They say that you are most desperately in need of a holiday when you’ve just returned from one. But instead of yet another beach resort that boasts of the sun, sand, and sea on your year-end trip, how about somewhere a little different and… colder?

If you are looking to escape to a winter wonderland, you don’t even have to look very far. Japan’s prefectures, for example, boast a number of locales that are best visited in winter, and some even look straight out of fairytales!

Here are a few suggestions:

Shirakawa-go and Gokayama (Gifu Prefecture)

Located in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture, the Shirakawa-go and neighbouring Gokayama regions are time capsules from Japan’s distant past. Aside from its UNESCO World Heritage status, the clusters of 250-year-old gassho-zukuri farmhouses, or farmhouses with steep thatched roofs, are perfect for chilly winter getaways. Stay in one of the many family-run inns and experience authentic Japanese food and hospitality. When the snow starts to fall, wait till sunset to take pictures of the snow-capped roofs that look like something out of a Dr Seuss novel.

Otaru (Shiribeshi Prefecture)

Otaru is an off-the-beaten-path town in Hokkaido that woos tourists with architecture from the early 20th century. There are even canals that look like Venetian waterways, what with the Victorian-style gas lamps that line the shores. In wintertime, locals will come out in droves to celebrate the Otaru Yuki-Akari-no-Michi, or Otaru Snow Light Path. Lit candles will float down the waterways, and 15,000 lanterns will light up the streets like a dream on Christmas morning.

Jigokudani (Nagano Prefecture)

Japanese monkeys are special because they know how to enjoy life, especially those that live in Jigokudani, or Hell Valley. That’s because they spend their days soaked in the hot springs amid a dreamy, wintry landscape—and you can join in the fun too! There are numerous hot springs in the neighbourhood that take advantage of the region’s volcanic geography (without the monkeys). If you are looking for some warmth in the depths of winter, it doesn’t get any better than this. Just ask our primate friends.

Nabana-no-Sato (Mie Prefecture)

Nabana-no-Sato is a theme park on Nagashima Island with a beautiful botanical garden, and it comes with a hot spring! From November to March, the garden turns into a winter wonderland when millions of LED lights are turned on at the same time. There’s even an illumination ceremony that’s stunning to behold. For something more intimate, head to the southern part of the island, where you will find onsens and flower fields that blossom throughout the year.

But the beauty and excitement doesn’t stop there! Looking for the prefectures’ best-kept secrets is as easy as whipping out your smartphone and doing a quick search online. And with StarHub’s RoamEasy data roaming plan, travelling like a local is hassle-free and affordable — at just $10/100MB — in 75 countries around the world!

For more information, go to

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