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Tokyo in December

Tokyo in December

Old Sep 26, 16, 1:40 pm
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Tokyo in December

I'm planning a trip to Tokyo around Christmas time, and I hear it's a pretty magical time of year there, with Christmas lights all over the city, or illuminations as they call it.

What's traveling there in December like? Crowds? And is it especially expensive around that time of year?
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Old Sep 26, 16, 2:14 pm
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Originally Posted by Mintycat View Post
illuminations as they call it.
It's "Hallucinations," I think.

Originally Posted by Mintycat View Post
What's traveling there in December like? Crowds? And is it especially expensive around that time of year?
If you search threads for Christmas and New Years in Japan, you'll find a lot of reports and advice. It's hard to give a general picture for December (or even for the holidays). Specific locations are crowded on specific dates (e.g. Nice restaurants on Christmas Eve or various shrines at midnight on New Years Eve). And things in general are extremely quiet on other dates (e.g. New Years Day). Prices reflect this too. Some of the things that you have heard about (the hallucinations) are really pretty, and other things that form the quintessential Japanese experience simply all that accessible to outsiders (e.g. Family get-together with traditional foods and watching New Years TV shows).
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Old Sep 27, 16, 12:03 am
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December is the season for bounenkai, literally "forget the year" parties, most of them sponsored by companies and organizations and held in restaurants or kaikan "meeting halls."

You will see decorations and suggestions for presents in the department stores, but adults do not exchange gifts except with people to whom they have an obligation according to the Japanese social system. Children receive money on New Year's Day.

While Christmas Eve is the big night for going out on the town (sort of like New Year's Eve in the West), Christmas Day is just another day and not a legal holiday. It may or may not coincide with the schools' winter vacation or with the year-end shutdown that some businesses practice.

You may hear Christmas carols on PA systems or on TV. The odd thing about the religious ones is that they were mostly translated under the guidance of early missionaries, who thought that the archaic classical form of Japanese was more suitable for Christmas carols and hymns than the actual spoken language. However, the Japanese lyrics to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" are in modern Japanese.

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are home-centered observances. The activities most accessible to foreigners are the shrine visits at midnight on New Year's Eve. In the days leading up to December 31, you may notice an increase in the number of drunks on the trains as people return home from their bounenkai.
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Old Sep 27, 16, 12:09 am
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Expect Christmas decorations to be taken down overnight on December 25-26. They will soon be replaced by new year decorations such as sheafs of wheat near doors.

IME in upscale hotels with Japanese clientele, you're likely to see some nice kimonos being worn in lobbies and restaurants.
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Old Sep 27, 16, 1:21 pm
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
sheafs of wheat near doors.
Probably sheaves of rice straw.
http://rebloggy.com/post/japan-colle...ra/82859763258
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Old Sep 27, 16, 7:28 pm
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Originally Posted by Mintycat View Post
I'm planning a trip to Tokyo around Christmas time, and I hear it's a pretty magical time of year there, with Christmas lights all over the city, or illuminations as they call it.
I've been to Tokyo both around Christmas and after New Year's. For illuminations, check out the guide at japanguide.com. There seems to be a competition for best illuminations. Went to the ones at Yebisu Garden Place and Caretta Shiodome. Both weren't on my must see list though. Saw the one at Yebisu since I was there for the beer museum and I walked by the Caretta illumination on my way from the Conrad. They're really big with couples.

Originally Posted by Mintycat View Post
What's traveling there in December like? Crowds? And is it especially expensive around that time of year?
I would say it wouldn't be any more expensive. If you're into shopping and want to try your luck, look for the Fukubukuro bags. Its a mystery bag with set prices you buy from dept stores. What you get is totally random and may or may not be worth more than the price you paid.

Last edited by Gradfly; Sep 28, 16 at 2:11 pm
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Old Sep 28, 16, 12:01 am
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As far as rates at a lot of the hotels in Tokyo, Xmas Eve (especially when it falls on a Fri or Sat) and the last few nights in Dec (when everyone's holiday) are definitely much more expensive. This applies to pretty much all city hotels and luxury hotels in prime areas of Tokyo/Yokohama like Marunouchi, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Odaiba and Minatomirai.

On the other hand, rates on those dates tend to be not much different than any other dates when you're talking about outer locations like Tachikawa.
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Old Sep 28, 16, 2:26 am
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The first time I visited Tokyo was a number of years ago from January 2-4. I didn't like it, it was way too cold and everything seemed to be closed.
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Old Sep 28, 16, 2:01 pm
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Originally Posted by ksandness View Post
December is the season for bounenkai, literally "forget the year" parties, most of them sponsored by companies and organizations and held in restaurants or kaikan "meeting halls."

You will see decorations and suggestions for presents in the department stores, but adults do not exchange gifts except with people to whom they have an obligation according to the Japanese social system. Children receive money on New Year's Day.

While Christmas Eve is the big night for going out on the town (sort of like New Year's Eve in the West), Christmas Day is just another day and not a legal holiday. It may or may not coincide with the schools' winter vacation or with the year-end shutdown that some businesses practice.

You may hear Christmas carols on PA systems or on TV. The odd thing about the religious ones is that they were mostly translated under the guidance of early missionaries, who thought that the archaic classical form of Japanese was more suitable for Christmas carols and hymns than the actual spoken language. However, the Japanese lyrics to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" are in modern Japanese.

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are home-centered observances. The activities most accessible to foreigners are the shrine visits at midnight on New Year's Eve. In the days leading up to December 31, you may notice an increase in the number of drunks on the trains as people return home from their bounenkai.
This is perfect! Thank you for the detailed explanation, it's like I can feel the atmosphere, and I definitely know what to expect now.
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Old Sep 28, 16, 2:09 pm
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Originally Posted by Gradfly View Post
I've been to Tokyo both around Christmas and after New Year's. For illuminations, check out the guide at japanguide.com. There seems to be a competition for best illuminations. Went to the ones at Yebisu Garden Place and Caretta Shiodome. Both weren't on my must see list though. Saw the one at Yebisu since I was there for the beer museum and I walked by the Caretta illumination on my from the Conrad. They're really big with couples.
Awesome, I'll do my research for the illuminations. Thank you!
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Old Oct 1, 16, 11:30 am
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Originally Posted by ksandness View Post
December is the season for bounenkai, literally "forget the year" parties, most of them sponsored by companies and organizations and held in restaurants or kaikan "meeting halls."

You will see decorations and suggestions for presents in the department stores, but adults do not exchange gifts except with people to whom they have an obligation according to the Japanese social system. Children receive money on New Year's Day.

While Christmas Eve is the big night for going out on the town (sort of like New Year's Eve in the West), Christmas Day is just another day and not a legal holiday. It may or may not coincide with the schools' winter vacation or with the year-end shutdown that some businesses practice.

You may hear Christmas carols on PA systems or on TV. The odd thing about the religious ones is that they were mostly translated under the guidance of early missionaries, who thought that the archaic classical form of Japanese was more suitable for Christmas carols and hymns than the actual spoken language. However, the Japanese lyrics to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" are in modern Japanese.

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are home-centered observances. The activities most accessible to foreigners are the shrine visits at midnight on New Year's Eve. In the days leading up to December 31, you may notice an increase in the number of drunks on the trains as people return home from their bounenkai.
We stumbled upon a festive Xmas market outside the Umeda Sky Bldg in Osaka late-November. You can't really discern from the photo but the stalls were filled with festive ornaments and trinkets, there were gingerbread cookies and candy canes, spiced wines and ciders, one vendor was even roasting large Christmas hams! There were Japanese carolers (much to my surprise!) and people dressed in costumes ranging from elves to snowflakes; they even had a mini market for fir trees. All the while holiday jingles played on loop throughout the square. It was pretty surreal and looked like something out of Berlin or Munich. Really odd to see, and yet, somehow very Japanese.


Last edited by OliverB; Oct 1, 16 at 1:39 pm
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Old Oct 1, 16, 12:13 pm
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I love Xmas time ambiance in Jpn!
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Old Oct 1, 16, 12:21 pm
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I do too and it was a lot of fun, but unfortunately limited for us since we arrived in Tokyo end of October and then spent several weeks in the mountains to the north. We only really found any hint of Xmas in Osaka mid-November and probably our final night in Tokyo the first week of December, though it was way too brief. There's really no evidence of the holidays that I could find in smaller regional cities like Kanazawa or Nagasaki and certainly not in any of the rural mountain towns, which makes sense. I think it would be really fun to spend Xmas in Tokyo one year. Does the city ever see much snow at that time of year or is it pretty rare?
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Old Oct 1, 16, 12:35 pm
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
Does the city ever see much snow at that time of year or is it pretty rare?
Snow is not super-rare in Tokyo, but you're highly unlikely to encounter it around xmas time. It only snows a couple times per winter.
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