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Top 10 Things to Do in Hokkaido During the New Year Holidays (2021)

Top 10 Things to Do in Hokkaido During the New Year Holidays (2021)

Date published: 16 December 2020
Last updated: 22 January 2021

The end of the year and beginning of the New Year is a major holiday season for the Japanese. Here are some Hokkaido events that will enable you to experience such traditional festivities as the countdown to the New Year, the first sunrise of the year, and the first visit to a shrine or temple.

Due to the influence of Covid-19 in 2020, the events may be held differently than in normal years. Check the information for events and countermeasures being taken against the new coronavirus for the events being held this season in advance - you'll be better prepared to enjoy them!

Table of Contents
  1. What happens in Japan at the end of year and beginning of the New Year?
  2. 1. Celebrate the finale of the year at Rusutsu Resort
  3. 2. Welcome in the New Year with the powerful Kita Daimonji of Kamifurano Town
  4. 3. Warm yourself up with a bowl of Sapporo ramen in the New Year!
  5. 4. Count down the end of the year at Hoshino Resort Tomamu's "Ice Village"!
  6. 5. Enjoy seafood at Sapporo Nijo Market on New Year's Eve and the first three days of the New Year
  7. 6. Watch the first sunrise at scenic spot Cape Erimo
  8. 7. Head to Hokkaido Shrine for your first New Year shrine visit!
  9. 8. Participate in the New Year Edo Festival at Noboribetsu Date Historic Village
  10. 9. Go to the First Sale of the Year at a popular outlet mall
  11. 10. Enjoy skiing for the first time in the New Year at Niseko

What happens in Japan at the end of year and beginning of the New Year?

What happens in Japan at the end of year and beginning of the New Year?

In Japan, December 31 is called Omisoka in Japanese and means New Year's Eve; January 1 is called Ganjitsu. The three days from January 1 through 3 are called Sanganichi.

During these times, most businesses and schools are closed, and this is a special time when many spend it with family, lovers and friends.

Every year in Hokkaido, there are many events, such as a countdown event on New Year's Eve, an event to see the year's first sunrise, festivals unique to New Year's Eve, and visits to shrines.

1. Celebrate the finale of the year at Rusutsu Resort

1. Celebrate the finale of the year at Rusutsu Resort

At Rusutsu Resort, an event called the New Year's Eve Fireworks Festival & Torch Run is held every year. The Torch Run, which only skiers can participate in, is a must-see. The appearance of skiers coming down the slope in a single line holding a torch in one hand, the flames moving in the dark, has a mystical quality about it.

Torch Run

In addition to this event, free hot drinks (limited quantity) are provided, and there is a demonstration of high-level formation skiing by school instructors. Furthermore, at the end of the event, 1,200 fireworks are launched to the accompaniment of music. Fireworks and music on a grand scale will celebrate the end of the year 2020!

New Year's Eve Fireworks Festival & Torch Run 2020 Information
・Hours: December 31 starting at 8:00 p.m.
・Admission: Free
・Torch Run participants: Participation fee 600 yen *Advance reservation is required by 5:00 p.m. of the same day.
For reservations and inquiries regarding the torch run, please contact 0136-46-3280 (Rusutsu Resort Ski & Snowboard School)

Measures against Covid-19

Cooperation in temperature measurement and physical condition management / Wearing masks and face masks / Ensuring social distances / Cooperation in hand washing and disinfection / WEB pre-application and pre-payment recommended / Cashless payment recommended / Thorough staff physical condition management / Acrylic panels installed at the front desk and buffet venue / Strengthening and thorough disinfection and cleaning / Ventilation of the premises, etc.

2. Welcome in the New Year with the powerful Kita Daimonji of Kamifurano Town

2. Welcome in the New Year with the powerful Kita Daimonji of Kamifurano Town

The Kita no Daimonji is a New Year's Eve event held at Hinode Lavender Park in Kamifurano Town. Hinode Lavender Park is a 15-minute walk from JR Kamifurano Station.

This is an event to remember the damage caused by the eruption of Mt. Tokachi in 1926 and to pray for the safety and revitalization of the area. Immediately before the beginning of the New Year, the departure ceremony of the "igniter", the individuals who ignite the large letter, is held. Also, there is a taiko drums performance every year, and in 2020 there will be a performance by the JGSDF Camp Kamifurano Taiko club Shisai Taiko.

When the New Year arrives, about 300 iron stakes placed so as to create the Chinese character "dai" will be lit by the sacred fire from Kamifurano Shrine. This gigantic letter is an impressive 70 meters long and 50 meters wide.

Once the fire has been lit, fireworks are set off. The lights of the giant character together with the colorful explosion of light from the fireworks herald in the start of what will hopefully be a great year.

Unfortunately, in 2021 it will not be possible to watch the event locally, but it will be broadcast live. For more information please go to the event website for more details.

34th Kita no Daimonji
In 2020 the event will be broadcast live. It will not be possible to watch the event locally.
・Hours: December 31, 2020 11:45 p.m. 〜 12:15 a.m.
・Contact: 0167-45-2191 (Kamifurano Town Chamber of Commerce)
* Information as of early December. For more information please go to the event website below.

  • Kitano Daimonji
    北の大文字
    • Address 27, Higashi1-senkita, Sorachi Gun Kamifurano Cho, Hokkaido, 071-0521, Japan

3. Warm yourself up with a bowl of Sapporo ramen in the New Year!

3. Warm yourself up with a bowl of Sapporo ramen in the New Year!

When in Sapporo in the winter, nothing beats a hot bowl of ramen. It's the perfect meal to warm yourself up after visits to shrines and sightseeing.

Miso ramen, which originated in Sapporo, is especially popular and a must-have dish loved by many tourists. Some shops are open during the year-end and New Year holidays, so you can eat it on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.

Sapporo ramen is generally made with rich miso-flavored soup and medium-thick curly noodles that mix well with the soup. Each shop prides itself on its own soups and noodles, so many enjoy trying out different kinds to find one that best suits their tastes.

4. Count down the end of the year at Hoshino Resort Tomamu's "Ice Village"!

4. Count down the end of the year at Hoshino Resort Tomamu's "Ice Village"!

At Hoshino Resort Tomamu, one of the largest stay-type snow resorts in Hokkaido, the Ice Village is limited to winter nights. There are 10 ice domes within the Ice Town offering various experiences.

In one you can enjoy iced Tomamu milk, frozen fruit drinks, and authentic cocktails served in glasses made of ice; another is a general store with an ice and snow theme; there is an ice church; and in one dome, one group per day can spend the night; ice skating is possible in another dome; all offer loads of fun.

Ice Bar

The New Year's Eve countdown begins at 11:59 p.m., and at the stroke of midnight, fireworks are set off. Spend a special night in the fantastic city of ice!

Ice Village 2020-2021 Event Information
・Event dates: December 10, 2020 ~ March 14, 2021 (tentative)
・Admission: Elementary school-aged and older 545 yen (excluding tax) *no charge for guests staying at Risonare Tomamu
・Events venue: within the Hoshino Resorts Tomamu area
・Events times: 5:00 p.m. ~ 10:00 p.m. (Last admission 9:30 p.m.) *hours of operation will be extended to 11:30 p.m. on December 31 only
*Times and content of events may vary depending on the weather
*Each dome and experience are expected to start sequentially
*In some cases the number of people able to use each dome may be limited

Measures against Covid-19

Staff will wear masks when serving customers / cash trays will be used when giving and receiving money / admission to each dome will be restricted to avoid congestion / original alcohol dispensers for hand disinfection will be placed in the domes

  • Hoshino Resorts TOMAMU Ice Village
    星野リゾート トマム アイスヴィレッジ
    • Address Nakatomamu, Yufutsu Gun Shimukappu Mura, Hokkaido, 079-2204, Japan
    • Phone Number 0167-58-1111

5. Enjoy seafood at Sapporo Nijo Market on New Year's Eve and the first three days of the New Year

5. Enjoy seafood at Sapporo Nijo Market on New Year's Eve and the first three days of the New Year

Sapporo Nijo Market, affectionately known as the kitchen for Sapporo citizens, is a lively market containing fresh seafood from all over Hokkaido and is a spot where you can shop during the year-end and New Year holidays.

During the year-end and New Year holidays, it is crowded with locals who buy ingredients for New Year's dishes and tourists enjoying seafood bowls and other delicious dishes. Every year, all stores are open on New Year's Eve, around 10 stores are open on New Year's Day, and all stores will be open from January 5.

If you want to eat delicious seafood during the New Year holidays, we recommend that you visit Sapporo Nijo Market.

Measures against Covid-19

Customers are requested to wash their hands and to use alcohol disinfectant / staff also thoroughly wash their hands and use alcohol disinfectant

6. Watch the first sunrise at scenic spot Cape Erimo

6. Watch the first sunrise at scenic spot Cape Erimo

Cape Erimo is located at the southernmost tip of the Hidaka Mountains, which are also known as the backbone of Hokkaido. Pirika Noka, which means beautiful shape in Ainu, is a nationally designated cultural property scenic spot and from the observation deck on the top of a 60-meter-high cliff you are afforded a superb view of the Pacific Ocean.

Many people visit on New Year's Day to see the beautiful first sunrise come up over the horizon. Cape Erimo is one of the windiest regions in Japan, with winds of 10 meters per hour or more blowing for more than 260 days of the year, so if you go there to see the first sunrise of the year, be sure to wear warm clothes that will protect you from the cold wind.

Public transportation is not available during the early morning hours when the first sunrise of the year is seen, so you will need to go to Cape Erimo by car. It takes about 40 minutes to get there from JR Samani Station.

  • Cape Erimo
    • Address Erimomisaki, Erimo-cho, Horoizumi-gun, Hokkaido, 058-0342
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Samani Station (Hidaka Main Line)
      60 minutes by bus
    • Phone Number 01466-2-4626

7. Head to Hokkaido Shrine for your first New Year shrine visit!

7. Head to Hokkaido Shrine for your first New Year shrine visit!

Hokkaido Shrine is a shrine revered by Hokkaido's people since its pioneering period as a general guardian of Hokkaido. Currently, four pillars are enshrined, including the three pillar gods who are the guardian deities of Hokkaido's pioneering and development and one for Emperor Meiji (the word "pillar" is used when referring to the number of gods).

Hokkaido Shrine is a perennial favorite for the first visit to a shrine. The shrine becomes crowded with throngs of worshipers when its gate opens at midnight on New Year's Day. The shrine office sells limited-edition good-luck charms, such as hamaya, arrows that ward off evil, kumade, lucky rakes, and bells having the zodiac sign of the year for their motif, all of which you should check out when you visit.

The shrine is likely to be very crowded during New Year's, so if you are concerned about crowds, we recommend you visit after the first three days of the year.

Hokkaido Shrine opening and closing times during the New Year period
New Year's Day: midnight to 7:00 p.m.
January 2nd ~ 3rd: 6:00 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m.
January 4th ~ 7th: 6:00 a.m. ~ 4:00 p.m.
January 8th ~ 31st 7:00 a.m. ~ 4:00 p.m.
* If you go by car, a parking fee of 500 yen will be charged per hour from 5:00 p.m. on December 31 to February 28.

Measures against Covid-19

Please wear a mask but refrain from worshiping when you have a fever or poor health / Depending on the situation, the number of people who can enter the shrine will be limited / Disinfectants will be placed in each location / Plastic curtains will be hung at all reception windows / Shrine personnel who interact with worshipers will wear masks / The Shinshuhaitai religious service has been canceled / The Chozuya [place for ritual cleansing of hands and mouth with water when visiting shrines] will be closed from New Year's Day to January 14 / Between December 15 and January 31 there will be no writing in stamp books. Paper that has already been stamped with a red stamp will be given to those who request it.

8. Participate in the New Year Edo Festival at Noboribetsu Date Historic Village

8. Participate in the New Year Edo Festival at Noboribetsu Date Historic Village
Sake for everyone

At Noboribetsu's popular theme park, Noboribetsu Date Historic Village, the New Year Edo Festival is held from January 1 to 3rd every year. You can enjoy an old-fashioned traditional Japanese New Year in a village that recreates street scenes of the Edo period.

"Sake for everyone" is offered near the entrance gate, and miki, sacred sake, is provided free of charge. Warm amazake [a traditional sweet, low-alcohol Japanese drink made from fermented rice] is also available for those who cannot drink alcohol, such as children and those who drive a car (the miki and amazake are of limited quantity).

At Hakuhagido in the village, you can experience a tatami room game called Tosenkyo. This is a game of throwing a fan at a target placed on a stand in which you compete for points. (In normal years you would compete against geisha, but the game may be canceled in 2021.)

If you tilt your head like this, the Dancing Lion will bite you

Also, twice a day, the lion dance is performed somewhere in the village. In Japan, there is a tradition of having the dancing lion bite your head to get rid of evil, so if you see it, be sure to let it bite your head.

Measures against Covid-19

Shortened business hours / Staff wear masks and face coverings as needed and their temperature and physical condition are carefully managed / Physical distances between staff and customers is observed / Regular disinfection of facilities / Installation of alcohol solution dispensers for hand disinfection / Installation of disinfectant hand soap in each toilet washroom / Ventilation in the theater, alcohol disinfection, UV disinfection and reduction of the number of spectators as necessary / Temperature measurement at the time of entry (those with temperatures of 37.5° C or more are requested to refrain from entering the village) / Hand sanitization when entering the village / Wearing a mask in the village (when outdoors, if you keep a sufficient distance from others, you can remove the mask) / Cough etiquette and diligent washing and disinfection of hands requested

9. Go to the First Sale of the Year at a popular outlet mall

9. Go to the First Sale of the Year at a popular outlet mall
Chitose Outlet Mall Rera

On New Year's Day, various commercial facilities offer great deals in their First Sale of the Year. People of all ages enjoy shopping at this time because of the great bargains on goods being offered at reduced prices in the sale and also in the form of Lucky Bags.

The First Sale of the Year is also held at the popular commercial facility Chitose Outlet Mall Rera in Chitose City near Sapporo, and more than 2,000 lucky bags are sold on New Year's Day every year. Every year other popular events, such as a lottery limited to lucky bag purchasers, are held, but in 2021 due to the coronavirus only lucky bags (known as ‘fukubukuro’) will be sold.

10. Enjoy skiing for the first time in the New Year at Niseko

10. Enjoy skiing for the first time in the New Year at Niseko
Niseko Village Ski Resort

Niseko is a popular snow resort where you can enjoy high-quality powder snow. The Niseko Village Ski Resort, Niseko HANAZONO Resort, and Niseko Annupuri International Ski Resort in Niseko are open during the year-end and New Year holidays, so you can enjoy skiing on New Year's Day.


Events are also planned at each facility. At Niseko Village Ski Resort there will be a countdown fireworks display on New Year's Eve, and on New Year's Day you can go up the snowy mountains in a gondola to see the first sunrise of the year. A countdown fireworks display will be held at the Niseko Annupuri International Ski Resort on New Year's Eve.

Start the year by enjoying skiing and snowboarding on the finest quality snow!

Text by: Minna no Kotobasha
*The information in this article is as of December 2020.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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