The Joys of Winter in Japan

Over the winters of living in Japan, I have come to notice many things that have improved my life during the winter months and have brought joy to my cold, Canadian bones.

The Japanese Kotatsu is one of the most amazing inventions. I have come to discover it for the first time this year. I am deeply saddened to say that I had never seen such a practical and comfortable invention until the Kotatsu. I love bundling up in a sea of blankets and using the soft fluffy warm Kotatsu blanket to curl up under the warmth of the heater for hours on end.

Heat packs are another wonderful little feature that are sold on every street corner in Japan. They are so cheap and come in so many different variations and sizes. I tend to like using the sticky type when I am out and about around the city. I like to use the mini sizes to stuff in my pockets and slip the foot warmers onto the soles of my shoes. I traveled all around Nagano for a week in the middle of winter and trekked through the piles of snow, yet still managed to stay warm and comfortable while wearing a plethora of heat packs under my coat. I wasn’t the least bit bothered by the chill in the frozen air.

Besides all the great ways of keeping warm, one of my favorite times of year for exploring every city around Japan is Christmas light season. One of the best Christmas light decorations that comes to mind is the beautiful blue sea of lights that spark the winter nights in Roppongi. I was also very impressed by the Shiodome and Sagamihara lights which always bring smiles to the crowd with their charming light-up shows accompanied by jovial Christmas music.

Another pleasure of winter in Japan is the amount of steaming, hot food that always fills up a warm belly. Hot pot and udon are some of my favorite big bowls of comfort food that I love to over-indulge in over every holiday season. I never feel guilty about having seconds as an excuse to keep my body warm and full.

Winter clothes are another feature of winter that I always look forward to wrapping myself up in. In Canada, we call the middle of October `Sweater Weather` because we finally have an excuse to put on our favorite wool sweaters and indulge their sweet embrace. I love being able to collect a range of scarves, hats, mittens and other winter accessories. In Canada, we have a special name for a winter hat. Some people call it a `beanie` but we often refer to it as a winter ‘toque’. I am always excited to put on my red and white, maple-leaf toque to keep my ears covered and my fashion up to date every winter.

I was very surprised to see that there are quite a few great ways that Japan handles winter, and I have to admit I think Japan has a greater handle on approaching winter than Canada. I think there are many ways we can teach others to enjoy the seasons by learning each other’s cultures and ways of living around world.


bundle up (phrasal verb) - to make or tie something into a bundle; to be covered or dress warmly
plethora (noun) - an amount that is greater than is needed or can be used
jovial (adjective) - very cheerful and friendly
comfort food(noun) - food that makes you feel happy or cheers you up, often because it contains a lot of fat or sugar, or because it reminds you of home