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10 Essential Items for Staying Warm during Winter in Japan

Gear up for winter in Japan with ten essential items to keep you warm all throughout.

By 6 min read

Ah, winter in Japan! With its breathtaking snowy landscapes, serene temples blanketed in white, illuminations lighting up the streets and enchanting winter festivals, it’s a truly magical time of year. The allure of Japan during this season is not only in its natural beauty but also in the cultural traditions and experiences unique to this time of year.

However, it also comes with a noticeable drop in temperature, as the country experiences a wide range of climates from northern Hokkaido, where winters are harsh and snowy, to the milder winters in the southern regions like Fukuoka and Nagasaki.

Whether you’re planning a visit or are already a resident of Japan, staying cozy and comfortable is a top priority during the winter months. Are you curious about the essentials that can help you stay warm and fully immerse yourself in the magic of Japanese winter? Let’s explore them together!

1. Kotatsu (Heated Table)

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For a cozy day indoors.

During the winter, the kotatsu (heated table) is the centerpiece of home life in Japan. It is essentially a low table with a heater installed beneath it and covered with a large blanket to retain the heat. The kotatsu provides warmth and comfort to anyone sitting around it, making it an ideal spot for gathering with family and friends, sharing meals or relaxing while watching shows. While enjoying these activities, don’t forget to have some hot tea or chocolate nearby to make it cozier.

Where to buy online: Amazon

2. Hot Electric Carpets

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To keep your feet warm.

Imagine having a warm carpet under your feet during winter—it’s like magic, minus the flying! Hottokapetto (hot carpets) are specifically designed with concealed heating elements, making them ideal for colder months. If you live in an older Japanese home with a floor made of chilly tatami mats, these carpets are a complete game-changer. All you need to do is lay one of them down, flip the switch, and immediately enjoy the instant warmth. It’s a simple yet effective way to bring comfort into your living space.

Where to buy online: Amazon

3. Portable Heater

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A trusty companion.

Say hello to your reliable winter companion—the keitai hita (portable heater). With different types to choose from, such as fan heaters, oil-filled radiators or ceramic heaters, you can enjoy staying warm throughout the chilly season. Whether at your desk, relaxing in the living room or anywhere else in your home, these compact and efficient heaters are always ready to heat your space.

Where to buy online: Amazon

4. Wearable Blanket

A must-have for remote workers in winter. When cold air surrounds you in winter, you may feel like staying under a blanket all day. However, carrying a sleeping blanket is impractical and might make your home look untidy. Thankfully, kiru mofu (wearable blankets) are available in Japan. These blankets are basically like bath towels but made from a thicker and softer material, also come in various cute designs such as Hello Kitty, Snoopy and even shark shapes. Using this, you can still carry out your daily activities comfortably and warmly at home without using a thick sleeping blanket.

Where to buy online: Amazon

5. Yutanpo (Hot Water Bottle)

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Bring it with you all over your apartment.

Tired of those big electricity bills during winter? Maybe you can try switching to yutanpo instead! It is a traditional Japanese hot water bottle, usually made from metal or plastic, that provides a warm and comfortable night’s sleep. To use it, just fill it with hot water, put it in your bed and enjoy its soothing warmth. Not only does it ensure a cozy night’s rest, but it also helps you save on electricity by giving your heater a break. Pretty convenient, isn’t it?

Where to buy online: Amazon

6. Thick Curtains and Draft Stoppers

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Keep the winter chill away.

Many Japanese housing, especially the older ones, have drafty windows and doors. This can be a real problem during winter as cold air easily seeps into the room, making it uncomfortable. But there are some easy fixes you can try. Why not hang some samarukaten (thick curtains) for drafty windows to help trap the heat inside? And, for drafty doors, you can simply use dorafusutoppa (draft stoppers) at the base to prevent cold air from entering the room.

Where to buy online: Amazon or Rakuten

7. Layered Clothing

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Bundle up. Literally.

Staying warm in winter is a must, but you don’t want to feel like a giant marshmallow, right? So, here’s a trick: start with a comfy base layer like Uniqlo’s Heattech fabric. This fabric is specially designed to keep you warm while remaining lightweight. Next, add a layer of warmth with a snug sweater or soft fleece, perfect for retaining body heat. Finally, top it off with a waterproof and windproof jacket to protect yourself from the harsh weather. The best part? You can adjust your outfit for comfort by adding or removing layers.

Where to buy online: Uniqlo web store

8. Thermal Socks and Footwear

In Japanese homes, it’s customary to remove shoes at the entrance. With cold floors being a common issue, having thick, thermal socks is necessary. They provide a barrier between your feet and the chilly floors, ensuring comfort and warmth within your home. When it comes to outdoor activities, especially if you’re planning to explore snowy areas like Shirakawa-Go or Sapporo, investing in a good-quality boukangutsu (waterproof boots with insulated lining) is crucial. These boots are designed to keep your feet dry and warm, even in the most frigid conditions.

Where to buy online: Amazon

9. Kairo (Heat Packs)

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A lifesaver for days spent outside.

During the cold season, kairo can be your best friend too. This small, disposable heat pack will emit warmth for several hours once activated. They’re versatile in use—you can place them inside your clothing for an extra layer of warmth, put them in your pockets as a hand warmer or even slip them into your shoes for toasty feet. You’ll find kairo readily available in konbini (convenience stores) all over Japan, making them an easily accessible solution to combat the chill.

Where to buy online: Amazon

10. Nabe (Hot Pot) Meals

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A winter staple.

Nothing warms body and soul like a piping hot, steamy dish and nabe (hot pot) is the epitome of Japanese winter cuisine. This delightful culinary tradition involves a communal pot where ingredients such as meat, tofu and various vegetables are gently simmered in a rich and flavorful broth. Popular variations include sukiyaki and shabu-shabu. It warms you from within, and the steam adds warmth to your surroundings, making it an ideal dish for cold days.

Equipping yourself with these ten essential items will ensure that the cold won’t dampen your adventures in Japan. Do you have any personal must-have items that help you stay warm during winter that we have yet to mention? Feel free to share them in the comments below!

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