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Every year we make a trip home to Japan during the winter to spend time with family and friends during the holidays. Our family lives about an hour away from Tokyo and it's pretty chilly when we visit during the months of December and January. We both live in fairly warm states (Florida & Southern California), so we aren't used to the lower temperatures.
Japan is a very walkable country and we rarely hop in the car. Most of our time is spent on trains and buses and walking around the big city of Tokyo. One of the things that is great about this is the amount of exercise you get. The downside is the constant fluctuation in temperatures from hopping on and off trains and walking around all day.
We've become a lot wiser over the years on how to dress properly and comfortably. These are our must-haves to staying warm, comfortable, and cute.
Wearing a heavy coat is a must for us since there is a ton of walking outdoors. Layering is definitely key in any cold city, but you don't have to layer as much if you invest in a down jacket. The temperatures from outdoors to indoors is quite extreme so it can be a pain if you have to remove more than one layer of clothing each time you step in-doors. We recommend the insulated jacket from Point Zero. It has synthetic insulation and is designed for casual everyday wear. Synthetic insulation is designed to replicate the qualities of down and is much more resistant to moisture. We give the Point Zero coats extra bonus points as it has a stylish removable faux fur hood and underarm vents.
To keep your layering minimal, we highly recommend Uniqlo's heat-tech inner-wear. It truly makes a difference and it's very affordable. The fabric is revolutionary as it works with your body to generate and retain body heat and it also features anti-odor properties. There are different levels of inner-wear from extra warm to ultra warm and they also come in tops and bottoms. I was worried that the heat-tech bottoms wouldn't fit under my skinny-fit jeans, but they worked out great and gave me that much needed extra layer of warmth.
Many establishments in Japan require you to take off your footwear. Establishments with tatami rooms, a ryokan, and fitting rooms (when shopping) often require you to remove shoes. And you will always have to remove your shoes when entering someone's home, so wearing shoes that slip on and off easily is a huge plus.
Wool and cashmere cost more than acrylic sweaters, but they make a world of difference. Spending a little extra money can give you a whole lot of warmth.
I used to wear tank tops under two long sleeve shirts and then on top of that, an acrylic sweater or hoodie. It was a ton of layering before putting on my coat and it also looked bulky. With some smart fabric choices, I have cut down my layering significantly. Now I only need to wear a heat-tech top under a wool or cashmere sweater. With just these two layers, it was plenty of warmth under my down coat.
Avoid mittens. I can't remember how many times I took my mittens off to grab my train ticket or to zip my coat. The mittens were cute, but it's more practical to wear gloves. I've also tried the high tech gloves since I am constantly using my phone, but they didn't work that well and I often found myself removing my gloves. The fingerless gloves have been my go-to gloves for Japan.
Since you will be taking off your shoes often in Japan, you will want to wear your nice and warm socks especially for the wooden floors. If you have a pair of fun printed socks you've been wanting to show-off, this is the time to wear them! I wore my socks from Bearpaw and when it comes to winter styles, I trust their warmth. They also design a variety of styles from knee-high to bootie socks.
We love wearing leggings, but our normal leggings definitely can't withstand the cold weather. This is where the fleece lined leggings come in handy for the cooler months. We wore our favorite cozy fleece lined leggings from Anatomie Style and they were super comfy.
Have any Winter essential suggestions that we missed? We'd love to hear from you! If you are making plans to visit Japan, check out our 10 Simple Steps to Prepare for Your Trip to Japan.