5 Seasonal Getaways in Kanagawa Prefecture
Get Out Of the City and Into The Festive Spirit
Celebrate the holidays a stone’s throw away from Tokyo. From Christmas markets to stunning natural landscapes awash with fairy lights, here are five locations in Kanagawa that will make you feel the magic of the season.
During December Tokyo dons its sparkles for the winter season and while there are some stunning places to enjoy in the city, you still have to contend with the crowds and noise. Sometimes it’s nice to simply get away from it all over the holiday season, away from the daily grind of work and commuting and simply see something a bit different. If you are looking to do just that, and not break the bank or spend hours on a train or flight to do so, Kanagawa is the perfect choice.
As Tokyo’s chill neighbor to the west, Kanagawa has everything: miles of sandy beaches at Enoshima, sites of historic and spiritual significance in Kamakura, a wide, open national park with views of the magnificent Mt. Fuji at Hakone, and all this with easy access from Tokyo. With multiple train lines connecting the two prefectures, it’s so easy to take a day trip, or even an afternoon/evening trip to many locations in Kanagawa whilst simultaneously feeling like you’ve left the hustle and bustle of Tokyo far behind.
Despite its proximity to Tokyo, the prefecture is known for its more laid-back vibes and during the winter months, Kanagawa offers up its own merry entertainment for you to indulge in. Here are some destinations to get you out of the melee of the city and put you in a festive mood.
Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan, but here the streets are much wider and being by the harbor allows the city to open up making it feel far less claustrophobic than its next door neighbor. From November through to January, many sites in the city including malls and stations will put up Christmas decorations and light displays, but the best place to truly feel the Christmas spirit is Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse.
A historic and beautifully designed building boasting numerous boutique shops inside, Red Brick Warehouse is a great place to visit for gift buying at any time, but when it comes to the holiday season it’s a must visit. The entire outdoor area is transformed into a German Christmas market, with stalls added outside selling seasonal offerings such as decorations and gifts, as well as classic Christmas market fare like mulled wine, Bratwurst, and stollen cakes. It would be hard not to get in the Christmas spirit here, with classic Christmas music played and at the center of it all a glittering Christmas tree.
- Address: 1 Chome-1 Shinko, Naka Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa 231-0001
- Closest Station: Nihon-Odori Station
- Ticket Price: ¥500
- Opening Dates: Sat, Dec. 9-Mon, Dec. 25, 2023 11 a.m.-10 p.m. (Fri, Dec. 8 until 9 p.m.)
Enoshima is another gem of Kanagawa, located along the Shonan beachfront. This small island is a frequently visited destination for tourists and locals alike. There are multiple places to take in the view from the island, including a viewing platform at the very top, rockpools facing Mt. Fuji at the bottom, and up the Enoshima Sea Candle located in the Samuel Cocking Garden as well.
The latter is where those wishing for some festive magic will be heading to, as the entire garden is decked out in thousands of lights in an event known as shonan no hoseki (shonan jewel). What better combination than to see the sunset silhouette of Mt. Fuji whilst surrounded by twinkling lights?
There are also plenty of restaurants on the island, but if you are craving somewhere to sit and be cozy whilst indulging in something a little sweet, (and let’s be honest, this is the season for that) we recommend Loncafe, a French toast cafe located in the garden. With the option to sit outside under heaters with blankets, it’s the perfect excuse to cuddle up next to that special someone, sipping a hot chocolate.
- Address: Enoshima, Fujisawa, Kanagawa 251-0036
- Closest Station: Enoshima Station
- Ticket Price: Entry into Enoshima is free. Samuel Cocking Garden Admission: ¥500
- Opening Dates: Samuel Cocking Garden: Now through Feb. 29. 2023
- Lighting hours: Weekdays, New Year holidays: 5 p.m.-8 p.m. (last entry 7:30 p.m.), Saturdays, Sundays, holidays and Dec. 22-30, 2023: 5 p.m.-9 p.m. (last entry 8:30 p.m.). *Lights on from 5:30 p.m. from Jan. 6 to Feb. 29, 2023
Hakone is a stunning hot spring area within the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park located only one hour away from Tokyo Station on the shinkansen (bullet train). People have flocked to this location for centuries for many reasons, one of the most notable of which is the view of Mt. Fuji rising up over Lake Ashi. In the winter, when the lake is calm, the snow capped Mt. Fuji can be seen reflected on the lake’s surface.
Hakone offers a multitude of museums and gardens for visitors to explore, and during the winter months these venues dust off their party frocks and get into the festive spirit. Nikolai Bergmann Hakone Gardens has a special Christmas-themed outdoor art exhibit made from natural materials for you to peruse, the Venetian Glass Museum erects beautiful glass Christmas trees and on December 31 you can visit the Hakone Shrine, where fireworks will ring in the new year and you can participate in the Japanese tradition of visiting a shrine or temple on New Year’s Day.
- Address: Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa
- Nearest Station: Head to Odawara Station to catch the Hakonetozan Line.
- Ticket Price: Entry into the Hakone area is free, but please visit museum’s websites to check out ticket prices.
Located right next to Hakone is Odawara, home to Odawara castle as well as a number of exquisite onsen bath houses. Here, there is one location you may want to head to if you want to experience a more traditional Japanese winter event.
The Daruma Market is an annual event that occurs mid-December at the Shōfuku-ji temple. The temple claims to be the first location to hold a daruma fair in the Kanto region. For only two days the grounds fill with stalls selling the dolls as people come from around the area to cleanse themselves of the past and look towards the future.
Daruma dolls are a symbol of good luck in Japan. Upon purchase, both the dolls eyes are white, you then fill in one eye with black marker keeping a wish or goal in mind and then, when it is accomplished, you fill in the second eye. This is a great way to ring in a prosperous new year filled with hope for the future and unity for your family and loved ones.
- Address: Shōfuku-ji Temple, 1161 Iizumi, Odawara, Kanagawa 250-0863
- Nearest Station: Gohyakurakan Station (16 min. bus ride from Odawara)
- Ticket Price: Free!
- Dates: Dec. 17 – 18, 2023
Sagamihara is home to the Sagami Lake, an artificial lake created by the damming of the Sagami river. It is a popular location during the warmer months for camping, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, but is probably best known for the Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest. It is here that you’ll want to head if you want to see one of the most famous winter illumination events in the Kanto region.
With over six million LED lights, the Sagamiko Illumination is one of the biggest illumination events in Japan. This year’s illuminations feature Japan’s famed animated robot-cat, Doraemon with light murals of the character and his friends all over the park. As it’s in a theme park, the rides can run later into the evening, with bumper cars, a merry-go-round and ferris wheel for visitors to go up and get a 360-degree view of the entire spectacle. This is a great family day out, or perhaps a great date spot, for those looking to add a little thrill into their festive activities.
- Address: Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest, 1634 Wakayanagi, Midori Ward, Sagamihara, Kanagawa 252-0175
- Nearest Station: Sagamiko Station
- Ticket Price: ¥1,900 – ¥2,400 (check the date you plan to go)
- Dates: Now through – May 12, 2023
So if you want to break away from Tokyo, but without the stress of going too far away, look no further than next door. Kanagawa has plenty of merriment and festive cheer to share whilst remaining convenient and easy to access for those for whom the end of the year has left us feeling a little harried. Head over to relax, unwind, get out in nature and into the holiday spirit!