A Survival Guide To Winter Holidays In Japan - The Viking Abroad
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A Survival Guide To Winter Holidays In Japan

20 Oct A Survival Guide To Winter Holidays In Japan

Winter is a great time to travel to Japan. Prices are cheaper travelling out of the more popular seasons. There are fewer tourists meaning you don’t have to queue for hours to see the best attractions and sights. There are winter events, such as Sapporo’s Snow Festival, that you can’t see at any other time of year. And there are great winter sports to enjoy at ski resorts like Niseko.

Pack Warm Clothing
To really enjoy your time in Japan during the colder months, you need to pack appropriate clothing. You don’t want to be stuck indoors avoiding the cold when there’s so much to see and explore. From December to February the Celsius in Japan usually sticks around single figures and even ventures into minus territory every now and then. Snow and ice are also fairly common. As a result, layers are a good option. Be sure to also pack warm knitwear, sturdy footwear, hats, gloves, scarf and a thick winter coat so you’re ready for any weather conditions.

Carry a Bag
Indoor venues throughout Japan are usually very well equipped for cold weather. They have incredibly effective heating systems which means you can quickly overheat when you’re wearing all of your warm layers. Carry a bag so you can stow away all of your cold weather gear and transport it easily whilst you’re shopping in a department store or exploring a museum.

Plan Ahead for the Busy Festive Season
Japan gets busy from the last week of December to the first week of January when many Japanese people take their holidays for the festive season. During this time, train, bus and plane tickets get more expensive, as does accommodation. Booking in advance can save you money and time if you find your chosen routes or hotels are all fully booked and you have to search elsewhere.

Sit Down on the Subway
If you’re feeling a little chilly and head on to the subway, make sure you find yourself a seat. Seats on subway trains are heated during winter months so you can raise your body temperature nicely before heading back out onto the cold streets. It’s also worth noting that many public toilet seats in Japan also boast this feature so you never need to get a cold behind when nature calls.

Drink Something Warm
When you’re walking around a town or city in the winter, you can quickly find yourself getting very cold. Warm up with a warm beverage. Warm sake is a wintertime speciality in Japan. But if you don’t fancy something that strong, head to the nearest vending machine. Vending machines in Japan sell a variety of hot and cold drinks, labelled with red or blue stickers respectively.

Check Weather Reports
Sometimes snowfall in areas of Japan gets so bad that events are cancelled or roads are closed. Check weather reports, download a weather app or ask for information at your hotel to find out about current conditions. It’s much easier to come up with a plan b from your accommodation rather than when you’re already on the road.

Warm up in an Onsen
There’s one Japanese tradition that every visitor should try during the winter months. Japanese hot springs (or onsen) can be found across the country. It’s the perfect way to warm up and ease those cold muscles after a day of sightseeing.

Travelling around Japan in the winter is a magical experience. With the right clothes and a knowledge of the best places to get warm, the cold weather doesn’t have to interfere with your sightseeing plans.


Savannah Wardle works at Snowpak. She’s an experienced traveller who loves winter sports and mountains. Whenever not working, she’s at the slopes in the US, Asia or Europe. She’s also interested in photography and film-making.


  • Sarah Swank
    Posted at 11:16h, 13 November Reply

    I love that their subway seats and toilet seats are heated! I just saw someone else post about an onsen too – I’m going to have to add to my bucket list I guess!

  • Sherrie Fabrizi Allbritten
    Posted at 15:22h, 13 November Reply

    For some reason I always forget that Japan gets cold too! Great tip on the subway heated seats, I wonder how many go on and not know this little tidbit! Besides that, Japan looks beautiful in the winter!

  • Katherine
    Posted at 21:09h, 13 November Reply

    I read parts of this aloud to my boyfriend, who is now trying to convince me to go to Japan in winter. He says it’d be “Just like Tahoe, only better”. Considering I’ve never been to Tahoe, I’m not sure why he brought that up.
    Heated train seats ARE THE BEST! They have them on some trains in Seattle and I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread.

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