While Japan winter travel offers some beautiful scenes of snowcapped temples, frozen waterfalls, and amazing snowscapes. You’ll need to be prepared for how unforgivingly cold it is while sightseeing in the winter.
What’s Japan Winter Travel Like?
Japan’s winters are cold, wet, and often windy. One thing you’ll need to keep in mind when traveling Japan in the winter is that you’re going to be exposed to the elements for long periods of time. Most of the major sights are either outside or centuries-old wooden structures with no heating.
Snow Covered Kiyomizu-dera
You also have to think about traveling between the sights. This often involves being exposed to the cold while waiting at a bus stop or on a train platform. Some platforms have small heated rooms, but this is not guaranteed.
Platform Waiting Room | © DAJF / Wikimedia Commons
Naturally, some parts of Japan are colder than others. The coldest areas are Hokkaido and north of the Japanese Alps on the Sea of Japan side. These areas tend to be a lot colder and get more snow.
Snow Covered Matsumoto Castle | Brian Jeffery Beggerly, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
However, even in Tokyo, from mid-January to mid-February the temperature can drop by 4 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning and evening, and is often below 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. We’ve put together this Japan Winter Travel Checklist to help you prepare for your trip.
Your Japan Winter Travel Checklist
Pack a mix of lightweight and heavy layers.
- Thermal Underwear: Especially if you’re planning on visiting a colder region.
- Warm Coat: We recommend a down coat because they tend to be lighter, warmer, and can be rolled up for packing .
- Gloves: Try to get a pair that match what you’ll be doing in Japan. A pair that’s compatible with a smart phone is recommended.
- Hat or Ear Muffs: You’re going to want to cover your ears, I promise.
- Muffler or Heavy Scarf: We recommend bringing a scarf to protect your neck.
- Thick Socks: Bring plenty of thick socks. When it rains or snows, and your socks get wet, you’ll be thankful you have those extra pairs.
Air Activated Hand Warmers
These are great for putting in your pockets. You can get them on Amazon before your trip, and they can also be found in most convenience stores during the winter. They’re called Kairo in Japan, and they’re pretty reasonably priced.
Wear shoes that can handle wet and slippery conditions, such as waterproof boots or shoes with good traction.
Light Rain Coat
Japan’s winter months can be wet. Be prepared by packing a light raincoat to throw on if you get caught in the rain, or snow. There is no need to bring an umbrella. They’re easy to find at any convenience store and very reasonably priced.
If you’re prone to getting sick during the winter, make sure to pack any necessary medications. Japanese drugstores won’t have your brands.
We recommend bringing a portable charger to keep your phone, pocket Wi-Fi, and other devices charged while you’re out exploring.
Japan’s winter air can be dry and harsh on your skin, so make sure to pack lotion, lip balm, and any other skincare products you need to keep your skin hydrated. Don’t expect to find your favorite brands while in Japan.
It’s a good idea to carry between 20,000 yen to 30,000 yen (about $200 to $300 USD) in cash with you, as not all places in Japan accept credit cards.
Tourists are required to carry their passports at all times in Japan. We recommend keeping it on you in a safe dry place.
Enjoy Your Trip
Japan is one of the most hospitable countries we’ve ever lived. As always, we recommend that you go into your trip with an open mind, wide eyes, and a respect for the culture you’re visiting.
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