Winter 2020 Issue
News from the JNTO Toronto Office
With winter around the corner, we are all looking for ways to keep warm and keep ourselves entertained. In Japan the answer lies in the cuisine and illuminations that enliven our palates and our spirits, and the activities that make winter the most wonderful time of the year. 
Eel Cuisine
Unaju (grilled eel with rice bowl) are quite common, but in Yanagawa City, Fukuoka, the famous local specialty is Unagi Seiro Mushi, or steamed eel. The best time for eel is from autumn to winter!! Steamed eel is prepared by placing grilled eel and thinly sliced fried egg, sauced and seasoned, over rice, and then steaming it in a bamboo steamer. The steam enables diners to enjoy it piping hot to the last bite and the eel’s flavourful taste is better soaked into the rice. In Yanagawa City, there are many long-established eel restaurants, and each one has preserved its own traditional sauce and reputation. Most restaurants serve their seiro mushi in a vermilion steamer with the restaurant’s name written on the side. Visit the Yanagawa City Tourist Information Center website for more information.
 Winter Gems of Northern Japan
Winter is the most magical season in Japan. From the massive ice sculptures of the Sapporo Snow Festival to the giant Snow Monsters of Aomori, you will be amazed. Enjoy scenic treasures from the stunning fireworks at the Ouchijuku Snow Festival against the backdrop of the snow-blanketed Aizu area of Fukushima, to the Kakunodate Fire and Snow Festival of Akita in which participants swing large flaming bales of hay around their heads while the fire eats away at the rope. The grounds of Aomori’s Hirosaki Castle are romantically illuminated by blue and purple lights emitting from snow-sculpted lanterns, and for added romance the picturesque Ginzan Onsen town lights up the bath houses along the river. Further relax at the Zao Fox Village in Miyagi with playful fluffy foxes lazing the day away in the snow. Sip amazake in candle-lit Yokote Snow Huts (Kamakura Igloos) during the Yokote Snow Festival in Akita. If you crave more activity, scale 1000 steps to the mystical mountaintop temple complex of Yamadera in Yamagata. The panoramic views from above are straight out of a fairy tale. ( See the 8 Winter Gems in Northern Japan.)

Just south of the Tohoku region is the famed Nagano Prefecture, renowned for its skiing and the 1998 Winter Olympics. Matsumoto City, designated as a Special City in Japan, is a winter wonderland of activity and culture that is not to be missed. Watch a video here.
Winter Illuminations
Summer’s fireworks are answered by winter’s illuminations. Across Japan, lights bedazzle the glistening snow for a spectacular display of colour. The largest display of lights in Japan is at the Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination, where you can be mesmerized by a river of blue lights, a lit up tunnel and trees, and an illuminated metaphorical sea of clouds. The Sendai Pageant of Starlight is renowned for its Tunnel of Illumination, in which 600,000 lights are strung across four rows of towering zelkova trees along Jozenji-dori Street. Three times every night, all the lights are switched off in unison, and then flicker back on for an unforgettable "Starlight Wink."
Christmas in Osaka includes 1.5 million lights and decorations that turn Nakanoshima Park and the two-kilometer walk down Osaka's main street, Midosuji Boulevard, into a veritable treasure trove for the Osaka Hikari Renaissance, a part of the Osaka Festival of Lights. One of the oldest illumination festivals in Japan is Kobe Luminarie, which was originally a collaboration between the governments of Kobe and Italy. Over 200,000 lights across the city are individually hand-painted to beautify the cityscape. The Asahikawa Flower Fantasy event is part light display and part laser show. Over 4 million lights are used to create stunning displays including tunnels of light, gazebos and trains, not to mention the massive wisteria in the park, one of which spreads its vines over 1,000 square meters.
Travel Advisory
On the top of everyone’s mind is where and how can we travel safely. For the most up-to-date information on travel to Japan, we encourage you to visit our Coronavirus Advisory page. Japan is taking this issue seriously and adhering to its responsibility. Follow this link to learn the latest measures being taken by the Government of Japan, travel and safety tips, and closures and resumptions of attractions and events. We want everyone to feel safe.
For more information, please contact:
The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)