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 varied 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, head over to our listings on Tokyo Cheapo.

Kansai events

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

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Ramen Expo

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. You’ll only have to pay for park entry, and you can buy tickets to swap for bowls of ramen.

Kasuga Wakamiya

This traditional festival takes place 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 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 2024 (and don’t we all need some), then attend the traditional Okera Mairi ceremony at Yasaka Jinja. Roots of okera (herbs) 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.

Festival of the Lights Osaka

Osaka has two different winter illuminations: the Midosuji Illumination and the Hikari Renaissance. The Midosuji is recognized as the street with the most illuminated trees in the world, with lights stretching over 4 km. One of the highlights of the Hikari Renaissance is the Wall Tapestry Lighting Show — a projection onto the facade of the historic Nakanoshima Library.

Osaka Christmas Market

The spirit of European Christmas comes to Japan with the Osaka Christmas Market. Enjoy the hallmarks of classic Christmas cheer throughout December — food, fun, and a fancy fair. Modeled after a traditional German Christmas market, the market has dozens of stalls selling Christmas food and trinkets.

Kanto events

These are events just outside of Tokyo, including Tochigi, Ibaraki, and the surrounding areas.

Ashikaga Flower Park Illuminations

More than 5 million lights spread across the gardens of Ashikaga Flower Park in Ashikaga City. Across the months of the festival, there will be three separate themes, usually incorporating Christmas and New Year into the fun.

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 their lights on November 22, but while Odori Park and the Munich Christmas Market finish on Christmas Day, the Eki-mae Dori venue continues into 2024.

Hakodate Christmas Fantasy

See the unique sight of snow on the beach and a giant Christmas tree which will be lit up in the evenings. There will also be a fireworks display happening every day at 6 p.m.

Tōhoku events

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

Zaō Snow Monster Festival

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 Zaō.

Sendai Pageant of Starlight

Enjoy the 31st illumination of Sendai, with lights leading from Aoba Dori to Jouzenji Douri in the center of the city.

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 colors 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. 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, which are switched on until midnight.

Fukuoka Christmas Market and Illuminations

Fukuoka Christmas Market is considered one of the biggest Christmas markets in Japan. There are several venues, so technically there is more than one market. The miniature Christmas towns will display lights, trees, and ornaments, and sell piping-hot drinks and food.

Huis Ten Bosch Christmas Town

As soon as Halloween ends, the whole faux-Dutch “village” (it’s more like a theme park) of Huis Ten Bosch reinvents itself by donning festive lights and ringing up Santa Claus. Get your tickets online and avoid the rush. No one likes queuing during the holiday season.

Don’t forget their New Year celebrations too!

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

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