Continuing my tradition of posts about the four distinct seasons in Japan, I decided that it was high time to write about winter – a season that I surprisingly prefer to the hot and sticky Japanese summer.
After experiencing the beauty that is autumn in Tokyo at the end of last year, I’ve got to admit that I was nervous for the winter time. Before coming to Japan, I was told that the winters here get frightfully cold and that I better prepare by bringing Heat-Tech clothing and making sure that I have as many layers as possible.
However, even considering the fact that this winter has been unseasonably warm in Tokyo this year, it has not been nearly as cold as I was expecting. To tell the truth, it feels much like the winter in the Eastern Cape: it’s dry, cold, and just the occasional hint of frost/snow.
But what’s actually great about winter in Japan is that even though it’s a small country, you can travel from north to south to find the perfect level of winter for you. If you want to spend some time skiing in crisp, powder snow, then Hokkaido is the place for you. If you want to have at least a semblance of warmth during the winter season, then Okinawa is always open to you. And luckily for me, Tokyo is a nice in-between place.
Indeed, the pale sunny days may not warm you up directly, but you can enjoy the cool scenery almost any day of the week without the pesky snow (as long as you still don your down-coat before going outside). However, if the lack of snow disappoints you, don’t worry, every year in Tokyo it snows at least one or two days. And luckily for me, I was awake in the wee hours of the morning to see this. But most of the people living in Tokyo do not rejoice in this news. In fact, for adults, the snow signals train delays and hectic traffic… but , hey, I still had fun building a snowman in Yoyogi Park (and the snow was definitely nothing compared to Mongolia‘s frozen landscape).
But if you’re still worried about the snow, well then have no fear. With Japan’s innovative technology, you’ll be able to stave off the cold in no time. Even though houses in Japan don’t have central heating, the majority of them have air conditioners that double as heaters, while all main buildings and methods of transport are thoroughly heated for you. And of course, if you want to discover the best invention in Japan, then you should check out the kotatsu: a heater under a coffee table that uses blankets to trap in the heat (i.e. a great way to snuggle up and read a book/take a nap). And finally, if you do have to leave the house, then every combini has the product for you! A wearable patch that uses a combination of science and magic to keep your own clothes warm and comfortable.
One thing that I have found odd about winter in Tokyo, however, is that there is a strict rule that everyone seems to follow:
Japanese Rule #3367
If it’s winter time, you must wear a big down jacket and a scarf (gloves and beanies are optional).
That’s right, even on the unusually warm days this seems to be a regular occurrence. Almost every person on and off the trains are wrapped up tight in warm clothing. I don’t know how they can stand it – especially considering the trains are kept so hot that you burn your bum if you sit on the heated seats for too long! Needless to say, I would often arrive at my destination having stripped off my jacket on the train, only to put it back on again because of the chilly out doors.
But the overly heated trains and strange clothing rule aside, winter in Tokyo isn’t half bad. I would definitely recommend visitors to come during this season rather than the humid rainy season in June.