Let’s get down to the nitty gritty shall we? Japan lacks proper insulation. Some of us may come from colder climates (like me, who comes from Chicago and our winters are no joke) so we think, “I’m a trooper! I’ll be fine.”
No, really, it’s not a joke. I have JET friends in Hokkaido who keep their toothpaste in the fridge because it’s actually warmer inside the fridge. Say what?! Have I scared you? Don’t be scared! If you know what to expect and you’re equipped with the right stuff, you’ll know how to survive winter in Japan.
Note: Some people shipped their winter clothes over, some paid the extra fees for the plane and others have squeezed them into the suitcases they can bring over. You should do what feels right for you and what you can afford. JET recommends you bring clothes for the season and for the following one.
1. Winter Clothes
This is an obvious one, but if you’re above the standard sizes for a Japanese man/woman, you’re better off bringing your own boots and jackets. I have issues fitting in the Uniqlo jackets because of my bust. If you’re a heavier man, you may not find a jacket that fits your circumference. Uniqlo also carries stretchy heat tech clothing so you may/may not be able to fit those. Heat tech is super warm and comfy though! Layers, layers, layers are your friend! You can also find gloves with fingertips that let you touch your smart phone at the Daiso or 100 yen shop/
2. Don’t Hibernate
While it may be tempting to hole up and eat your life away, don’t! Japan has great winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. People often go away on trips like these for some fun on the slopes. It’ll be good for your sanity to get some exercise in.
3. Warm Food
Japan has great seasonal food. The changing of the seasons means yummy seasonal and ripe food. Some of the best winter dishes are nabe, shabu shabu, ankake udon, and torizosui. It warms you right up and gives you the warm fuzzies. I promise.
4. Kairos, kotatsu, electric blanket, space heater
Kairos are little packets that you sort of pop open and they become instant warmers. You can put them in your shoes or stick them in your pockets. They’re really nice for keeping your warm for long hours. As for the kotatsu, this is a table that heats up and you can put a blanket around it. They range from about 6,500yen to 15,000yen. It’s really warm and you can sleep under it if you like. The only downside is it doesn’t have a built-in toilet, otherwise, you would be set. 😉 If you choose to sleep in a bed or futon, you can get an electric blanket at any home store. The space heater is also good for keeping your room warm at night. I use one during the Okinawan winter when it drops down to about 50 Farenheit or about 15 Celsius.
5. Bubble wrap
I heard this makes for a great DIY insulator. Place this on your windows and presto!
This nifty little device is a rubber pouch. I hear this is a godsend for your toes. You simply heat up water, place it in the rubber sack, and it stays warm all night. In the morning, when it comes time to wash your face or brush your teeth, you can use it for that as well.
7. Check the water suspension system
Another JET brought up this excellent point. If you’re in Hokkaido or Tohoku, this is for you. Hopefully, your apartment doesn’t drop below 5 Celsius because if it does, you run the risk of the water pipes freezing, bursting, and flooding your apartment and potentially your neighbors’. Some of the systems work by pressing a button where if the temperature drops below a certain point, it will drain the pipes automatically or you may need to drain them manually. Learn this system!
Does anyone else have any winter survival tips or great products they use to stay warm? Let us know here in the comments!