Visiting Tokyo in Winter

Tokyo in Winter

It’s been over three months since we first arrived in beautiful, frenetic, freezing cold Tokyo. I can’t tell you how excited I was—Japan had been top of my travel bucket list for years. I’d even taken a beginners’ Japanese course before we left the country, which gave me even greater appreciation for and interest in the culture. すごい でした!


Below you’ll find my overall impressions of Tokyo, with lots of photos thrown in. If you’d prefer to see more of a structured itinerary, see this post.

Tokyo in chilly February

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Tokyo, JapanWe knew that visiting in February would mean we’d avoid the crowds and expense of the peak season. Excellent news, I’m sure you’ll agree. The trade-off was that we would be giving up a chance at seeing the city and country at its best – adorned in cherry blossom.

Trading fluffy sakura for skeletal trees was heartbreaking at first, but to my delight blossom arrived unseasonably early on the occasional tree. In Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden I even stumbled upon a cluster of blossoming trees, with tiny green birds flitting around the branches (see above).

Plum Blossom in Tokyo, Japan
Koishikawa Korakuen Garden, Tokyo, in winter

Beyond glimpses of blossom, though, I actually came to appreciate the look of Japanese stroll gardens in the stark winter light. With much of the greenery pared back, things take on a more minimal, structural quality, which has a spartan beauty of its own. Especially set against a bright blue sky and glittering koi ponds.

A wealth of beauty and tradition

Yogi (Bedclothes) in the Tokyo National Museum, Japan

Tokyo offers a rich supply of historic structures, decoration and traditions. I realise I’m grouping a lot of diverse religious buildings together here, but the temples and shrines in particular are such evocative and ethereal places to visit. We were thrilled to find so many of them, big and small, scattered throughout the city.

Read more: Meiji Shrine | Senso-ji Temple

Some of my favourite details included…

Beautiful examples of clothing and silk paintings at the Tokyo National Museum, like the fabulous yogi pictured above.

Scene from Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo
Ema wishing plaques, Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

Ema wishing plaques were full of exquisite writing (I can’t get enough of kanji!) and drawings, strung up with coloured elastic.

People at the brazier, Sensoji, TokyoIncense hanging in the air as people approached the brazier, squinting into the smoke, to light their own contribution at Sensoji.

Wedding Procession at Meiji Shrine, TokyoA series of wedding processions at the Meiji Shrine, complete with delicate kimonos and bright red parasols.

Awe-inspiring and efficient, no matter the season

Tokyo Metropolitan Government BuildingThere’s such a sense of grandeur and scale in Tokyo, whether it’s a towering pagoda or the sleek symmetry of the enormous Metropolitan Government Building above.

Tokyo Transport

It’s a bit of a stereotype that Japan is efficient. I’m speaking with regard to the transport system particularly here, but I found it completely true! Being on a train at rush hour is definitely a bit of a crush, but in general the punctuality, orderliness and cleanliness were so refreshing compared to other cities. How I wish everyone would line up to board as they do in Japan!

Over to you

Have you visited Japan in winter? Or are you planning a trip? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

P.S. My guide to Kyoto in winter and my 14 day Japan Itinerary (including expenses and planning tips!).

Tokyo in Winter

4 thoughts on “Tokyo in Winter

  1. Anne-Sophie

    I went to Japan last year during cherry blossom season and I’m now planning my second trip for December! Reading all of your posts for inspiration 🙂
    I look forward to seeing the tourist sites less crowded!

    1. Lorna Post author

      Ooh, that’s awesome. I’m jealous! Hope you have a brilliant time (and that you find the posts helpful!) 🌸😊

  2. Shalla

    That was a great post thank you ! May I ask when you went there?
    I’m planning a trip to Tokyo as well actually I thought about going in March/April but after your guide I think it might be even a better idea to go in winter to avoid the crowds.

    1. Lorna Post author

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, Shalla!

      We visited early-mid February. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to each season, though. I suppose it largely comes down to how important the weather is to your experience. I found the February weather milder than I’d expected in the cities, though still chilly, but there’s a chance we just got lucky!


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