There’s No Place Like Kansai For the Holidays

Tori gate covered in snow
(Photo Credit: Shiga Photo Library)

You did it. Your first semester abroad is almost over. You might be preparing for you flight back home, or for your next semester abroad. Either way, you have a unique opportunity before you leave: exploring another country during the holidays!

Japan offers a lot when it comes to the winter, whether it be festivals, lighting ceremonies, or just the gorgeous scenery in the snowfall. Here are some of the top things to do in Kansai during the holiday season.

Chion-in Temple in Kyoto

Priest ringing bell

Visiting a temple on New Year’s Eve is a staple of Japanese culture. You get to eat good food and ring in the New Year with an unforgettable experience. While there are temples closer to JCMU, you just can’t beat Kyoto’s temples.

Otsu’s Rose Fantasy Garden of Lights

Lights display on Lake Biwa
(Photo Credit: Shiga Photo Library)

Starting on December 1st, Otsu hosts a spectacular light display along the shore of Lake Biwa. It features over 100,000 holiday lights! So bundle up, grab some hot chocolate and a friend and take a night time stroll through this luminary garden.

Winter Festival’s in Tohoku

Ryokan covered in snow by river
(Osawa Onsen, Hanamaki, Iwate)

Maybe you want to go all out and see more of Japan. JCMU Program Director Kate Simon recommends going to the Tohoku Region! The winter festivals are incredible and you get to see a very different side of the country. If you have the travel bug, there is no better place to go for the winter. Most of the festivals do take place in February though, so you might have to be patient.

Honke Tsuruki Soba

Who needs fancy lights and pretty sights – after all, the only thing you really need is some good food. Our follower Ian Shepard recommended Honke Tsuruki Soba, a 300 year old soba shop located in Otsu. So if you have the itch for some traditional Japanese food this winter, this is the spot.

Ryokan Beniyau

It’s been a hard semester. Adjusting to a new culture and the daily grind of learning Japanese have taken their toll. You need somewhere to relax. Look no further than Ryokan Beniya, located just north of Hikone in Nagahama. This Ryokan has amazing baths! From the outdoor bath you can see Lake Biwa and watch the snow fall. So treat yourself and enjoy some classic Japanese bath houses!

Jazz-Bar Coltrane in Kusatsu

What better way to wring in the roaring 20’s part two then some Jazz! Recommended by JCMU’s very own Harada-san no less. This bar sports a classy feel and some smooth jazz. In short, all you need for a relaxing and fun evening. So now that you know your onions go and have some fun!