Sep 01

Things To Do in Japan in December

by in Asia, Travel

"Winter japan" By chinaoz336 on April 20, 2008. Creative Commons Via Flickr

Holy monkey, I am only 4 months away from heading to Japan for three weeks and with that I am starting on a list of what I should do while I travel there. I leave Newark, NJ on December 6th and return December 28th (my arrival time is before my departure time – gotta love the International Date Line) and will be spending a good portion of my time with my friend @BouncyMcTigger’s sister in Yamato, Kanagawa prefecture. This will be my first time in Japan or anywhere in Asia for that matter so I’m excited. I really have no set plans but I’m arming myself with enough ‘Know Hows’ and ‘Where To’s’ so that I am well armed with activities to do so I don’t miss out on something great.

So far the only thing that is for certain is that I will get to have a weekend in a cabin somewhere, I wasn’t really told much more than that at this point but I’m all for exploring.


Here is a list of festivals thanks to that will go on during my stay in Japan.

  1. Hiwatari Shinji, 10 December,  Fukugon Temple, Nishihora, Komaki, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture Priests walk over burning embers in a purification rite at Fukugon Temple.
  2. Akou Gishisai , 14 December,  Ako, Hyogo Prefecture Traditional dances and warrior parades as an annual memorial to the legendary ’47 ronin’ (wandering samurai) who commited suicide to avenge their master.
  3. 47 Ronin Festival, 14 December, Bishamon Temple, Yamashina, Kyoto A procession commemorating the 47 Ronin with people in traditional costume walking from Bishamon Temple to Oishi jinja in eastern Kyoto
  4. Iwatsuta Shrine Fire Festival, 14 December,  Iwatsuta Jinja, Ishizugawa, Osaka 108 wooden bundles are set alight and young men run through the flames in a purification ceremony. 8pm start.
  5. Akiba Taisai Hiwatari Shinji Festival, 16 December, Entsuji Temple, Nagoya 100 ascetics run through flames before the general public joins in. 7pm start.
  6. Setagaya no Boro Ichi, 15-16 December, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo Countless stalls and shoppers crowd the streets at this flea market that dates back to 1578. A huge range of items to browse and buy including antiques, second-hand goods and food.
  7. Akutai Cursing Festival, mid-December, Atago Shrine, Mt. Atagoyama, Iwama-cho, Kasama, Ibaraki Prefecture Priests dressed in white and impersonating tengu goblins are cursed and abused. Participants attempt to steal the goblins’ offerings, while the goblins attempt to ward off their abusers with bamboo staves.
  8. Akiba no Himatsuri, 15-16 December,  Akiba, Shizuoka Prefecture Fire festival held to pray for protection against fire held at Akiba Jinja, a Shinto shrine that enshrines Hifuse, the god of fire prevention. Countless stalls and shoppers crowd the streets at this flea market that dates back to 1578. A huge range of items to browse and buy including antiques, second-hand goods and food.
  9. Kasuga Wakamiya Festival, 17 December, Kasuga Taisha, Nara A chance to see rarely performed traditional dances at a festival that has been observed every year since it began in 1136. A two-hour procession (owatarishiki) through central Nara begins at noon from the Prefectural Office followed by around seven hours of dances.
  10. Izumi Kannon Daruma-ichi, 17-18 December, Izumi Kannon Temple, Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture This temple has been holding daruma (a manifestation of the Buddha) fairs for every year over 400.
  11. Asakusa Kannon Hagoita-ichi , 17-19 December, Senso-ji Temple, Asakusu, Tokyo Festive market selling hagoita, the paddles used in hanetsuki, a game traditionally played at New Year. Around 50 stallholders crowd into the grounds of the temple over the two days.

"Snow Monkeys in Jigokudani" By Duchamp on February 6, 2008. Creative Commons via Flickr


  1. Odaiba Island, Tokyo – They have a rainbow bridge leading to it, it therefore has to be a magical place.
  2. Meiji Jingu Shinto Shrine – Temples and Shrines and ancient spirits – OH MY!
  3. Jigokudani Yaenkoen – A monkey park, seriously are you even surprised I have this one on here. Plus the monkeys have their own hot springs!
  4. Golden Temple of Kyoto (Kinkaku-ji) this is one of the 17 World Heritage sites of Kyoto, in fact I wouldn’t mind seeing all 17 of them.
  5. Shinto Shrine – I’m a sucker for a shrine.
  6. Akihabara, Tokyo – Nicknamed ‘Electric Town’ this is the place to go and search out electronics, I wonder if they have a flinging monkey toy so when poo flinging ensues I can simply point over with that “I’m with Stupid” look.
  7. Tokyo Tower – Think of the Eiffel Tower but more mini and lit up in red.
  8. Mount Fuji – This one probably needs some training and expensive climbing gear but if I get a chance to, at the least, see it and take a photo of it I’ll count it as a win.
  9. Roppongi – This is the Nightlife section, while I’ve heard they cater greatly to foreigners I’m in the full belief that everyone needs to get their boogie on some time or another even if this isn’t where all the locals go.
  10. Kyoto – This seems to be the place where you can enjoy all the activities of a large city but also experience many of the traditional cultures of Japan as well.

sake / 地水光風, By Kanko* on May 15, 2006 Creative Commons Via Flickr

Things To Do/Activities:

  1. Sento (Bath houses) or Onsen (Hotsprings) – nothing like a hot and refreshing back, I hope they have a good filtration system built for furry monkeys.
  2. Japan Rail Pass – I want to see if this will help save money on our travels in Japan.
  3. Kabuki – a little theater never hurt anyone
  4. Tea Ceremony – I like tea, and watching the intricacies of a tea ceremony will surely be enough to help me appreciate this ancient drink.
  5. Sumo – Who doesn’t like two fat men rolling around in diapers? The Tournaments don’t start till January from what I have read but I’m hopeful there will be a few opportunities elsewhere.
  6. Books:
    1. Guidebooks: Fodor’s Citypack Tokyo I heard this was a great book that included city and train maps and you always have your Lonely Planet Japan.
    2. Phrase Books: I have been taking lessons and hope to master everything in my Frommer’s Japanese PhraseFinder & Dictionary in time so I can order some of the items listed below.
  7. Ramen – Ramen noodles for too long have had a bad name here in the states, well I want to go to Japan and prove that Ramen can be a delicious, freshly made and popular dish.
  8. Karaoke  – “The ancient art form of singing badly in front of people who will applaud.” That is what it translates to, no really check it out yourself. I feel like I would be a failure of a traveler if I didn’t force at least one torturous tune upon friends and strangers while out on the town.
  9. Sushi/Sashimi – Really as if this one was questionable. I love the stuff but more so than anything else I want to see how delicious it is at the birth of it’s creation. Maybe at Tsukiji Fish Market?
  10. Sake – I’m a drunken monkey, you should be more disappointed if this didn’t make the list.

Have you been to Japan before or have any insight of places I should explore or avoid. Let me know because I’m always interested to see what you my fellow traveler has to say about a place.

I really don’t know what I will get to accomplish but by being well informed I hope to at least know all my options, and then as usual go with my normal travel theme, “Over plan, then go with the flow” and yes sake will be flowing too.


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12 Responses to “Things To Do in Japan in December”

  1. From Cardio Before or After Lifting:

    I like the helpful info you provide in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and take
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    Posted on 2013/12/02 at 9:09 pm #
  2. From Sofia:

    That’s a long list!! Looks so much fun, especially Jigokudani Yaenkoen, I would love to go there!! And no, I’m not surprised 😛

    Posted on 2010/09/11 at 5:06 pm #
    • From Cornelius Aesop:

      Hehe, I can’t help but want to visit Jigokudani Yaenkoen, but nothing is for sure at this point. I just want a good list to get me started and once I get there narrowing it down will become a lot easier (more or less figuring out what I can accomplish on my budget)

      Posted on 2010/09/13 at 3:16 pm #
  3. From Dustin Main:

    double sorry!

    Posted on 2010/09/04 at 11:58 pm #
  4. From Dustin Main:

    Keep up with Jeremy @ as he’s in Japan now!

    Posted on 2010/09/04 at 11:57 pm #
    • From Cornelius Aesop:

      Thanks for the tip, I’ve added him to my RSS and surprisingly I didn’t have you so I add you to my RSS feed too.

      Posted on 2010/09/07 at 12:35 am #
  5. From Russell Burck:

    What a list of fascinating possibilities and a good motto for selecting among them: “Overplan, then go with the flow.” One of the many fun things about travel is the serio-comic celebrations of different peoples: That cursing festival. I love it. Reminds me of ceremonies in traditional cultures in which people are allowed (required?) to break a tabu for a day or so. Russell Burck

    Posted on 2010/09/04 at 5:28 pm #
    • From Cornelius Aesop:

      Glad you like my motto, it has served me well so far. I like to feel well informed of what’s out there but realize that many of life’s opportunities present themselves on a whim.

      Posted on 2010/09/07 at 12:30 am #
  6. From Anonymous:

    Oh dear, I’m going to Japan in a matter of weeks (for a year there) and haven’t planned anything yet – I think I need to get a move on! Thanks for doing some of the hard work though 😛

    Posted on 2010/09/04 at 1:22 pm #
    • From Cornelius Aesop:

      A whole year there? Sounds fun, I’ll be on the lookout for job opportunities when I go there but I’ve already done a lot of research on do’s and don’ts and studying some Japanese. Maybe I should share some of what I already looked up. I’ll be interested to see what your adventure will be like.

      Posted on 2010/09/07 at 12:28 am #
  7. From Anonymous:

    I’ve yet to visit Japan, but this post makes me want to change that! Hopefully, in 2011 as my best friend from childhood is now a US diplomat in Tokyo and has a sweet pad, courtesy of the government!

    Posted on 2010/09/03 at 7:11 pm #
    • From Cornelius Aesop:

      That sounds like fun, make sure to check back after my visit to see if I have any insider tips and suggestions.

      Posted on 2010/09/07 at 12:25 am #

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