Japan, check out the link below!
- Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.
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