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Surviving Hokkaido Winter: 4 Weird Tips From Our Sapporo Staff!

Surviving Hokkaido Winter: 4 Weird Tips From Our Sapporo Staff!

Date published: 1 December 2019
Last updated: 6 November 2020

As the island is located in the northernmost part of Japan, in Hokkaido winter arrives in no time at all, and is often accompanied by extreme cold and heavy downfalls of snow!

While most people know to check the local weather before taking a trip out there, not everyone knows how to brace for the cold or the snow. Our locally residing editor is here to give you a break-down on the best tips for preparing with the cold, based on personal experience.

Table of Contents
  1. Hokkaido Winters Creep In As Early As October
  2. Tip #1: Be Mindful of Winter Clothing Materials
  3. Tip #2: Gloves, Hats, and Scarves Are A Must!
  4. Tip #3: Are Your Winter Shoes Really Winter-Proof?
  5. Tip #4: Remove Thick Layers Inside Buildings and Transportation!

Hokkaido Winters Creep In As Early As October

Hokkaido Winters Creep In As Early As October

Our editor, having experienced winter in Hokkaido and in Tokyo, tells us that by late October, winter is already in full effect in Hokkaido. In recent years, that period seems to arrive a little later, however the end of October is still considered the average time to expect the first snowfall.

In Sapporo, the early half of October tends to be on the warmer side, with average temperatures of about 11.8ºC. But by November, that average has considerably dropped to about 4.9ºC. From December to February, you can expect temperatures to remain below freezing.

If you want to enjoy the beautiful wonderland scenery of winter in Hokkaido, it is best to be prepared to face extreme temperatures, which can drop to as low as 10-20º below freezing! If you plan to spend a considerable amount of time outdoors, it is advised to wear solid and reliable snow wear.

If you plan to spend most of the time within the city and other sightseeing areas, you may not need to go that far, however, you should still be mindful of what you put on your body. Consider the following points when preparing to travel in the cold.

Tip #1: Be Mindful of Winter Clothing Materials

Tip #1: Be Mindful of Winter Clothing Materials

First and foremost are the bare necessities of Hokkaido winter wear: clothing with high heat retention. For outerwear, you'll want to opt for a down jacket or other thick winter coat. And don't forget your bottoms - many people are so focused on what they put on the top half of their bodies, they completely neglect their lower half.

Aim for warm materials such as wool or corduroy pants, and try to avoid materials like cotton and denim, which tends to get really cold!

For women, if wearing a skirt, we recommend tights or leggings absolutely no less than 80 deniers thick, avoiding sheer materials. On especially cold days, go even thicker with 110 denier tights or warmer materials like wool.

When participating in Hokkaido winter sports and other such activities, it is especially important to take special measures against sweat as well as protection from the cold.

Our bodies sweat as a way of cooling down during intense activities, therefore sweating can make you feel even colder during the winter. To avoid this, you will want to pay extra attention to your innerwear.

One popular tip recommended by the locals is to wear a towel underneath your shirt to absorb the sweat from your back, which you can easily remove or change. Even if you do not plan to engage in strenuous exercise, it is a good idea to pay attention to your innerwear and avoid materials such as cotton, which tends to cool after absorbing sweat.

Tip #2: Gloves, Hats, and Scarves Are A Must!

Tip #2: Gloves, Hats, and Scarves Are A Must!

Key tip number two for protecting yourself from the cold is, avoid exposing yourself to the open air as much as possible. In Hokkaido, the winter air is said to feel more 'painful' than 'cold,' so it is essential to carry around the three basics at all times: a set of gloves, a hat, and a scarf (snood stoles are also OK).

Hats are especially important when it snows. Many people try to get by using only the hood of their outerwear. However, hoods offer no protection for the ears, which are still susceptible to the piercing cold, especially on windy days. If hat-hair is a concern, another option is wearing earmuffs under your hood.

Tip #3: Are Your Winter Shoes Really Winter-Proof?

Tip #3: Are Your Winter Shoes Really Winter-Proof?

For footwear, you definitely want to opt for boots. Many people swear by Mouton boots, and boots with inner lining. However, there is one pitfall: if you look at the soles of the boot, you will notice that many of them are not slip-proof, therefore offer no protection for walking over ice and snow!

Anti-slip soles that you can attach to your shoes are often available at convenience stores, or you can buy a pair of Hokkaido winter boots that are made for these conditions locally.

Though the snow in Hokkaido is often said to be smooth and powdery, it tends to leave behind a mess of puddles in its wake throughout the city thanks to road-heating and snow melting agents.

To prevent water from seeping inside your shoes, be sure to waterproof them with waterproof spray before traveling.

Tip #4: Remove Thick Layers Inside Buildings and Transportation!

Tip #4: Remove Thick Layers Inside Buildings and Transportation!

Here is another tip unique to winter in Hokkaido, and especially Sapporo: the temperature difference between the indoors and outdoors.

Buildings here have excellent thermal insulation, and on top of that are well-heated, so even on the coldest days, the indoors can get pretty warm. Public transportation also tends to be strongly heated. Because of this, you may sweat a lot while indoors, making you more susceptible to catching a cold by stepping outside, even for a short while.

When strolling about the city, dress in layers that can be easily put on and removed, so you can adjust to the immediate temperature conditions around you whether inside and out. For example, it is not recommended to wear a single t-shirt or inner-wear item underneath one thick layer of down or knit that you cannot comfortably take off, which can make it difficult to adjust.


Text by: Minanokotobasha

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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