Sometimes you have to get away from all the hustle and bustle that comes with living in the city; double that sentiment if you’re an ex-pat living life in one of Japan’s megacities during the winter months. It’s cold, we’re done with the New Year holidays, and there aren’t many holidays coming up before the middle of the spring. Sometimes all you need to break out of the doldrums of winter is a good weekend trip out of town to refresh your spirits, so we put together a shortlist of things to do and places to go.
You can always stick around and enjoy some of the world’s best places to enjoy winter sports, check out our Tokyo Area Skiing Guide, and our recent look at Japan’s snow festivals. Also, don’t forget that winter is a perfect time to take a dip in one of Japan’s numerous hot springs, so you’ll want to read our guides to onsen resorts and towns we’ve put together over the years.
If you’re trying to stay in Japan but still want to escape the cold, damp winter for a spell, the only destination that springs forth in many minds would be Okinawa. Japan’s 47th prefecture is a chain of islands that stretches for nearly 900km from the south of Kyushu. The biggest city, Naha, has flights from all over Japan (not to mention other places around Asia) and is pretty convenient to get to from Tokyo– about 2½ hours. We put together an excellent Guide to Okinawa for more information. If you don’t mind flying another few hours and toting your passport along (after checking visa requirements), Taiwan, Guam, and Hawaii make for reasonable tropical getaways, but you’ll need to shop well for deals on airfares and hotels by doing research on the internet or visiting a travel agency. Protip: if your Japanese is decent enough, try using a Japanese travel site like Skyticket and Rakuten to find roundtrip flights from Japan; there seem to be many unlisted deals they dig up better than their international counterparts.
Of course, you can choose to stay in Tokyo and explore the expanse of the metropolis. See that art exhibit that you saw an ad for on the Yamanote Line. Wander over to that coffee shop across town, your colleagues hinted about the other day. You can even do what I did when I first washed up on these shores more than a decade ago and blindly tap on Google Maps and meander to wherever the pin dropped. But if you prefer a bit of a head’s up on some knowledge, please check out our Let’s Tour articles to help give some ideas on what hidden gems await you in many corners of the city.
Image “Exit Sign” by Andrew Teoh via Unsplash