How to Enjoy Japanese Winter

How do you spend wintertime in Japan? Today, I’m going to share how to enjoy Japanese winter locally instead of going to touristy places. If you want to see more touristy places, you can search on Google then. After reading my article, you will get to know more information about local people and definitely have a lot of fun. As for Japanese wintertime, personally speaking, it’s from around the middle of November to the end of February. After Halloween, you can see Christmas trees in many places like grocery stores, shopping malls and restaurants. Those put you in a Christmas mood immediately. After Christmas, the trees will disappear.  You can see “Kadomatsu” here and there, which are decorations for celebrating the new year. We usually display this until the second weekend of January. Let’s take a look at the details.

1. Enjoy ODEN at Convini

*It’s usually placed next to the cashier at Convini.

“Convinis” are what convenience stores are called in Japan. I’m proud that this is the one of amazing cultural aspects of Japan. You might know  how wonderful Convinis are if you’ve already lived or visited here. Please refer to another my other article. When it’s getting cold, you can see a silver square container in which some vegetables and stuff are simmering. That is “Oden.” It is a combination of simmered vegetables with meats or tofu with dried bonito soup stock. You can choose it from a variety of the menus. My recommendation are 煮卵 (Ni Tamago) which is a boiled egg and 大根 (Daikon) which is a white Japanese radish. Oden pairs well with sake and makes you warm and happy.

2. Learn how to make Nabe yourself

*Nabe is a cheap way to fill yourself up.

*There are many kinds of soup stocks.

鍋 (Nabe) is Japanese hotpot. You can see many special nabe menus at many restaurants and izakaya. Why don’t you make nabe yourself this winter? It’s really simple. At first you must find your favorite 土鍋 (Donabe, earthenware hot pot). In winter, you can find many types of hot pots. And then you go to the grocery store and buy ready-made soup stock. There is a wide range of selections you can make to fit your preferences, such as salty, soy sauce, tonkotsu, miso, and kimchi. And then buy meat, some vegetables, and tofu. You can refer to the photo of the soup sock package when you are trying to choose the ingredients for the nabe. I think that all you have to buy is meat, which is pork or chicken, 白菜 (Hakusai, napa cabbage), and tofu.  After the preparation, you put them in the pot. That’s a breeze! After eating it, you can enjoy putting rice or noodles with the soup. Maybe you should try one tonight! 

3. Let’s Eat Cakes and Fried Chicken on Christmas Eve!

Is it just me? I think Christmas Eve is a peak time in the mood in Japan. Christmas Day seems to calm down a bit. People have a party and enjoy having dinner on Christmas Eve, but then we get back to normal life on Christmas Day because we don’t have the custom of taking Christmas holidays. You can see the people who are standing in the long line in front of KFC on Christmas Eve. We usually eat fried chicken instead of turkeys. So you might be interested to see why people are standing in line at KFC. Why don’t you try it? It’s crispy and juicy tasting. On top of that, it’s not that expensive. Please remember that you cannot buy the chicken on the day without reservation. Of course, you can get alternatives from many other places like restaurants, other burger chain stores, and even convinis. As for cakes, many bakeries  have special promotions to sell their Christmas cakes because this season is the best day for sales of the year. You can see many flyers to promote cakes at convinis, pastries and grocery stores. These days, most cakes are pre-order, but still you might find a discounted cake on Christmas Day. 

4. Let’s Enjoy Going Skiing and Snowboarding!

Luckily, we have snow in winter. Let’s go to see snow and lay on a snowy field for a while! You can feel how snow is nice and cold. There are a lot of ski resorts in Japan. Some of them are world class resorts, I think. As for skiing in Japan, please refer to another one of my articles.  

During the ski trip, you should choose to stay in a 旅館 (Ryokan, Japanese-style hotel). They might have a Kotatsu, which is a Japanese traditional heating device – a table with an electric heater covered with a thick blanket. A very Japanese thing is to eat an orange when you are using a kotatsu.  

5. Celebrate the New Year!

After Christmas, Christmas trees disappear immediately, and it turns into Kadomatsu, which is decoration for the New Year. After Christmas, people in Japan feel that a new year is around the corner, and we need to prepare for the food and stuff. After Christmas, Arima Kinen, the final horse race of the year, takes place. You can also see a long line of people standing and waiting for the year-end lottery. This puts me in a お正月 (Oshougatsu, New Year) mood.  We usually take a week off for winter holidays like others do for the Christmas holidays. On New Year’s Eve, we eat soba at midnight while listening to 除夜の鐘 (Joya No Kane),the ringing bell of the temple, on TV. On New Year’s Day, you can eat osechi and mochi. You can buy everything you might need for New Year’s at convinis if you don’t have time to go shopping elsewhere. You might want to go a big winter sale or to draw a lucky lottery at  the shrine after  New Year’s Day.

That’s all for today. These are my typical ways of spending time in the winter. I hope this helps you. I think it’s interesting to see how the decorations change in only a few seconds at various places. Thank you for taking the time to read my article to the end. See you!

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