Japan in February is a snow-filled fantasy with a plethora of winter activities. It may be cold and rainy, but the festivities, notably the famous Sapporo Snow Festival, make it a must-see event. Some people go to the countryside to see plum blossoms, cherry blossoms that bloom early, and the Kawazu Festival. Following the cherry blossom-filled roads marks the end of winter in Japan. Also, during this time of year, Hokkaido and Tohoku are the most appealing destinations. Nevertheless, February is the month of love, and Japan is always ahead regarding celebrations and festivals. Let’s understand the best way to explore Japan in February without further ado.
Setsubun (February 2- February 4)
Setsubun is a celebration to ward off evil spirits. The dates are decided per the lunar calendar or one day before the start of spring. The origins have a lot to do with Chinese rituals and beliefs about the Lunar New Year, when the spirit world and ours interact, letting ghosts cross our streets and even come into our homes. Some spirits are said to bring sickness and bad luck to a family and must be expelled before the new year starts.
Eating Eho-maki sushi rolls is another popular ritual. One is meant to devour the roll without speaking. Setsubun, like many traditional holidays, is celebrated in various ways around the nation.
Sapporo Snow Festival (February 4 – February 11)
The majority of the snow and ice sculptures and lots of warm beverages and snack options can be found here. The ice sculptures may reach heights of 15 meters and widths of 25 meters. Tsudome is the second-largest location; however, it will not open until 2023. Susukino is the most petite site yet still has over 100 ice sculptures and hosts the Ice Sculpture Contest. Even though two million people usually go to the snow festival yearly, COVID-19 means that the event will be smaller in 2023, with only Odori Park and the Susukino Site being used.
Valentine’s Day – 14th February
Valentine’s Day is celebrated differently in Japan: males are often expected to do relatively little on February 14th, with women supposed to be the primary gift-giver. Not just to their lover, but also to any man with whom they have a serious bond. Another significant difference is the kind of gift given: although in many countries, cards, flowers, jewelry, or costly meals are all acceptable options for Valentine’s Day, there is just one acceptable choice in Japan: lots and lots of chocolate.
On Valentine’s Day, not everyone celebrates romance. Singles, therefore, need not despair! It is common for women to present chocolates to their friends. This is referred to as ‘tomo choco’. Japan commemorates “White Day” exactly one month later on March 14th. This is where those who get Valentine’s Day chocolates are required to reciprocate. Many women look forward to this day since it encourages men to express their sentiments via gift giving.
Nagasaki Lantern Festival – Chinese New Year
The Nagasaki Lantern Festival illuminates the city not only with light but also with music. Nagasaki Lantern Festival is Japan’s largest lantern festival, held annually in Nagasaki City. Chinese New Year is celebrated with nearly 15,000 lanterns and lights illuminating the city for 15 days. According to the calendar, the event begins on Chinese New Year’s Day, which falls between January 22 and February 5, 2023.
Besides the lanterns, the festival features the Emperor’s Parade, the Chinese Lion Dance, Chinese Acrobatics, and more. Hundreds of restaurants and gift shops serve authentic Chinese food. Enjoy the vibrant city at night! One of the most impressive shows is the Jaodori, a dragon dance with acrobatics, lion dancing, and mask-changing.
Yokote Kamakura Festival (February 15 – February 16)
Yokote, Akita Prefecture’s most southeastern city, hosts Yokote Kamakura Festival (Yokote no Yuki Matsuri) annually on February 15 and 16. Kamakura, or igloo-like snow cottages, are built throughout the town to celebrate. Each Kamakura has a water god snow shrine where people pray for plenty of water. A charcoal brazier grills rice cakes.
Children serve festival guests rice cakes and amazake, a warm, sweet rice wine with zero or very low alcohol, in their Kamakura in the evenings (18:00–21:00). In exchange, guests sacrifice at the water god shrine. The Kamakurakan Hall maintains a few kamakura in a tiny -10 degree Celsius area so visitors can see them even in summer. Hundreds of lantern-sized kamakura line the Yokote River. Candles light these little Kamakura from twilight to 21:00, creating a beautiful sea of lights.
Onsen – Entire February
Onsen are a traditional part of Japanese culture that every tourist should try at least once. Winter is unquestionably the best season for onsen, where you can relax in a hot bath. After your onsen soak, stay at an authentic Ryokan inn (traditional Japanese style lodging) and eat delicious Japanese cuisine. What a delight! Even if you are simply visiting Tokyo, there are numerous beautiful onsen places that you can visit on a day trip from Tokyo.
Zao snow monsters – Entire February
The Zao Snow Monsters, or Zao-yuki, are a natural occurrence in Miyagi, Japan. They come out in the winter when the trees around them are covered in thick snow, making it look like they are monsters or animals covered in ice. The snow monster season starts in December, and the monsters reach their peak between mid-February and mid-March. The moniker “Zao Snow Monsters” refers to the trees’ appearance, which might resemble ghostly figures, animals, or other odd things. The region is a renowned tourist site, drawing tourists from all around Japan and the globe to experience this one-of-a-kind and spectacular natural show.
Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival – Entire February
The Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan is a breathtaking event held each February that draws both locals and tourists. With its stunning display of cherry blossom trees in bloom, the festival is a one-of-a-kind and captivating event. Visitors can enjoy traditional Japanese events like tea ceremonies, live music, and dance shows as they walk along the pretty paths lined with pink and white flowers. The Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival is a must-see event in February, whether you are a nature lover, a fan of Japanese culture, or simply looking for a scenic escape.
Winter Illuminations – 1-14th February
Winter illuminations run until Valentine’s Day or even into spring. The “Midtown Christmas” event, the trees in the garden behind Tokyo Midtown’s main tower being lit, and a paid ice rink open from 11:00 a.m. to 21:00 p.m. until February 26 are among the illuminations at Tokyo Midtown. The other illuminations include the Ashikaga Flower Fantasy in Ashikaga Flower Park, one of the Kanto Region’s largest seasonal illumination events with over 5 million LED lights covering the majority of the park. Hanging lights designed to simulate seasonal flowers and music-synchronized light displays are among the attractions. The exhibition is on display until February 14th perfect for your visit to Japan in February
Winter Sports – Entire February
Some places in Japan, like Hokkaido and Niigata Prefecture, are known for their beautiful snow and winter sports. Between December and February, a huge number of tourists visit these places every year. However, the amount of snowfall and the season differ by area. Skiing and snowboarding are the most popular winter sports in Japan, and the magnificent ski resorts with high-quality powder snow attract visitors from all over the world. Because of the great snow conditions, the coldest months of the year, January and February, are certainly the best months for skiers.
Ume (Plum Blossoms) – 15th February Onwards
The Japanese plum, ume, also known as Japanese apricot, was introduced from China and has long played an important role in Japanese culture. The cherry tree soon eclipsed it in popularity. Plum blossoms are some of the first flowers to bloom each year, so they are often associated with the start of spring. in February and March in most parts of Japan, including Tokyo, however, some types bloom earlier.
Plum festivals, or ume matsuri, are held in public parks, shrines, and temples around the nation to commemorate the occasion. The genuine ume fruit is sourer than a Western plum or an apricot and is normally treated before eating. The most common processed version is umeboshi, a sour, pickled plum that is often eaten with cooked rice. Umeboshi have one of the most traditional Japanese tastes. Umeshu, a plum-based sweet alcoholic beverage, is also popular.