12 Days of Christmas in Japan #4: the real 'holiday season'
See all posts in this series via the '12days' tag.
Imagine you live and work in Japan. You've been lucky enough to get some days off over Christmas and New Year. (More on that later in the series...) What are you going to do with your time?
Japanese travel agents would love it if you booked a holiday. Spend quality time with your loved ones, as far away from your slightly less loved ones as possible.
Interestingly, Christmas isn't usually the time to cross borders.
Clicking on 'Christmas holiday deals' on travel agent websites often brings up a map of Japan. Click for 'New Year's holidays' and you have almost the whole world to choose from.
Christmas is the time to book a luxury hotel suite in a (Japanese) city you've never visited before. And to tack on wine/dessert room service.
You know you've got a good reservation if there's hot water involved. Public baths - onsens and sentos - are often cited as great places to visit in winter. A good soak's meant to help you keep warm.
I suspect that has less to do with bathing and more to do with easy access to alcohol. In any case, if your hotel room comes with your own onsen-style pool, you've lucked out.
As long as you're not leaving the country, it doesn't really matter where you end up. Sure, Hokkaido is popular because it has snow, likewise most of northern Japan. It's odd how snow's so associated with Christmas when the rest of the country gets maybe 2 days of the stuff... in February.
What you'd better hope your destination does have is a massive, electric-guzzling light display. Winter illuminations are an event, not just a strain on the local council's energy bill.
Yes, people will travel over Christmas to stand and coo at thousands of fairy lights. Even if those lights have just been taped to the nearest inanimate object.
One exception to the 'don't leave Japan' rule is travel agent HIS (in Japanese), which encourages you to visit a European Christmas market this year. Germany, Austria and Belgium are the top choices.
That linked page gives you an idea of average temperatures in different cities, and a 'what to wear' guide. (Also, one of the top FAQs: "do they have toilets?")
If you want, you can travel on Christmas Day itself. Try doing that in the UK. You wouldn't find so much as a replacement bus service.