As a Canadian from the arctic prairies of Saskatchewan, you would think I would be able to handle the mild cold weather here in Tokyo. I thought that my winter clothing would be sufficient. How wrong I was. I quickly learned how to keep myself warm as the humidity and wind, chill you right to the bone if you are not dressed properly. While it only gets down to maybe -2C at it’s coldest, it can still feel miserable. Japan does not have central heating, so I have to use my heater to keep my living area warm. This only affects the small room where I spend the most time in. It does not heat the kitchen, toilet, or shower room. Waiting for the water to warm up while standing in the show is the longest 30 seconds of my day. Also, you spend a lot of time outdoors walking places such as to the store, train, or work. It’s not like being back in Saskatchewan, where we can run from the house to a warm vehicle then into the office. Therefore spending a minimal amount of time outdoors. Here are some of the things I’ve learned about keeping warm here in Japan …
Tea, Soup, or Anything Spicy
Drinking hot green tea or having miso soup keeps your insides nice and warm. It is almost like having a blanket on your insides! Also, having anything spicy. I recently had Taiwan Ramen, it was so spicy that I completely forgot how cold I was because I was too busy sweating, coughing, wiping my nose, and wiping the tears out of my eyes.
I am not a fan of fleece, only because everything sticks to it. Dust, hair, small pieces of fluff, pet hair, etc. But, I put that all aside and bought myself a lounging set made of fleece. The best 3000 yen that I have spent. I even bought fleece socks. I wear this around my box sized apartment and also sleep in it. While everything does stick to it, the fact that it keeps me completely warm outweighs my dislike of the fabric.
Heat Tech from Uniqlo
Uniqlo is a cheap clothing store in Japan (it now has stores in the US) that sells decent quality clothes are reasonable prices. For winter they have thin shirts called “Heat Tech” which will keep your body heat. A long sleeved shirt will run about 950 yen and a t-shirt version about 750 yen. They are worth they weight in gold. Not only do they keep you incredibly warm, they are so thin you can wear it under pretty much anything. I have three pairs and there’s no way I could go without them now. Another famous item from Uniqlo is the “Ultra Light Down”. This is an incredibly light jacket or vest that will cut the wind from chilling you to the bone. They come with a small bag so you can take it anywhere and pull it out when needed. A vest/jacket will run you about 4000 yen. Not only do the keep you warm and are incredibly light, they look pretty stylish too. They come in a variety of basic colours so you can easily work it into your wardrobe.
This is a small table that has a removable top so you can put a blanket in between the top of the table and the legs. The heater inside keeps you nice and toasty. While I do not have one in my place, as it’s too small, I have used them at other people’s houses and they are fantastic.
Onsen (温泉) or Hot Bath
The onsen is the traditional Japanese Public Bath. Where you bathe yourself in an open room with a small shower and stool then relax in the natural hot springs. All while being completely naked in front of everyone. While that is intimidating at first, you quickly realize that most people are not paying any attention to you. John Himpe gives a really good and in-depth explanation of our onsen experience. After the onsen you are left nice and toasty for the rest of the evening. Now, I cannot get to the onsen every night so most nights I opt for a steaming hot bath, which leaves me just as warm for the evening. I quickly shower (because you never go into the bath without washing yourself first), turn on Saskatchewan’s Largest Morning Show on TuneIn Radio, and relax in the bath for about 20 minutes each night. While it was pretty miserable the first month, since I had to figure out how to stay warm, I now am able to keep warm in the mild but humid Tokyo winter.