Winter in Japan is cold. Depending on where you are in the country, the snow can start falling as early as October or November. Skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and festivals (like the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido) are some traditional activities in Japan during the snowy winters. A big question is what to wear during this time. Here are some regions and what to wear during the coldest month of the year, January, so you know how to keep warm:
Average High: 0°C (32°F) Average Low: -8°C (17.6°F)
Being the coldest region in Japan, you are going to want to bundle up to go outside. First thing first, you will need a good pair of waterproof non-slip/non-skid boots. It gets very slippery, so you will need a lot of traction to stay standing while walking through all the snow and ice. To help keep your feet warm, you will also need waterproof thermal socks. You will also want to wear layers, so a long-sleeved shirt, sweater, and lighter windbreaker jacket are recommended. A hood or a tight winter hat (or both) to cover your head, and thick, waterproof mittens or gloves for your hands are necessary. As well, jeans or nylon pants will keep your legs warm. One other thing is a scarf. The scarf will help keep your neck warm and your face (a face mask is also an option to keep warm). Many Japanese also carry umbrellas for when it snows, which can be useful to keep dry and warm.
Average High: – 1°C (33.8°F) Average Low: -4°C (24.8°F)
This region is also very cold. Thick socks, coats, gloves, hats, and scarves are recommended. Even though the average temperature is slightly higher than Hokkaido, it is still very cold all the time, so the same type of clothing in layers worn in Hokkaido is worn in Tohoku.
Average High: 8°C (46.4°F) Average Low: 2°C (35.6°F)
This region is slightly warmer than Hokkaido, so as many layers are not necessary. A good pair of boots and a thick coat with a hood or a knit cap will do the trick to keep warm. Some knitted gloves and a scarf can be added, but these do not need to be waterproof or very thick to fight off the cold.
Average High: 9°C (48.2°F) Average Low: 3°C (37.4°F)
Kansai has about the same temperature in January as Kanto does, so the same rules for clothing apply to this region as they did to Kanto.
Average High: 9°C (48.2°F) Average Low: 5°C (41°F)
This region is not much warmer than Kansai and Kanto, so a thick jacket and some nice warm socks and dry boots will be fine for the winter. If it is extra cold, a winter hat, some gloves, and a scarf can be used to keep you extra warm. It is very important to keep your feet dry to stay warm, so be sure to pack a few extra pairs of socks and some waterproof boots to make sure you do not get sick in the harsh, but beautiful, winters in Japan.
Average High: 18°C (64.4°F) Average Low: 13°C (55.4°C)
Okinawa has very short winters, so January is not too cold. Overall, the cold is due to the wind, and not really large amounts of snow. Because of this, you want to wear windbreakers and things to cover your neck, face, and ears to keep arm. Fuzzy, warm boots should be worn to protect you from the wind, and you will want to make sure your skin is all covered up so the stinging cold from the wind cannot get to you. This means long sleeves are a plus, as well as long socks, tall boots, and pants that fully cover your legs.
Japan has beautiful winters, and it is a great time to go visit, just be sure to pack accordingly. Holes in clothing are a big no in the winter, and you always want to have extra socks and gloves just in case. As well, while outdoors are cold, indoors may be very hot (because the heat is on so high), so be sure to pack some short sleeved shirts so you do not overheat indoors.