10 Tips for Surviving the Winter in Japan

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Photo by Tim

Whether it is your first winter in Japan or you are a seasoned veteran, you have no doubt realized that Japanese homes are not designed to hold back the cold from creeping into your room. But do not fret dear reader, for we have you covered with the top ten ways to keep you from setting fire to the tatami to keep warm.

10. Double up with thick curtains and seal your windows

The biggest drafts will come in through your paper thin, single pane glass windows. One of the cheapest ways to insulate the windows is with rolls of bubble wrap that can be purchased for only a few hundred yen per role at most 100 yen stores.

9. Invest in a good pair of socks and slippers

This combo will help make the morning walk out of bed a bit less painful when your look at the cold, pseudo-wood panel flooring. If you really want to go the extra mile, have a back up set for any guests that come through. Remember to keep a separate pair for use in the bathroom.

8. Invite friends over for nabe (hot-pot) dinner

Yes, you may have to sacrifice a few yen to keep your heater running so your guests don’t freeze, but the added body heat and hot-pot of food and drink will make for a perfect cozy evening.

7. Bring out the kotatsu (Japanese heated table)

If you have not discovered this magical winter den yet, you may not survive the cold long enough to get the end of this list. The kotatsu (炬燵) is a table that has a small heater built under it. Put a heavy quilt between the two top tables, turn the heater on and slide your lower body under for some nice electric toastiness! This device is also a favourite of cats.

kotatsu_1

6. Layout the electric carpet

Although many of the older versions were electricity hungry and would eat up your utility bill, modern electric blankets can heat up your cold posterior for a few yen an hour. The most efficient method to use one is to place it on top of your couch and use a blanket to trap in all of the warmth. Make sure to have a sufficient supply of foodstuffs nearby so that you never have to get up, ever.

5. Take a long soak in the bath

Japan is the land of baths and most bathtubs in apartments come with high tech versions that automatically fill and constantly reheat the water. There is nothing better than relaxing after a cold day while heating your body to the core. If you do not have a bath that is large enouigh, find the nearest onsen or sento and get to know your neighbours in a new and intimate way.

4. Invest in an electric kettle

There is nothing more satisfying than an everlasting supply of hot water to fuel you with your choice winter beverage. If you are ready to drop a bit of cash, you may want to get a traditional electric kettle that continuously heats water as it cools. If you are hoping for a quick and cheap solution without setting a pot on a stove, finding a low spec electric kettle should do the trick and give you just the amount of hot water you need.

3. Hang out at the local mall

There is a reason that old people are known to power-walk in air conditioned complexes, it’s because they are smart. Braving the trip to the nearest AEON on super mall will be well worth the journey. Drink up the free coffee samples at the international goods store, give the granny giving out free nabe samples a wink, and make sure everyone is having just as great of a day as you are.

2. Stock up on adhesive hot packs/pocket warmers

In most countries, hot packs are mostly used to fill your pockets when you are enjoying snow sports. But like most great things, Japan has taken this product to the next level by making a variety of warmers from shoe-inlays to aroma therapy versions. The best of these are the versions with the removable adhesive backing that you can stick anywhere you like. Although they easily last for 24 hours at about 30 JPY a sheet, put a little thought into where you stick them and never apply one directly to your skin.

1. Get out of the country

If you can manage to plan ahead for the winter, save up enough holiday and cash to fly yourself to a warmer climate. Naturally, nothing is better than a warm cup of hot cocoa on your parents’ couch, but if that is not an option look to closer shores. There are plenty of warmer places where you won’t have to be reminded why you left home to begin with only a short flight away. Guam, Okinawa, and Thailand are not as far away as you might think!

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Host of the Speak Up Asia podcast.
  • Robby D Jones says:

    As someone who has lived in Hokkaido and Iwate I would say the bath is your best friend. Using kerosene is expensive but keeping your bath tub hot isn’t bad at all. In the winter I usually take a hot bath in the morning and before I go to sleep. I literally will keep heating up my bath until I can’t take it anymore then get out and go to sleep. I also agree about good socks. I had an old lady in town make me some crazy thick socks, they are almost like moccasins. I put those one when I get home over my normal socks.

  • Kalisto Angelique Hart says:

    We are thinking of moving to Japan in the next few years, that table would make some kittys I know very happy lol! Thank you very much!
    ~Kali

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