There’s no shortage of events this December in Japan! Attend traditional festivals, run a marathon, and enjoy the illuminations in Kyoto and Osaka before you ring in the New Year.

We have compiled a great list of events all over Japan, so no matter where you are during your trip, you’ll have plenty to do. For events in Tokyo and the surrounding area, please visit our listings on Tokyo Cheapo.

Kansai events

These are events in Kyoto, Osaka, Hyōgo, Mie, and the surrounding areas.

Ramen Expo 2022

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Slurp on your favorite ramen each weekend through December and travel Japan with your taste buds. There will be over 40 stalls set up with a variety of ramen from across the country for you to try out. The festival takes place over the five weekends in December, with a different group of ramen offerings available each time. You’ll only have to pay for park entry and you can buy tickets to swap for bowls of ramen.

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Experience Tea Ceremony in Kyoto
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Kasuga Wakamiya

Kasuga Shrine Nara
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With an origin traced back to the 12th century, this traditional festival takes place in the at Wakamiya Shrine within the larger Kasuga Taisha Shrine. The highlight is the Jidai Gyoretsu, a period procession that takes place on the afternoon of the third day with 500 people processing dressed in traditional clothing from the Heian period to the Edo period.

Okera Mairi: Old Year’s Eve

If you’re keen to achieve peace and prosperity for 2023 (and don’t we all need some) then attend the traditional Okera Mairi ceremony at Yasaka Jinja. Roots of Okera are burned and torches are lit using their flames. From there, watchers can light bamboo rope which can be carried home to light a candle on the family altar or on a cooking stove. The event begins at 7 p.m. on the 31st with an earlier ceremony taking place on the previous day to purify sins.

Kobe Luminarie (Cassa Armonica)

While the big and famous illumination event of Kobe Luminarie has been postponed this year, there will be an alternative event in its place. This year, event organizers present Cassa Armonica (meaning “house of music” in Italian), an event stage sprinkled with lights in Kobe East Park. The Nankinmachi Lantern Fair will also take place in Kobe.

Festival of the Lights Osaka

Winter Festival of the Lights in Osaka
Photo by Feng Chiang

Osaka has two different illuminations: the Midosuji Illumination and the Hikari Renaissance. The former takes place from November 3 to Dec 31 and the latter from Dec 14 to Dec 25. The Midosuji is recognized as the street with the most illuminated trees in the world, with lights stretching over 4km. One of the highlights of the Hikari Renaissance is the Wall Tapestry Lighting Show — a projection onto the facade of the historic Nakanoshima Library.

Hokkaidō events

These are events in Sapporo, Hakodate, and all the chilly areas on Japan’s northernmost island.

Sapporo White Illumination

This winter light-up takes place at five different locations including Odori Park, Sapporo Eki-mae Dori, and Minami 1-Jo Dori. All locations switch on the lights on November 22, but while Odori Park and the Munich Christmas Market finish on Christmas Day, the Eki-mae Dori venue continues until Feb 12, and the remaining venues end on March 14.

Tōhoku events

These are events in Fukushima, Sendai, and the surrounding areas.

Zao Snow Monster Festival

Zao snow monster illumination festival
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With incredible views from the ropeway and plenty of skiing opportunities, you can get your monster fix pretty easily in Yamagata. Kicking off at the end of December, you’ll also be able to go on special night snowmobile tours to see the snow monsters of Zao.

Sendai Pageant of Starlight

Sendai City Pageant of Starlight Sendai Miyagi Japan
Photo by Sendai City Tourism Section

Enjoy the 31st illumination of Sendai with lights leading from Aoba Dori to Jouzenji Douri in the center of the city. The lights are on from 5:30pm to 11pm until the final day when they will stay on until midnight.

Illumi Eeru Iwaki

This light-up has changed over the years. It used to have a pink theme inspired by cherry blossoms but now it is favoring the regular colors of white and blue. It will still be big, though, with stamp rallies and photo shoots.

Kyūshū & Okinawa events

These are events in Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Okinawa and the surrounding islands and areas.

Naha Marathon

If you’re in Okinawa and enjoy seeing people run by, the Naha Marathon is for you. As one of Japan’s premier long-distance road races, it was established in 1985 as a celebration between Naha and Honolulu. It draws crowds of over 25,000 people and the route is lined with taiko drummers, eisa dancers and well-wishers who will keep up the motivation of the runners, so there’s plenty to see.

Saga Light Fantasy

One of the longest-running illuminations each year, the Saga Light Fantasy is a trail of beautiful designs starting at Saga Station. There are over 1.8 million LED bulbs to be switched on between 5pm and midnight.

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