Oct 27, 2017

Tips for Winter Newbs

As any Game of Thrones fan knows, winter is coming. Here in Tohoku, instead of fighting white walkers or dragons, we're stuck with the onset of a lingering humid cold as well as seasonal depression for those of us who do not fare well in the winter months. If this is you, don't worry. It's me too. The best thing you can do is prepare ASAP. 

Tips for Winter Newbs photo


If this is one of your first authentic winter experiences, you're going to need to hit up Uniqlo or a larger Aeon mall for some thermal undergarments. Get at least a couple of the tops and bottoms as you will go through them. Make sure they are thin enough to fit under the clothes you have to wear to work or get larger clothes for work if possible. I've had both experiences and I have to say, if you're not having to stay in the cold for prolonged periods, thin layers work best and have the least cost to the wardrobe as you don't have to invest in larger "winter pants" because your current pair no longer fits with fluffy fleece underneath.

Tips for Winter Newbs photo


Seriously, you need a good coat and there are dozens of styles to choose from, first hand or second. Waterproof options are nice if you're in an area that gets snow pretty regularly, but as long as your option fits you, keeps you warm, and fastens in the front, you're probably good to go.


Again, if your area gets lots of snow (I'm looking at you, Hokkaido!) you need to make sure you prepare for that. In this case, that means getting waterproof boots with soles meant for this weather. There will probably be some available in the largest city in your area, though if your shoe size it outside the Japanese norm, you might need to order something via the internet or catalog options. I am surprised to say it but catalog shopping still exists and yes, I ordered boots from them that my mother-in-law water-proofed via spray back when we moved to Miyagi.

Tips for Winter Newbs photo


If you have one, use it! If you don't but can get one, do it! The heated table with a blanket is not only snuggly and great for sharing with company but also can save a bit on your electric bill as heating the space under the table will keep you (via your legs) quite warm without having to heat your whole apartment. A great place for streaming your favorite shows, enjoying your favorite warm beverages, and/or writing a novel. (Nanowrimo is coming!)

Warm Beverages

If you're partial to warm tea, gets some tea bags and have them ready with your favorite mug or cup. Is coffee more your thing? Supply yourself accordingly. Hot cocoa is also an option as is hot lemon water. What maters more than your beverage of choice is that you have it on hand for those days when you just walked through ice and snow and get home to an apartment that lacks central heating and a chill that won't leave your bones. Having what you enjoy ready will help keep your spirits up, and that's an important factor when dealing with winter abroad.

Get Out of the House and/or Country

Make plans. With people. Make plans with people you like, especially if they are people who will drag you out into the world if necessary. This might seem strange advice from an introvert, but I mean it. American Thanksgiving? Christmas? The birthday of some celebrity (such as Neil Gaiman, Nov 8)? Giving yourself an event to look forward to with people you enjoy will make the time spent cold and uncomfortable seem less important.

If you have the money and time off to travel to a warmer climate or visit family wherever, now is a great time to make those plans and save yourself a week or two of winter. If international travel isn't an option, remember to get out of your house regularly for reasons other than work when possible. If you're going out for work anyway, try to squeeze in something you really enjoy, even if it's just a visit to your favorite coffee shop or people watching at the station.

Hiding in your apartment to reboot after a long week is completely normal, but if every off moment involves hiding under your blanket or kotatsu, it can be damaging to your mental health and can make winter feel a lot longer.

Pokemon Go can also be helpful if you're a bit more reclusive or having a hard time finding reasons to get up about. Fighting legendary Pokemon with twenty random strangers can be a lot of fun and at very least reminds you that you are not as alone as winter abroad might make you feel.

Whatever your solution to winter problems in Japan, remember to keep your spirits up. It's only one season. We'll get through it.



A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.


  • genkidesu

    on Oct 27

    I've definitely got to head to Uniqlo and stock up on some thermals! I am curious to know how my first "big" winter experience here is going to go...definitely trying to do all the things on this list to be as ready as I can be!

  • JTsuzuki

    on Oct 28

    @genkidesu Good idea! Every area is a little different, so it's best to be prepared. Also, if the Uniqlo in your area doesn't offer the best selection, they also have a really decent online selection including sizes I have never seen in stores. Good luck!!