How to dress up in Japan during winter?

Japanese woman standing next to colourful trees wearing traditional kimono to take selfie

When I thought of what to wear in Japan winter, I only bothered a little with style and focused on practical matters. But the Japanese showed me they beat winter in a chic style!

As usual, the Japanese have a unique way of dealing with real-life problems. This post shows you some unique ways to beat Japan’s winter in their style without breaking your wallet.

Index

What do people usually wear in Japan?

After two days of roaming in Japan, I realised Japanese are shy but approachable. So, I never hesitated to appreciate someone’s bags ( You see a lot of Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton), nails and outfits whenever I liked them! Some even let me touch their bags /showed their nails, and informed me where to find them! Plus, we have spent a fair amount of time in metros where locals commute and on buses on tourist trails. So, while the Japanese sat in trains glued to their phone, I observed and was awespried by their fashion sense.

Do they still wear kimonos in Japan?

Japan’s traditional dresses like Kimonos and Yukata aren’t regular outfits. It isn’t even as common as Drindl in Austria / Germany. However, I saw foreign and domestic tourists wearing it near castles and temples for photoshoots. You get these on rentals near famous attractions. The shop owners will help you wear it.

What do most people in Japan wear?

Kimonos almost became a celebratory outfit by the 1930s. Japanese started wearing western outfits by then. After World War II, the Western fashion spread as the main attire throughout Japan. So now the Japanese call their style “Yofuku”, meaning “Western clothing.”

What is Japanese style fashion?

I often find formal western clothing boring. But not in Japan. They know how to brighten formal outfits yet stay eloquent. For example, women wear slightly flared bright lavender skirts, a classic white shirt, and a beige puffed jacket and add some bling with nice metal neck-pieces– Formal yet attractive. They pair it up with nice heeled shiny, but not tacky shoes. Their bags are classy and will always have a cute bag charm.

We hardly found anyone with makeup! Or they do makeup so flawlessly with nude shades that it looks natural. So perhaps I was the only one wearing bright pink lipstick!

Men wore classy suits of nice colours and mostly had short hair – Trust me, I didn’t see even one Japanese man with a beard and moustache!

How do you describe a Japanese street style?

When it isn’t formal wear, and they are on the street, it is cutting edge – Not bohemian or free-spirited, but super chic. Loose, overfitted clothing in muted colours is fairly common. Generally, it’s all about silhouettes and mixing things up—layers, vintage, designer, and more. Some common accessories include stylish sneakers and belt bags.

What do girls wear in Japan?

At teamLab planets. Tokyo – There are mirrors on all dimensions. So you know what to wear under your skirts!

I couldn’t help but ask a shop owner at Harajuku why she sells school uniforms with other super-styled stuff. Fortunately, as it was closing time, she had some time to explain why we had been seeing girls roaming in school uniform skirts at night and in temples. Usually, Yofuku takes many forms, even in winter.

Harajuku Style

It is named after the Harajuku neighbourhood of Shibuya in Tokyo, where the style originated. The mix of western and traditional Japanese clothing with uniquely bright and multicolour styles is poppy and vibrant. It first developed as a form of rebellion against strict social norms. As a result, kaleidoscopic colours, bold designs, and multiple layers are common.

What is the cute Japanese style called?

Trust me – we saw girls dressed similarly to this doll!

At least once a day, you will see a girl dressed like a doll – with turquoise hair and a cute flared frock. This is called Kawai or Lolita.

Child-like or doll-like features depict Lolita’s fashion. This style revolves around cuteness. Now you know why you find Japanese girls wearing cute backpacks. This is why shopping streets in Japan are filled with  Hello-kitty stores and other merchandise.

Kogal – Japanese school uniforms serve as the inspiration for kogal

The term Kogal refers to “high school girl student.” Short skirts, jackets, loose socks, scarves, and crazy boots make up the distinctive look. So when you see girls wearing checkered black and green skirts with white shirts at Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho sipping beer or Sake, don’t worry if they are underage to drink.

Is there a dress code in Japan?

There is no dress code in Japan nor to enter temples or palaces.

It is “wear what you want – except showing off your shoulders.” However, if you are on a business trip and attending official meetings, you need to groom well and tidy with exact business formal wear.

What is inappropriate to wear in Japan?

  • Communal bathing in hot springs(onsens) is a traditional pastime. But apart from a few mixed-gender baths, you won’t need a swimsuit as they are explicitly forbidden (for hygiene reasons). So you bathe in a hot spring in your birth suit.
  • In Japan, tattoos are associated with the mafia and are banned in many places – even a tiny mark may mean you are refused entry. So if you have any, keep them covered with clothing, plasters or concealer products.

I usually don’t bother about if I am wearing holed or mismatched socks. It is always hidden inside shoes, beneath the pants. But in Japan, you can’t do it. You must remove shoes at many places (more than you do in India)- Not only at temples but also at some restaurants, hotel rooms and historical houses. The holed and mismatched socks can put you in an awkward place, then!

Can you show skin in Japan?

You can wear short skirts. But showing off your shoulder and upper body is frowned upon. Though it was winter, we found many wearing dresses. Some can bear the winter chills. And others wear sheer stockings that come with a warmer layer inside.

Is it OK to wear shorts in Japan?

Yes. It is practical to wear shorts in Japan in summer. But if you want to wear them during winter, you can always pair them with Japan’s favourite sheer stockings. You can by them ib stores like three coins.

Can you wear leggings in Japan?

Hardly locals bother tourists or pass on mean comments if you don’t dress up like them. So if you are a leggings lover and find it your paradise, feel free to bring them. But mind that you may be one among the countable humans wearing leggings in Japan.

Are ripped jeans OK in Japan?

Temples/shrines in Japan don’t have a dress code. So pretty much anything goes–no problem at all with tattered jeans.

What do people wear in Japan in winter?

Now that we have understood Japanese fashion style, it is clear that they wear super-stylish winter clothes. Places like Tokyo don’t get extremely cold (except in February). So you find long coats and jackets that serve fashion more than the cold here.

But getting heated matters most if you go to areas like Kawaguchiko that reaches -2*C. So if you are planning to buy winter wears in Japan, you must know what works for Tokyo won’t for areas like Nagano and definitely not for the cold prefecture of Hokkaido.

Is it cheaper to buy winter clothes in Japan?

Yes and No Both. If you go for brands like Mr Porter, you will pay nearly 3 million yens. But don’t worry; there is always Uniqlo for people like us. If you are planning to go to Japan in winter and need to buy winter wear, it is better to buy them in Japan (especially if you are from a Tropical country like us).

I had read a lot about how good Uniqlo winter wears is. We both wondered what difference it could make that everyone praises Uniqlo. Trust me, Uniqlo’s quality and comfort are unmatchable to what I bought from India at Decathlon.

Plus, they have way too many choices in everything needed for Japan’s winter.

How do you keep warm in Japan?

This is a list of things that keep you warm in Japan in the Japanese way -Because they are better quality, cheaper, more comfortable, cuter and more practical.

Heat pads AKA Kairo

Our favourite thing in Japan and an essential for winter is their heat pad.

You activate these single-use heat packs when you are ready to use them. They stay hot for at least 8 hours; some brands up to 15 hours. You pop them into your pockets to keep your hands warm. Or attach them to your clothing, such as an undershirt, to provide heat around the body core. This kept us warm (sometimes hot), even at heavy snowfall.

Where to buy heat packs in Japan?

You can find them in any convenience store, AKA konbini, like 7-Eleven, Family Mart and Lawson. We recommend you buy attachable heat packs than the ones you can keep in your pocket. Look for the symbol “Haaro” or ask the shopkeeper if you need a “Haaro heat pack.”

Umbrellas and Poncho.

Japan’s winter umbrellas reveal the world to you – because they are transparent! They are the saviours when you go hiking on snow-filled trails. The see-through umbrellas protect you from dropping snow from trees and roofs. Transparent ponchos are great if the snowfall reaches a peak. Though we bought one for each, we never used it.

Where to buy Japanese transparent Umbrellas?

Like your heat packs, you get ponchos and umbrellas at 7-Eleven, Family Mart and Lawson.

Winter wears at Uniqlo.

PS – This isn’t a paid post!

Uniqlo is a Japanese brand that started in the 1970s in Hiroshima. Now it is one of the most famous affordable yet high-quality clothing brands. You find these stores all across Japan. Even in some random places on the highway of Nagano and Shin Takaoka. We went to the store at Ginza, which has 12 floors dedicated to winter wear (the last floor is a cafe that serves horrible coffee). Trust me; we never knew that you could get that many choices in winter wears.

Things to keep in mind before you buy any winter wear in Japan

  • As the Japanese are very petite, you find smaller sizes more than the larger ones. Ask attendees for help finding your size.
  • First layer- Heattech is essential for any Japan region during winter. We refer to these as “Thermal wear” that you wear on your innerwear. The fibres of this clothing absorb the heat and keep the body warm. Uniqlo heattech is way lighter, thinner and warmer than I bought from Decathlon.
  • The last layer – You must know to which temperature you need the jackets. For example, the most stylish ones I picked were good enough for only Tokyo. What suited us most was the hybrid down coat for Ashrith and Hybrid Down Parka for me. (Price that we paid at the store is 20% less than the online price) – Both were waterproof and kept us super warm even during the heavy snowfall of Shirakwago and the snow-filled breeze of Nagano.
  • Middle layer- Light downers are necessary if only you go to places up to minus 10*C in Hokkaido.
  • Hand gloves – Japanese can’t live without using their gadgets. So Uniqlo gloves are designed to let you use the thumb and forefinger on phones.
  • Scarfs – Stylish and essential to keep your neck warm.
  • Socks – They have woollen socks in some 100 colours and thousand designs.

How should foreigners dress in Japanese winter?

How hot you feel when entering any indoor space in Japan in winter is weird. Dress in layers because the indoor temperature will be much warmer than outside. Even the smallest local cafes keep their indoors heated. Ear muffs aren’t really a thing among the Japanese. So it is to differentiate between tourists and Japanese with ear muffs. Plus, I am not an earmuff fan. I rather use the hood than use my earmuffs.

Common mistakes foreigners make in Japan during winter

Often, on online forums, I read how travellers are underprepared for Japan’s winter. Especially western travellers. You get comments like, “We didn’t enjoy Shirakwago because of snowfall. “Or we didn’t know it would snow at Hiroshima.”
While we waited for our train to Nagano from Nagoya, we met many western travellers – Some men were in their hiking shorts while it snowed outside. An Australian family group said they had booked a skiing resort at Hakuba but didn’t know it would reach -14*C. It was terrible!

Know where you are headed. Keep an eye on the weather forecast – Japan can’t go wrong with its weather forecast. plan well, and don’t blame Japan for your under preparation.

What shoes to wear in Japan in winter?

Japanese women love heel shoes, and men can’t let go of their sneakers. As a tourist, you may tend to go with the flow. I saw many managing the snow-filled roads with heels and sneakers – Trust me, it looked like they were doing a circus!

Does it mean that you need to wear snow boots?

Don’t wear snow boots unless your Japan winter travel is restricted to mountain skiing. Because if your plan includes wandering in streets and visiting temples, snow boots become annoying as you have to remove them often. Instead, choose waterproof walking shoes with high grip.

What should I pack for Japan?

Packing light is the key to a comfortable trip to Japan, regardless of the season. Because you mostly use public transport everywhere. Metros and buses are crowded during peak hours. Most of the time, airport buses and monorails are also packed. Bullet trains don’t allow passengers with big-sized luggage – you must reserve a seat in that case.

One of the hundred unique things about Japan is the luggage forward service.

blue american tourister suitcase with Japan's luggage forward service tag

Baggage forwarding service is a way to get rid of carrying your luggage on public transport by having it delivered directly to your destination. So you spend less when you have less number of suitcases.

How to pack light while travelling to Japan?

You won’t need many sets of clothes while travelling in Japan in winter. Because most of the time, you are cladded with your coats. You hardly sweat, and Japan is clean. So you can wear the same shirts and trousers at least 3-4 times without washing them.

You find laundry machines in most hotels, and also Coin-operated laundries are there on major streets. So carrying lesser clothes makes a lot more sense in Japan.

Japan never fails to provide amenities (except for dustbins in public). The room space may be smaller. But most hotels/hostels/ ryokans provide you with these amenities.

So don’t carry the following

Nightwear- Paijamas offered by the hotel were always super clean and comfortable. If you head to smoking rooms or laundry spaces, you find many guests in the same nightwear.

Don’t pack Indoor slippers. | Towels and face napkins.

Bathroom kit- Mostly it includes a razor, hair comb, brush, pastes and shampoos of good quality

General packing list for Japan, irrespective of the season.

  • A small amount of hard cash for currency exchange – preferably USD, so that you get better rates.
  • Coin Purse Wallet with Coin Sorter – You will receive and use a lot of coins in Japan. Forget your regular wallet if you need a hassle-free time and buy this.
  • Passport with Visa approved. 
  • Medicines – You find a lot of pharmacies. But the drugs vary widely in Japan. The simple paracetamol you get in your country is very different from what you get in Japan. You must speak fluent Japanese, or the pharmacy owner must speak your language – Both cases are rare. So carry your medicines.
  • Backpack / Suitcase +Day Bag 
  • Travel Insurance 
  • Socket plug converter 
  • Power banks
  • Ear Plugs 
  • Ear Phones, phones and cameras with their chargers 
  • Sanitary pads/ tampons 
  • Reusable bottle
  • 30/40 SPF Sunscreen and Moisturiser
  • Cosmetics and fashion accessories
  • Sunglasses
  • Scarfs
  • Undergarments and socks

Add-on checklist as per season

Months Average temperatureThings to pack
WinterMid-December to Mid-March.-4 to 7* C in central Japan. Northern Japan reaches up to -20* C in peak winter.Heattech thermal wear | Coats | gloves | scarfs – We recommend buying winterwear in Japan.
SpringMid-March to May20 to 23*C except in Northern JapanLighter coats with full-length pants and tops.
SummerJune to Mid-September20-30*C, hot and humid with rainfall.Lighter cotton/linen clothes, shorts, skirts, and sleeved tops – Showing off the shoulder and chest is frowned upon in Japan.
AutumnSeptember to Mid December7 to 25*CLighter coats with full-length pants and tops.

Did we clear your doubts on what to wear in Japan winter? Let us know in the comment section below.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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