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Celebrate a White Christmas in Asia: Japan and South Korea

“I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” is how the song goes, and if we’re being honest, who doesn’t dream of spending the most joyful holiday season in a winter wonderland?

Lucky for Filipinos, you don’t have to fly to the North Pole to experience snow because there’s a couple of winter wonderlands in Asia that are both just a short flight away!

Make your Christmas extra bright this winter season and head north to experience the magical beauty of Japan or immerse yourself in the romantic aura of South Korea!

Japan

Japan Winter

The Land of the Rising Sun gets very cold and snowy during the winter season. Although the country is widely-known for its cherry blossoms during the spring, the winter season has its own kind of magic.

The country boasts stunning snowy views, world-renowned snow festivals, and many opportunities for skiing and ice skating.

Winter Season (December – February)

Shirakawa Village Shirakawa-go Village, Gifu

Winters in Japan can be vastly different across the country. In Tokyo and Osaka, winters are short with limited snowfall.  Temperature ranges from a daytime high of 12ºC to a nighttime low of 5ºC.

Meanwhile, the temperature drops in the northern parts of Japan and winters stretch on for months with a high level of snow—like in Sapporo, where it ranges from -1ºC to -8ºC.

Winter is the best time to venture beyond the urban areas and into the countryside where snow blankets the land fully and beautifully. Although it does snow in Tokyo and Osaka, it rarely sticks to the ground and lasts for no longer than a couple of days.

Popular Snow Spots

Jigokudani Monkey Park Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano

Check out some of Japan’s most gorgeous snow-covered spots:

  • Sapporo, Hokkaido
  • Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano
  • Ginzan Onsen, Yamagata
  • Shirakawa-go Village, Gifu

Getting Around

Snow in Japan

The snow wonderland of Japan is located mostly up north, like Sapporo in Hokkaido. It can be reached via train, plane, ferry, or car. The fastest and easiest way would be by plane, which takes around one and a half hours from Tokyo.

If you choose to go by train, it will take approximately 7.5 hours with a transfer. This route is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass).

Book your JR Pass here

Pro-tip: A one-way train ride from Tokyo to Sapporo will cost just as much as the JR Pass, which basically gives you unlimited rides on bullet trains across Japan for seven days! It’s definitely a great value if you will be traveling to other parts of the country.

Winter Highlights

USJ Hollywod street
Universal Studios Japan
  • Skiing: Japan is blessed with consistent, deep, and powdery snow, making it the perfect ski site!
  • Sapporo Snow Festival: The festival attracts millions of tourists each year for its one-of-a-kind snow experience. The snow and ice festival in Odori Park features stunning ice sculpture shows and illuminations. It’s held for one week every February.
  • Winter Illuminations: Light festivals are huge events in Japan and each city has its own light festivals that certainly make the season bright. The biggest illumination display in Japan can be found in Nagoya at Nabana no Sato, with its stunning light tunnel with more than eight million LED bulbs!
  • Onsens: Natural hot springs in Japan are popular all-year-round but dipping into one of them during winter is a special, rejuvenating experience. The Shibu Onsen in Nagano is a pretty popular spot mainly because of the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park, where you can see monkeys roaming freely and bathing in the hot springs.

Popular Theme Parks

Tokyo Disneyland celebrates Christmas with a bang with themed parades and activities that will liven up your holiday experience.

Book your Tokyo Disneyland ticket here

Expect similar themed parades and extravagant holiday celebrations at Tokyo DisneySea.

Book your Tokyo DisneySea ticket here

Universal Studios Japan in Osaka also has a holiday celebration that runs from November to December, highlighting a nighttime show, a huge Christmas tree, and other holiday treats.

Book your Universal Studios Japan ticket here

Some Tips:

Ice Carving
Ice sculpture in Sapporo Snow Festival
  • Bundle up: The weather in Japan can get really really cold so it’s best to invest in good winter clothing like thermal socks or heat-retaining sweaters before your visit. Remember: layering is key!
  • Tours are always great: Hopping onto a tour bus is a great and efficient way to see the city sights.
  • Have a handy pocket WiFi: Having a pocket WiFi allows you to access navigation maps on your phone and gives you opportunities to upload your trip photos to your Instagram!

Book your Japan 4G Pocket WiFi rental here

South Korea

South Korea Winter

We’ve seen in K-dramas how the two leads fall in love under the snow falling from the sky. There’s even a superstition in South Korea that says when you’re out with a person you like in the first snowfall of the year, love will truly blossom between the two of you.

With that being said, winter in South Korea can be described as undeniably romantic. From pretty snow spots to stunning illuminations, how could anyone not fall in love with this place at this time of year?

Winter Season (Late November – Mid-March)

Vivaldi Park Daemyung Vivaldi Park

Winter in South Korea is cold and dry with an average temperature range of -7ºC to 5ºC in Seoul. The actual temperature feels colder, however, due to the frosty Siberian winds.

Snow in Seoul doesn’t regularly happen every year, but when it does it’s pretty magical! It falls around mid-December to January.

If you want to fully experience a place blanketed in thick white snow, head east to the mountains and enjoy various ski resorts like Yongpyong Ski Resort and Daemyung Vivaldi Park.

Popular Snow Spots

N Seoul Tower
Photo credit: Namsan Seoul Tower

Fall in love this winter in South Korea’s famed snow destinations:

  • Namsan Seoul Tower, Seoul
  • Seogwipo, Jeju Island
  • Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do
  • Nami Island, Petite France, and Garden of Morning Calm

Book your Nami Island package tour here

Getting Around

Korea Train

Traveling in South Korea is quite easy with their extensive subway and domestic air travel networks, as well as local buses and ferries that are available almost anywhere. Getting around by train is by far the most convenient and efficient way to travel around the country.

Just make sure to get a KORAIL pass, which is especially catered to foreigners, to take advantage of unlimited access to train services!

Book your KORAIL pass here

Winter Highlights

Garden of Morning Calm
Image Credit: morningcalm.co.kr
  • Daegwallyeong Snow Festival: Experience this stunning winter festival in Pyeongchang that features ice sculptures, snow sled hills, a fairytale parade, and fireworks!
  • Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival: They say Gangwon-do is the best place to experience winter in South Korea. Within this province, you can do a myriad of winter activities, including skiing and ice fishing!
  • Seogwipo Penguin Swimming Festival: A fascinating event in Jeju Island, this festival doesn’t include actual penguins, but locals who race and swim into freezing waters to celebrate the New Year.
  • Lighting Festivals: If there’s one thing to look forward to in winter, it’s Christmas lights. There are various light festivals across the country that will definitely make your holidays bright. Some famous events include the Garden of Morning Calm Lighting Festival and the Busan Christmas Tree Festival.
  • Theme Parks: Amusement parks in Seoul get donned in Christmas gear every winter and become host to splendid light shows, fun parades, as well as awesome fireworks displays. Enjoy the annual Christmas traditions in Everland Theme Park or Lotte World!
  • Seoul Plaza: Live your K-drama moments and go ice skating in the city!

Some Tips:

Korean Food

  • Eat and enjoy: Did you know that we burn more calories in cold weather? So give your diet a break and enjoy South Korea’s hot stews, street food, and other local eats!
  • Avoid the queues by booking in advance: Theme parks, festival events, and park entrances will all have fees. It’s best to book in advance online to avoid waiting in line on the day and to score cheaper tickets! Traveloka has some great deals here.
  • Go for a tour: It’s a great way to cover several places for a good value price. Want to see Nami Island, Petite France, and Garden of Morning Calm in one day? Book a tour here.

 

May your Christmases be white this year. Book via Traveloka and begin your winter adventure!

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