The country of Japan is a seasonal wonder. Every season occurs with full force, and each one brings its own pros and cons. The season that may surprise people the most is the winter. Depending on where you are located on the island you will have varying degrees of severity. It’s best to check your new area and plan ahead for the coming cold season.
Dealing With the Weather
Since each season comes in full force, you can expect a very cold winter. Winters around Tokyo will dip below 5 degrees Celsius on average. In other parts of the country, it will go even further, such as Hokkaido being at or below 0 most of the time. It truly begins in November and can continue into March in some cases. If you come from a warm region of the world you may want to do some extra shopping before coming to Japan. This is truer if you have an atypical body size in the country. Try to bring whatever you think will be difficult to find in Japan. They have a large selection of scarfs, gloves, ear warmers, and other winter necessities in Japan, and they come in various sizes to fit any person. These items will be indispensable during the winter season, and you will end up using them at some point during it. If you don’t usually deal with snow you will most likely encounter it at some point. If will fall in varying degrees, but it can make travel troublesome, so it may be best to do a little research on your new area beforehand.
The further north you go the higher the amount of snow you will have to deal with. If you plan on driving, it will do you some good to try taking it very slow on your first few tries of using a car in the snow. Road conditions deteriorate quickly, and you don’t want to find yourself in a situation you are unfamiliar with in a different country. There is plenty of literature on the subject at the Japanese dmv website. With all that said, you should also take time to enjoy the weather. Take in all of the sites, and try to join in the local festivities. Some areas hold festivals specifically for that time of year. If you find yourself walking more than driving, the convenience stores have a good selection of hot drinks to help keep you warm on the inside. Some stores carry different beverages, so you should try them out and find the one you like best. They are usually cheap and can be a real help when walking around for long periods of time.
This seems obvious but there are a few options to keep warm during the cold season. Since it is always cold for the winter Japan has all the winter clothing available at reasonable prices. You can buy hoodies, jackets, pants, and other clothing for around 1,00 yen apiece if you know where to look. They come in a variety of styles and can fit any fashion needs you may have. Just remember that even though there is a selection, you will pay designer prices for designer gear. Japan is not averse to high fashion even for winter clothes. One piece of clothing you may be interested in is heat tech clothes. They are undershirts and long johns that work extremely well at keeping the heat on your body. They can be found at most department stores, and even at convenience stores for purchase. Remember that Japanese sizes won’t fit everyone, and you may end up having to pay extra for larger sizes of the same clothes.
In Your Apartment
Japanese apartments are built to breathe, so they don’t keep heat or cold air very well. Trying to run your air-con unit the whole winter can be an expensive endeavor. The best way to do things is to wear layers of clothes inside, or just wearing some warm indoor clothes would help. There are full sections in department stores for indoor wear. There is a big selection of blankets as well, with some being meant for use in office chairs or for just keeping warm. They come in many designs and sizes, so you can find something that fits your style. The most common item that Japanese people use to keep warm is the kotatsu. The kotatsu is a table with a heater on the bottom of it. You drape a special kotatsu comforter over the top and sit under it. It is one of the best ways to fight the cold weather and is also really comfortable. You can find them in almost every department store, and they range in price from 6,000 to 100,000 yen. They have a large selection of designs and sizes to meet any apartment requirements. The one problem is that they use electricity, and it can add up on your bill every month. They are still less expensive than using a wall-mounted unit. Be careful to not fall asleep under the kotatsu and try to use it sparingly.
You can buy a space heater if you don’t have an air con unit, and there are a few choices for this as well. You can get an electric heater, which can do a good job in small spaces but can really run up your electricity bill in the end. The other option is to get a kerosene heater. These are more common than one would think, and they work well for a variety of house sizes. They can be cheap as well, and kerosene is not very expensive to get. You get kerosene at most gas stations, but storage of it can be a problem. You must keep it in a cool area away from the sun, and the smell can be hard to musk when having to use the small space available to you. If you leave it sitting for too long it could go bad as well, so you should use it when you can. When you use a kerosene heater, you must be careful to let your apartment air out. There are a lot of fumes produced when used, and it can be dangerous if it continues to build up, so using it for a short time is best. Make sure you don’t leave it on while sleeping as well.
Heated blankets and rugs are another option available to you. These are nice alternatives to heaters or using air-con units. They can store away easily and use only small amounts of electricity. Again, make sure to turn them off when sleeping as that can have problems if they are overused. Of course, your air-con unit is the easiest to use, and the new ones all come with timers so you can set the amount of time used.
It may seem like it will be harsh and difficult to fight the cold weather, but it is all easy to combat. Any problem that may arise has an easy solution available. It’s usually better to over-prepare for it than to not have anything ready. Take precautions and enjoy the winter season.