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Although spring, summer, and autumn are Japan's most popular travel times, there are plenty of reasons for choosing the off-season to visit Japan, especially during the winter months from December through February. Except for the extreme north, winter is generally comfortable, with clear skies, and is especially mild in its southern, subtropical regions like Kyushu and Okinawa. Traveling in the off season brings other bonuses as well, including cheaper airfare on some routes, less crowded trains, fewer tourists at major attractions, and cheaper rates for hotels in resort and tourist destinations.
Of course, for skiers, winter brings the added joy of taking on Japan's many slopes, but you don't have to be a snow bunny to appreciate Japan's winter festivals, of which the Sapporo Snow Festival on the northernmost island of Hokkaido is the most famous. Equally popular: Japan's many hot-spring resorts to ward off the chill. Another cold-weather buster is Japan's many hot and filling winter dishes like Sukiyaki (chunks of beef and vegetables stewed in an iron pot) and Oden (a variety of ingredients ranging from tofu to Japanese radish simmered in soy broth and eaten with mustard). Need we add that warmed Sake (rice wine) is also the perfect antidote to winter's chill?