Tokyo snow storm of 2018, snowy shotengai Tokyo

Surviving Winters in Tokyo- what to wear to STAY WARM

One of the beautiful things about living in Japan is getting to experience all four seasons. Cherry blossoms in Spring, exciting festivals in Summer, bright colored leaves in Fall, and joyful gatherings over a hot pot of Japanese stew (Nabe) in Winter.

If you’re from a country that doesn’t have a real winter, though, winter can be… COLD.

Are you new to Winter?

Even if not- check out the tips below, because you might not know some of them!


The temperatures have dropped, and you are wondering- just how much colder will it get?! While winter here is from December to March, between January~February is usually the coldest time of the year; sometimes reaching freezing temps. You are dying to see those Cherry Blossoms in March but wondering… just how will you be able to brave through this cold?


The key is to learn to keep warm like the locals!


When in Tokyo, dress as the locals do

Tokyo being a Skyscraper Jungle, creates gushing wind channels where the temperature might read 5℃, but it will feel much, MUCH colder.

Knowing how to dress to keep warm is extremely important!

You can go from suffering to relaxing, just by adding the right inner-wear and learning how to layer appropriately. The key to being warm is to think inner-to-outer. Thankfully Japan is the land of creativity and has developed some stellar inventions and innovative ways of staying warm.


Uniqlo’s Heattech Magic

This life-changing creation, is thin inner-wear that absorbs moisture from your body and turns it into heat- pure genius! With three different warmth levels for each degree of cold, it is the ultimate base layer. Heattech wear exists for upper and lower body.

After wearing Heattech on your upper body, next, add your t-shirt or long sleeve on top to create insulated warmth. Heattech leggings should not be overlooked either, as jeans and pants alone lock in very little heat. Heattech cuts down on bulkiness and allows you to still rock your fashion style without skimping on warmth. Now you can feel less like a giant walking marshmallow every time you go out!

HEATTECH at Uniqlo Japan

Business Insider article on HEATTECH


There are some alternates to the Heattech brand, that can even be found at some convenient stores. These are warm and thin insulating layers, and serve the same purpose as Heattech. So if you need to pick up warm layers very quickly and conveniently, check your convenience store or market, as they might have something! If you need insulating layers immediately, wearing a couple undershirts is not a bad solution, at all. If you’ve never tried leggings, btw, they are HIGHLY recommended. The amount of warmth lost through the legs is surprising.


Invest in an Insulated Coat

Once you’ve layered, you need to get a down or synthetic down jacket/coat (or overcoat) to go on top. Seriously.

Living in Tokyo, you will be spending most of your time walking outside, and a sweater will not do when it’s very cold (sweaters don’t protect you from strong cold winds).

As Japan loves to keep the inside of buildings and trains at an unbearable heat, you will continuously be going from cold to hot. Having a down jacket will be easy enough to remove once you get on a train but warm enough once outside.

(!) If you try to layer with multiple sweaters and jackets, you might regret having to shed them every time you step indoors and adding them to everything else you have to carry.

Once again, Uniqlo saves the day with excellent, affordable down jackets.

If you think downs really aren’t your style, Uniqlo also sells these ultra-thin down vests or jackets to wear under your designer coats or business jackets to keep you warm. Windbreakers are also excellent choices to block out the cold air from getting in.


Keep All Ends Covered (head, neck, hands, feet!)

Think beanies are just for ski trips? With gushing winds in the city, you will be happy to have your forehead and ears kept warm.

You will also want to stop the wind from sneaking in by wrapping a big comfy scarf around your neck.

Grab yourself a pair of those tech-savvy gloves, if you want to use your smartphone and keep hands warm. Without gloves, your fingers may get so cold that they slowly stop working– so no more texting and walking (but maybe that’s a good thing!!!).

Lastly, don’t forget about your feet!. Just because you have shoes on, doesn’t mean they stay warm. Get extra warm socks- even wool- to keep those toes happy. Feet are one of those areas that if they get cold, it can make your whole body feel cold. So keep them warm!


Some extra tips on making Tokyo winter a bit more bearable


Kairo, Japanese hot packs

These treasures come in many sizes (and brands) and keep warm for hours. They are packets that heat up when opened, and you stick them to your body to stay warm! Grab some, shake them to release the heat and stick them in your shoes or pockets; or anywhere on your body. Similarly, ‘Haru Hokkairos’ are larger ones that stick to the outside of your shirt (but under your sweater) to cover your stomach or lower back. These can be purchased in most convenience stores or markets.


Hot drinks from Vending Machines

When temperatures drop, hot drinks get stocked into the vending machines. If you’re new to Japan– Yes, Japan has hot drinks and soups in vending machines!

If you forget your ‘kairos’ or gloves, buy one or two hot drinks, and stick them into your pockets to keep you warm. Only in Japan can you buy a can of hot corn soup from a vending machine, and then stay warm with it and drink it while waiting for your train to some fantastic neighborhood.



Keep your body moisturized

Going from high humidity to the dry cold, makes your skin go into shock. Fingers start cracking, skin gets flaky, and you become irritatingly itchy. Get some deep moisturizing lotion to keep your skin hydrated. It will also keep you warmer by locking in the moisture and not allowing chilly drafts to sink in. Moisturizers can be purchased at most convenience stores, if you realize suddenly that your skin is super dry. (If you get deep into the world of moisturizers, you will learn that Japan has tons of great cosmetics.)


When it comes to staying warm in the city, do not forget these tips!

If you stick to the proper layering and moisturizing techniques, you will not only be able to survive Tokyo winters- you’ll ENJOY Tokyo winters.

(BTW, special note: If you travel to Sapporo or Aomori in the winter… their winters make Tokyo winter look like warm spring… The coldness of their winters are no joke, but the above tips should at least help you not literally freeze.)

May you all stay warm in the winter.  🙂