January to February in Hokkaido is in right middle of long winter. Snow is all around and average temperature in Sapporo in under 0 degrees. If you go to eastern and northern part of Hokkaido, the temperature will be -20, -30 degrees, and if it is this seldom days that are 1 or 2 degrees, people smile and say “it’s warm today!”. (all the temperatures are written in celsius)
Yes, this is the time to dress as warm as you can.
How to choose underwear
Cotton is makes you cold if it directly touches to your skin, so wear thermal underwear for both top and bottoms. This is same when you wearing casual clothes and business suit. Of course, choose long sleeve, and full length type!
For tops, wool x wool is recommended
For business suit, choose wool or thick material. Under the jacket, wear knit vest or sweater to avoid getting cold wind.
For the casual clothes, wear as much as you can. Wearing wool cardigan on thin wool sweater doesn’t make you hot in Hokkaido.
If you feel wool x wool is too thick and heavy, wearing cotton or hemp shirt is okay, but make sure to choose thick sweater.
Flannel shirts look warm, but wearing only flannel shirt is too cold so don’t forget to wear something on it.
▲For those of you coming to Hokkaido for business, this would be an ideal clothing.
Bottoms should be corduroy or wool
Some people choose to wear denims, but if you are a type of person who feels cold easily, it’s not a good idea. Your frozen jeans touch your thighs when walking outside for a long time, which makes your body gradually cold. Thin cotton pants are the same. Therefore, corduroy or wool is the best.
For outerwear, choose down jackets
Down jackets are the best because Hokkaido snows quite often. Many women choose long length, but it seems like men prefer short length better. However, wool jackets for suits are frequently long length.
If you feel cold easily or don’t want to catch cold, I think it’s a better idea to choose long length. Wearing down vest under short down jacket is also an option.
By the way, people in Hokkaido do not usually use umbrella when it’s snowing, so they are often wearing jackets with hood.
Shoes and accessories
Wearing gloves and scarf is a must. Add hat and earmuffs if you feel its necessary.
By the way, Hokkaido Likers photo writer Cartan Tanaka (who is from western part of Japan), says “people outside of Hokkaido doesn’t too much care about gloves! If it’s Tokyo, gloves aren’t a must accessory so there are quite a lot of people who doesn’t own gloves. However, if you don’t have gloves and put your hands in the pockets of the jackets, it is so dangerous because you may get badly harmed when you slip and fall down on the icy road! For men, leather glove with wool texture inside is very warm and recommended! (especially for business)”
So don’t forget to bring gloves!
Scarfs or neck warmer is used to cover the space between jacket and skin, instead of putting around outside of outerwear. It is easy to feel cold when your neck gets cold, and it’s easy to catch cold.
For socks, wool is recommended. If you are going to be outside for long, layer socks first cotton and then wool.
For shoes, choose ones with non slip shoe sole. The road filled with snow is better, but frozen road at night is like an ice skate rink. Moreover, the road is not always flat; you will have to walk on slopes. Non slip shoe sole is a lifeline in Hokkaido. Recently, non-skid strap for sole is pretty easy to find in Hokkaido for tourists, so you may purchase them after the arrival.
▲For men who come for sightseeing, this would be an ideal clothing.
Wear as much as you can for Sapporo Snow Festival and drift ice watching!
Sapporo Snow Festival is better because it is held in the middle of the city of Sapporo, however, going out early in the morning or at night in eastern and northern Hokkaido, such as drift ice watching… what can I say about the coldness… It’s really really freezing, you feel like bones are frozen, with pains from coldness. So I will tell you my advise for clothing. I hope this helps you.
- Wear layers of… knee length thermal bottoms, thick wool tights, and then pants.
- Put on layers of few wool socks, and put toe warmer in the shoes.
- Wear hat and earmuff. Tie fleece scarf inside outer to avoid air to get in. Sometimes part of drift ice flies with the wind. If you don’t want that, wear neck warmer and cover the face.
- Wear long length down jacket AND down material wrap-around skirt.
- If you do not have outerwear or shoes adjusted to coldness, work wear specialized shop or home center is useful.
By the way, I and the illustrator who did drawings for this article, January to February is too cold in the house, so until the room gets warm, we wear gloves when we are working! Because it is too cold that our hands don’t move. Also we put on warm blankets on the clothes.
The important thing is to not make your body frozen. Get ready for the coldness and I hope your time in Hokkaido is a blast!
Written by / Hokkaido Likers writer FUKKO
Illustration / Noriko Nakata