Those of girls who are coming to Hokkaido through January to February! Aren’t you wondering what to wear? I will introduce my clothing advice for traveling Hokkaido in winter. I hope this will be an useful guide for watching Sapporo Snow Festival or drift ice, and also for a business trip!
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 too thin, so wear thermal underwear for both top and bottoms. Of course, choose long sleeve, and full length type!
Under skirts, wool or thermal tights and/or leggings are necessary. Be careful because if the materials are too thin, your thigh might become all red because of the extremely low temperature.
By the way, I wear 5 finger socks + tights or socks when I go out during winter. It reduces coldness from feet.
For tops, wool x wool is recommended
If you are on business trip and have to wear a suit, choose wool.
Also for casual wears, wool x wool layered look such as wool sweaters x wool cardigans is normal in Hokkaido.
If you feel that is too heavy, you could wear cotton or hemp shirt under thick sweaters or cardigans. However, when the outside is too cold, cotton doesn’t keep the temperature well and could make you freezing. Decide what to wear depending on the weather.
▲For those of you coming to Hokkaido for business, this would be an ideal clothing.
Bottoms should be corduroy or wool
Sometimes I see people wearing denim or thick cotton pants and skirts, but I think it makes you chilly and it looks chilly. If you want to avoid coldness, choose corduroy or wool.
For outerwear, choose long length
Down jackets are the best because Hokkaido snows quite often. People in Hokkaido usually wear long length down jackets. It’s the warmest outerwear. They don’t usually use umbrellas so down jacket with hood is the most common shape.
If you feel long length down jacket is too heavy or you only have short length jackets, it is a nice idea to layer down material wrap-around skirt. It will keep your thighs and knees warm. It is quite useful because you could also use the skirt like a scarf.
Shoes and accessories
Wearing gloves and scarf is a must. Add hat, earmuffs, leg warmers 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!”
So bring wool, fleece, or sheepskin gloves! (not cotton!)
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.
Wear long length jackets when you choose short length pants or skirts, or wear leg warmers when you choose short boots and short pants. Cover as much as you can. If you fail to do that, you will regret when you get blizzard.
▲For women 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