Travelling to Japan during New Year Period

Hi fellow OZBargainers,

I am planning to travel to Japan during Christmas and new year holiday. Of course i will be visiting the big cities Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima and some side trips too. I was planning to also spend 3 nights in Kanazawa but I have just realised that the Kanazawa area rains roughly 23/24 days per month for the December January period. I have 2 young kids (4 and 6) so i do not really want to go there and waste my time at the hotel when it rains. Can anyone suggest where to go that also suit the kids and also where to stay that will not cost an arm and a leg. I really appreciate your help.


  • +2

    Not sure if New Year is the best time to visit, as it's their lengthiest national holiday.

  • +1

    new years eve is pretty dead in japan. as is Christmas (i used to live in japan).

    head into the mountains and see snow, outside onsens(thermal baths), snow monkeys.

    in december tokyo is dark and cold (might even snow).

    enjoy the rain. take waterproof boots, raincoats and umbrellaas. stop at frequent convenience stores for hot canned drinks and "a-man" (sweet Azuki bean paste steamed buns).

    accomodation-check out what is happeningwith airbnb. i always use airbnb. its not easy/cheap with 4 for hotels. also minshuku`s and ryokans(they are guest houses…sort of like a bed&breakfast).

    • +1

      Re AirBnB, lots of regulation changes recently in Japan so look out for those.

      • Pretty sure AirBnB have removed any that don't have approval, and are only allowing approved ones to list. There were lots of listings a few months ago, then it died down, now more are starting to get listed again.

      • I didn't know about this, freaking out now. I have AirBnB bookings for Osaka and Tokyo accomm in Dec 2018/Jan 2019. Should I cancel them and get my money back? Is there any risk to me losing out if my 2 hosts get banned?

        • don't stress too much about it. wait till a month before departure to revisit the bookings. if your bookings aren't still there then just go on, etc and book something.

        • I booked via airbnb too for Osaka trip this December as hotel prices are crazy. My host has not cancelled my booking although her listing is no longer available. I have messagesd her asking if she is applying for permit. She didnt reply back to me. I booked another accommodation with free cancellation and pay later through agoda in case my airbnb gets cancelled. Maybe you can do the same

    • Agreed. I visited Tokyo for New Years 2 years ago… literally everything is shut (with the exception of convenience stores and Yoshinoya).

      I recommend you check what is open during that period. If not, you'd be way better off at a resort/theme park.

  • +1

    We went last year, spent 5 days at Tokyo disneyland/sea, 1 more night in Tokyo, then went to Hakuba for skiing for a week over Christmas and New Years (our daughter went to ski school for the time and loved it). After that we went down to Hiroshima for 2 nights (1 day at Miyajima which was a ferry ride, awesome), wish we spent 1 more night in Hiroshima. Then went to Kyoto which we didn't enjoy as much as everywhere else as it rained a fair bit, we rented electric bikes and rode to all the temples. Then we finished off in Osaka with Universal Studios which was awesome.

    We only had a 3 year old at the time, and the trains could be a bit of a challenge, getting on and off! Loved every second of the trip, wish we could go back again.

    Apparently there's some crackdown on Airbnbs now in Japan, I would be wary. We used for all accommodation apart from Skiing.

    • DO you mind if I ask how much that trip cost?

      We were looking to head over there next year and Mrs starting looking at tour packages. So far she's up to 15K for two weeks and that without spending money. :)

      • +4

        While I didn't go at New Years or Christmas, (I only got back a few days ago) this "tour" cost a smidge over $5k each for my girlfriend and I. It was just over 3 weeks, accomodation and the incredible JR public transport pass.

        Itinerary in brief

        04 June

        Tokyo QF79 MEL To NRT, Dep. 09:10 Arr. 18:35
        Keisei Local Narita Airport to Tokyo (Kesei Ueno)

        Villa Fontaine Tokyo Ueno

        05 June

        Tokyo Sightseeing in Tokyo Villa Fontaine Tokyo Ueno


        06 June

        Tokyo Optional Day Trip from Tokyo Villa Fontaine Tokyo Ueno


        07 June

        Tokyo Toyota Mega Web Museum

        Baseball: Yomiuri Giants vs Rakuten Eagles

        Villa Fontaine Tokyo Ueno

        08 June

        Tokyo Disneyland Villa Fontaine Tokyo Ueno


        09 June

        Tokyo DisneySea Villa Fontaine Tokyo Ueno


        10 June

        Takayama Train from Tokyo to Takayama Sousuke.

        11 June

        Takayama Sightseeing in Takayama Sousuke.

        12 June

        Kanazawa Travel by bus to Shirakawago
        Sightseeing in Shirakawago
        Travel by bus to Kanazawa

        Dormy Inn Kanazawa.

        13 June

        Kanazawa Sightseeing in Kanazawa Dormy Inn Kanazawa.

        14 June

        Kyoto Train from Kanazawa to Kyoto The B Kyoto Sanjo.

        15 June

        Kyoto Sightseeing in Kyoto
        Night-time Exploration in Gion

        The B Kyoto Sanjo.

        16 June

        Kyoto Day Trip to Nara The B Kyoto Sanjo.

        17 June

        Mount Koya Luggage Forwarding (not incl.)

        Train from Kyoto (Kawaramachi) to Mount Koya


        18 June

        Hiroshima Train from Mount Koya to Osaka (Nanba)
        Train from Osaka to Hiroshima

        Active Hiroshima Hotel.

        19 June

        Hiroshima Day Trip to Miyajima Island Active Hiroshima Hotel.

        20 June

        Osaka Train from Hiroshima to Osaka (Shin-Osaka) Nanba Dotonbori Hotel.

        21 June

        Osaka Universal Studios Japan Nanba Dotonbori Hotel.

        22 June

        Hakone Luggage Forwarding (not incl.)

        Train from Osaka (Shin-Osaka) to Odawara
        Bus from Odawara to Hakone

        Ichinoyu Honkan.

        23 June

        Hakone Sightseeing in Hakone Ichinoyu Honkan.

        24 June

        Tokyo Bus from Hakone to Odawara

        Train from Odawara to Tokyo (Shinagawa)

        Gracery Shinjuku Hotel.

        25 June

        Tokyo Sightseeing in Tokyo Gracery Shinjuku Hotel.

        26 June

        Train from Tokyo (Shinjuku) to Tokyo (Narita
        QF80 NRT To MEL, Dep. 20:05 Arr. 07:45

        This also included tickets to Disney Land, Disney Sea, Universal Studios and a baseball game. We covered quite a bit of Japan, saw heaps and enjoyed every minute of it. We stayed at 3 Ryokans, and for me, honestly, 1 would have been enough. Sleeping on futons on the floor, shared bathrooms and washrooms, the novelty wore off quick smart (especially with my bad back). But we had no idea what they were about until we went on the trip.

        InsideJapan tours put the itinerary together for us, and booked everything. We weren't with a tour group, we just did our own thing once we got to the location. We did snag fantastic airfares @ $505 each return with Qantas, so ~$11k all up before spending money, for a bit over 3 weeks. Your Mrs can do better.

        Sorry about the itinerary formatting, just copied and pasted from a pdf.

        • Many thanks. :)

        • Adding to this -
          Me and my partner went last year for 2 weeks and spent ~5K between us all up, so you can do it cheaper if you try. We didn't really miss out on anything, just didn't really splurge on too much

          Im going again this year and will spend a little more though :)

          My rough plan for November / december is

          Tokyo 20-21
          Nagoya 21-23
          Kyoto 23-26
          Osaka 26 - 30
          Tokyo 30 - 6

          Main costs will be
          - Accomodation with AirBnB - $800
          - JR pass (must have IMO if you're going between Tokyo -> Osaka and back) - $500 (Just make sure you're staying near a JR station)
          - Fun2Drive rental - $700 or so (still gotta determine if I want to do this).
          - Flights were $600

          Total - $2600 + spending money (or $1900 if I don't do fun2drive)

          Most places I want to visit should be cheap too :)

        • +1

          @bhubb18: adding to that -

          my last trip to japan in Sept 2017 was tokyo night bus ($40) —> Kyoto —> local train—> osaka ($5) —> bus ($40) —> hiroshima —>bus ($30) —> fukuoka —> hire car —> kagoshima —> jetstar ($90) —>Narita

          buses are cheap. easy. they travel on express highways. stop frequently at high rest stops. are a great way to see the country, see how Japanese travel domestically.

          car hire is relatively cheap. however if you drop the car off at a different location then it can have very expensive one way fees.

          I airbnbed the whole trip (6 places). all the places we stayed at were very good. except the last place was a beach house that was quite run down to the point of being disappointing, but it was so cheap.

          my previous trip in sept 2016 was also bus travel (only tokyo + Sendai) and airbnb.
          we are going again in october and will airbnb and hire car (we are going rural this time).

          I've used buses on my last 2 trips and when I lived there.

        • Thanks for the very detailed itinerary 😊

  • I was pretty disappointed by Kanazawa. I think more time in Osaka would be good - aquarium and Disney

  • it'll be very cold…

  • +1

    Did last NYE in Japan, wasn't great. Everyone goes back home to spend time with family, and visits a shrine on new year's day, so the cities will be crawling with gaijin.

    • I'm a Japanese and I can tell New Year is like Christmas here.

  • Look into Lucky Bags!!

    Basically you can buy a bag at x cost and have no idea what’s in it, but it’s usually worth more than you paid. A friend of mine got an iPad at an Apple shop for about half its value.

  • OP: If you're staying anywhere near the Kanazawa region (I've been to Toyama during December/January 2017), it'll be snowing almost daily (definitely no rain whatsoever - it's way too cold for that). During my time there it was mainly moderate to heavy snowfall. To be honest, there wasn't THAT much to see or do there. It was okay… it depends on what your interests are. I did check out that famous Starbucks (which is apparently supposed to be the most beautiful one in the world? Or something like that)… that was nothing spectacular, either. It's just high-glass windows next to the lake and the town's bridge.
    Definitely invest in an umbrella (you can get them from any convenience store for <$5. You may run out of things to do there if you're staying for longer than 2 days.