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17-Day Winter Itinerary for Nature Lovers 2019/1/18 15:32
Greetings everybody!

My husband and I (mid-30's) are looking for help in planning our first trip to Japan next winter. We will have about 17 days and 16 nights in Japan (arriving in Tokyo on December 22, 2019 and leaving Tokyo on January 7, 2020).

Our interests include nature, skiing, onsen (preferably outdoors and mixed-gender to share the time together), ryokan, hiking (we understand it's off-season), gardens (also off-season), architecture, sushi, teahouses, and temples/shrines/castles.

We are not very interested in big cities (although we do want to at least get a feel for Tokyo), and we don't care for shopping, amusement parks, malls, and modern architecture. We like museums about history, science, and art, but museums aren't high on our list of must-do's. I do not like war museums (too upsetting).

We hope to do transportation via trains (14-day rail pass most likely), buses, and taxis.

Could anyone provide suggested itineraries or places to visit based on our interests, public transportation, and the winter season?

Also, I understand that travel to/from Tokyo and tourist-site closures might be issues during Christmas and the New Year. Any info on this?

Thank you so very much for your help and time, everyone!
by Colleen (guest)  

Re: 17-Day Winter Itinerary for Nature Lovers 2019/1/19 11:29
Just throwing it out there. You'd get more nature if you went in the warmer months.
by hakata14 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 17-Day Winter Itinerary for Nature Lovers 2019/1/19 11:32
Winter is not the best time to travel if you are nature lovers, as there won't be a lot of greenery.

This website has a suggested itineraries section.
by / (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 17-Day Winter Itinerary for Nature Lovers 2019/1/19 11:53
It would sound like a good time for Kyushu potentially. Lots of Onsen and probably not that much of a snow risk.
If itfs skiing you are after, what about Hokkaido?

But I think you need to do some more homework with a guidebook or this webpage to get some ideas of your own. Check temperature charts and snow forecast.

The main touristic destinations such as Tokyo, Kyoto etc will also be good. Yes, colder than in other months, but if you go in winter you get winter. But you can definitely do your normal Japan trip in December. Hiking might be the one point that gets complicated unless in more costal /Southern areas due to snow and closure of roads.

Enjoy planning your trip to Japan!
by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 17-Day Winter Itinerary for Nature Lovers 2019/1/19 14:06
If you want to see, do and enjoy Nature in winter, go for western Honshu and/or Kyushu.
Good skiing can be done near Hiroshima and Yamaguchi. Good hiking and loads of hot springs in Kyushu.
Small hick-up if you only want to use public transport: You'll miss out on charms.
Give renting a campervan a thought.

by Alishan rate this post as useful

Re: 17-Day Winter Itinerary for Nature Lovers 2019/1/19 14:33
Thank you so much for all the thoughtful replies.

Regarding the timing of our trip, winter is our only option due to work constraints.

My title about "nature lovers" might be misleading. My husband and I are really hoping to do traditional activities in Japan along with a few outdoorsy activities like skiing. We don't assume to see lots of greenery or do lots of hiking in the winter time.

I was generally thinking that we would spend a few days in Tokyo, a few days in Kyoto, and a few days in the Japan Alps (and/or Hokkaido?) at onsen, ryokan, and ski areas.

The Tokyo and Kyoto parts of a trip seem pretty straightforward, so I guess I was looking more for specific information about ski areas that are accessible with public transportation and also close to onsen and ryokan. The Japan Alps seems like the best option for this, but maybe Hokkaido is better if less accessible?

I'm also concerned about travel congestion during the New Year.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
by Colleen (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 17-Day Winter Itinerary for Nature Lovers 2019/1/19 14:34
Ugh, winter has just as much opportunity to appreciate nature as there is more to nature than greenery.... Snowy landscapes are amazing, especially in a rotenburo. I'd suggest Nyuto Onsen for a mixed gender one. The Akita railway from Kakunodate is gorgeous in winter too.

Special mention to Ainokura in the Gokayama area. It is stunning. We just stayed there for a white Christmas. Skip Shirakawago. It's full of tourists.
by Sal1980 rate this post as useful

Re: 17-Day Winter Itinerary for Nature Lovers 2019/1/19 15:12
In Fukui, the Echizen Kaigan is a famous and nice place to view nature in winter with the Echizen daffodils in bloom in January against the backdrop of the coast:

Tojimbo in Fukui doesn't really change with the seasons (unless there's snow, but snow wouldn't detract):

As for open-air, mixed-gender onsen, I really like Yubara Onsen in northern Okayama:

The same town (and along the same bus line as Yubara Onsen) also has a nice waterfall, Kanba Falls:

Around Chugoku-Katsuyama Station (where the bus to Yubara Onsen and the waterfall departs from), there is also a nice historic district known for its noren, which is unique:

That area is also close to Izumo, Matsue, and Daisen:

And you can visit the castle town of Takahashi:
by Rabbityama rate this post as useful

Re: 17-Day Winter Itinerary for Nature Lovers 2019/1/19 15:46
Wow, thank you kindly for all the info!
by Colleen (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 17-Day Winter Itinerary for Nature Lovers 2019/1/19 20:58
In winter wet wind blows from west, and snow falls in the west side of high mountains in Japan. Dehumidified air goes to east of the mountains so the east side of the mountain tend to have less snow and more sunshine. For example, Tokyo is in the east side of the high mountain so the weather in winter is fine in general. Japan is rainy country, but winter in Kanto area (including Tokyo and Mt Fuji) is nice as for the weather (though it is cold).

Another nice area for winter is eastern Hokkaido where you can see cranes, eagles in the snowy (yes there is still snow) landscape. If you like nature I would recommend you to fly to Kushiro. Kushiro marshland is a good place to see cranes and Shiretoko is a good place to see eagles. After that you can do train travel through Hokkaido and northern Honshu to Nagano where you can see snow monkeys. You can drop off some places like Sapporo, Hakodate, Aomori, Sendai etc. Or if you want to save time you cam fly to Tokyo and then take Shinkansen to Nagano. Kyoto from Nagano is less than 4 hours via Hokuriku Shinkansen.

The situation of accommodations in Kyoto is rapidly changing these few years. New year was extremely busy season and the hotel rate was very high without exception in the past. Now, it is still expensive, but you may be able to find affordable hotels even int the very busy dates.
by frog1954 rate this post as useful

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