It’s finally starting to get a little colder outside! Despite being the middle of January, we’ve had a pretty mild winter over here so far. That being said, my first year here was a bit of a shock to my Texas-born-system— it was super freaking cold.
I seriously thought I was going to freeze, because it was unlike any winter I’ve ever lived through! Soooo, I want to share some
survival tips I’ve picked up along the way to keep warm and well through the Japanese winter!
Is it really that bad?
No, it’s not really that bad. The temperature hovers, on average, around 9° C (48.2° F) for the high and around 1° C (33° F) for the low where I live in Nagoya. What really was so different for me when I first came to Japan was that I couldn’t drive. In Texas, even though the temperatures are sometimes extreme, I didn’t notice it because the only time I was really outside was for trips to and from parking lots.
I walk so much more in Japan. It’s normal to take trains/walk/ride bicycles over here, as opposed to drive short distances. Like, it’s nothing for me to walk up to an hour to go somewhere. (oh it sucked at first, but now I don’t mind at all) S0 naturally, it feels colder or hotter because I’m actually experiencing the weather. (LOL)
The biggest difference
Even more than not having a car or being able to drive is the fact that most Japanese houses and apartments do not have central heating or insulation like I was used to back home. It was like I couldn’t get warm, no matter what I did. Or if it did get warm, my AC unit (which also functions as a heater) was set to a three hour timer and there isn’t any way to hack it (tried), so I would literally wake up from the cold (or in the summer, the heat).
Through trial and error, talking to lots of people and really observing the people around me, I discovered a few little ways to lessen the OMGIMGONNAFREEZE feeling that was literally the theme song of my first winter in Japan.
カイロ (kairo) are little packets of metal powder that function as hand warmers. There are several different types: sticky-type (you can stick them on your stomach or back), regular-type (no sticky, they typically just go in your pockets) and then there are ones specifically made to go inside your socks or tights to keep your feet warm. The heat usually lasts a few hours. These can be purchased at any drug store and sometimes even the conbini for pretty cheap.
湯たんぽ (yutanpo) are hot water bottles. This was such a lifesaver when I still lived at the place where the heater shut off after three hours! It kept my bed nice and toasty, even if the heater was off. I used my hot water kettle to heat up the water and it stays warm all night.
Electric space heater and Power Drop humidifier. The heater kind of explains itself, right? 😆 The apartment I live in now is two rooms, and of course the big heater/AC unit is in the living room. This means the bedroom gets freaking cold. It is a waste of energy and electric bill to run the big heater all night when it hardly makes a difference, so I shut my bedroom door and use this little guy. The humidifier is totally optional, but keeps the air/you from completely drying out.
160 デニール タイツ (160 denier tights) just may be warmer than actually wearing pants. I’m a skirt girl and with these on, it feels like I’m wearing fleece on my legs. They are so warm! These tights are really thick, with a fleece/sweater-type lining on the inside. I’ve actually even seen up to 400 denier tights, which is awesome! Nagoya isn’t quite that cold.
Of course, if you were raised in a colder climate, I’m sure the winter in Japan won’t really be much of a surprise to you. Like I said, where in live in Nagoya isn’t even really that cold, it just feels that way when you have to be outside in it. I wasn’t prepared AT ALL my first year here and it was miserable. 😖 If any of you ever visit, I wouldn’t want you to go through that! ✨☃✨
Are you from a cold climate? How do you keep warm? Share, share!