Visiting Japan in the Fall and Winter is amazing. November with Koyo is one of the most beautiful times to be in Japan and its not as tourist rich as sakura season. December is filled with Japan’s madness for Christmas and that Exile cover of George Michael’s “Last Christmas” on repeat. You don’t need to learn the song, it will soak into your bones. January is Hatsumode, snow and onsens.
However it gets really chilly in Japan and here are some travel, packing, purchasing tips to keep you just cozy and stylish during the cold months.
Japan is really good at heating places and not heating them (sarcasm meter to 10). I have no idea how their air conditioning is pathetic, but the heating is always stellar, even when you don’t want it to be. Often the trains in Japan are over heated, but everyone smartly dressed for the temperature outside. It’s like being in a toaster oven, a crowded deodorant poor toaster oven. So you’ll want to take off your coat and maybe another layer.
Wearing a chunky knit sweater only will be your heat downfall. You may find yourself sweating in Winter if not. Stores and restaurants can do the same thing, either over or under heat you.
Here are some pieces from Fint’s recent Winter collection. All work super cute together, but you can layer and unlayer if you wish. Stash the coat or the cardigan or both in an eco bag if you get warm or layer all for chilly nights.
Pay attention to Japanese clothing brand catalogs and magazines they’ll show you how to coordinate for Winter Japan.
Shop Staff and Model snaps from Japanese brands
All four different styles are ready to deal with the upcoming cold, but all can be easily tweaked for cold weather. But all these girls look trendy and able to add or cool down for temperature changes.
Some examples these shop staff can do to layer for full winter
Fint can add both a cardigan and a coat, and possibly change to thicker socks.
Moussy can either layer over the cardigan or exchange for a short one and coat.
Sly can either go for a nude tights/socks combo or wear warm shorts underneath, she can also top with a coat.
Snidel can go with a tights/socks combo and put a turtleneck underneath the dress. Turtlenecks are really trending right now!
Choose a thin knit over a thick jumper:
Winter clothes are super cute and cozy but thin sweaters will serve you best in Japan. You can fit a coat over them but not feel overheated if you have to take a coat off.
Don’t look like a tourist while being one, carry a tote bag with warm essentials:
Many Japanese women carry two bags, one is the normal purse and the second is a reused shopping bag or eco tote. This can keep a variety of things such as a bento, change of shoes, or chunky make-up case. The best reason to carry one in winter is to stash an extra scarf, gloves, cardigan, shirt or hat inside. There’s a reason many magazines (like Sweet magazine) give away tote bags so often.
Sweet Magazine for this month along with their reversible Cher ECO tote.
As a tourist you can use it as your emergency bag. Copy of your passport, bandaids, change of shoes, extra socks all the random needs you may have.
Being a tourist is different:
You may think you’re used to winter temps in your own country and most of Japan doesn’t get to full snow often, but the act of being a tourist is probably different than your day-to-day life. A lot of times being a tourist you leave your hotel or guesthouse in the morning and don’t plan to go back until late at night. Also you’ll be spending a lot of time outside, more than you probably do in your own country. Japanese temperatures can change +/- 10 degrees F during that time. Once the sun sets the temperature you dressed for in the late morning won’t be the same at night.
Also jet lag can really mess with your body temperature. I find my body runs very warm the first few days of any significant time change.
Use the Gyaru-style rule of warmth:
What’s that rule? If you’d like to show a lot of leg or cleavage or other bare body part, double and triple layer the other parts.
Great ways of layering and styling for winter I found in the Duras AW 2014 catalog.
Liz Lisa roomwear. RIP. My favorite set-up.
From overseas you may ask, why I’m inside, the weather is outside. Sadly you’d be wrong. Japan apartments in my experience (I’ve lived in 5), the older the place is the worse off it is for heating insulation.
“Traditional Japanese buildings do not use insulation, and insulation may even be omitted in modern construction, especially in the low-end apartments; nor is insulated glazing traditionally used in windows, with these being generally single-pane” – wiki
What does this mean to you? Typically in hotels you will be fine, but if you’re staying in your own apartment or guesthouse you will be an icicle. Because of this Japan’s roomwear is stellar for keeping you cozy. They know they need to provide you with insulation because your house doesn’t.
I’m really obsessed with Japanese roomwear and it’s practical!
Cute roomwear stores for every price range:
Donki: Megastore of course sells a variety of room wear. It also sells kigurumi which can keep you warm (not recommended if you get up to pee a lot at night). Their sleep sock selection is quite good but quality not as good as tutuanna in my experience.
Shimamura: (site) It’s partner Avail as well offer cheap items and maybe some kawaii roomwear of a slightly high quality than Donki.
GU: Uniqlo’s stab at fast fashion Forever 21 offers roomwear options. I bought a pair of cute pink lace sleep boxer-style shorts for under 800 yen for summer. Not a good quality, but good enough.
Tutuanna was awesome last winter. Fluffy moko-moko Mr. and Mrs. Alpaca leggings and cat rocks with ears just for the home.
Tutuanna: (site) The sock store I blogged previously about, also does some of the cuter roomwear. I was obsessed with their fluffy warm alpaca leggings last winter. They’re my main recommendation since Liz Lisa Chambre a Coucher is over.
Gelato Pique (site) sister brand of Snidel and Lily Brown it only does roomwear. Often not as kawaii, but good quality albeit at a higher price tag.
Rady: (previous post) Rady has both home and roomwear choices. Home usually means you can walk your dog in it, room is full sleepy time wear. They’re my next choice on roomwear investment because I’m a slug, but a fancy slug.
Often skirts and dresses in Japan stay short year around, but tights places in Japan are excellent at providing a high denier tight to keep you cozy. Denier is a fancy tights word for thickness. Be sure to keep in the 70 to 100 denier range for tights during wintertime, hosiery.uk has a good graphic about denier. Tutuanna clearly marks their tights in the winter for this reason.
Heat Tech by Uniqlo
Heat Tech is the best thing ever.
If I had to make a more concise blog entry about staying warm in Japan it would just read Uniqlo Heat Tech in 40pt font. Times New Roman.
Uniqlo Heattech GOAT
Some of the tops line of Uniqlo Heattech (light colors also available)
Heat Tech line by Uniqlo that makes innerwear basics such as camisoles, tank tops, leggings, t-shirts and long sleeve shirts. The actual material feels like a smooth thin shirt. None of that silly thermal waffling pattern. It’s extremely durable and cheap. I have Heat Tech camisoles ($12) I’ve bought five years ago that even after tons of usage and American machine washing there is no pilling and the threads are all intact.
The tight weave stops a chilly wind but is thin enough to layer. It feels about the thickness or less of a regular cotton t-shirt. Nicola (she has a new style blog, she’s gorgeous and stylish go read it!), Lucie and I were having a nomikai (drinking party get-together) and we ended up waxing poetic on Heat Tech for a good 10 mins.
My ultimate winter rec: Heat Tech. Uniqlo overseas stores stock it as well if you want to buy beforehand. I really recommend the camisoles. They hide under any close-to-the-body clothing item and provide so much warmth for such a tiny garment.
They have a summer version called Airism, it’s not as good.
If you’re planning on being outside for a long time like Koyo light-ups, Shrine touring, or Tokyo Disney consider picking up a kairo. Kairo (カイロ) are sticky heat packs and are found at any drug store or conbini, just look for the cute animals and sticky pack image if you don’t read Japanese. They’re quite cheap at 600 yen ($6) for a pack of 30. The most common you stick on your low back, but you can really put them anywhere. They recommend you don’t put on your actual body but on your first layer (like a Heat Tech tank top).
If you get cold easily or you’ll be outside a ton, they’re a great idea.
Since I know Fall is a big travel time for Japan I’ll be working mostly on travel items and tips for a little bit, but I’ll sneak back into the Larme series, shop staff snaps and trends interspersed.
In other winter related posts: Check out the Winter Japan coat buying and tips. and back in 2009 a very gyaru post about getting ready for Winter
Fall leaves are coming to Japan, learn and see Koyo here