One of the nifty things about working in Fukushima is that you get to meet people from all over the world. All of use have different experiences and different climates back home. Some people grew up in the land of ice and snow (hello, Canadian friends!) and some folks have never seen snow in real life. As such, how to dress for snowy weather not be something everyone is familiar with. In our third entry of FuJET’s Inside Look to the Hokkaido 2014 trip, we’ll be taking a quick gander at what to wear/how to dress/what to pack to stay warm in Hokkaido!
When packing for winter weather, remember to take into account the fabric and materials of the clothing you’re packing. Your top picks of materials for staying warm would be wool(ウール (uuru)), wool-synthetic blends, and synthetics(acrylic アクリル (akuriru) and ナイロン (nairon)). Try and avoid cotton(綿 (men)) (especially for socks!) wherever possible. Why? Wool and synthetics will keep you warm, even if they get wet. Cotton will sap away your heat when wet and make you even colder. Down and fleece are also great clothing choices!
Water resistantance(耐水 [たいすい]):
When you’re looking at coats, hats, shoes, and gloves remember to think about if they are water resistant (or better yet, water proof!). The fastest way to feel cold and miserable is for your extremities to get wet. Not only will you be in pain, you put yourself at risk for frost bite. That’s not to say that everything you’re wearing needs to be water proof. When packing and dressing, keep in mind what you’re going to do for the day. If you’re just going to walk around Sapporo and check out the museum, you probably won’t need waterproof gloves or pants. If you’re hitting the slopes to snow tube, ski, board, make snowmen (basically anything that involves direct contact with the snow), you want to make sure that you have waterproof and heavy duty gloves.
When it comes to keeping warm in the winter, it is all about layers. Many light layers are much better at keeping you warm that a few giant jumpers (not to mention that they’re way easier to move around in). Layers are your friend. You can layer up/down as appropriate. Don’t be afraid to pack a few extra light layers to slap on if you get cold. On the flip side, don’t be afraid to take a layer off if you’re feeling too hot. If you get too hot, you’ll start to sweat, which means that you’ll just get wet and colder further down the road. Synthetic heat-based thermals that you can find pretty much at every store in Japan right now (think Uniqlo’s Heat Tech) are perfect for your base layer or even multiple layers of heat teach. As with water fastness, think about what you’ll be doing for the day. If in doubt, always wear more and bring a bag with you. It is way easier to be overdressed and take off a layer, rather than being under dressed and miserable for the day.
When donning your layers, keep you different body zones in mind. You want to prioritise keeping your core warm, followed by your feet, hands, head, and finally your legs. Keep that core warm, and keep those feet dry and you’ll be well on your way to staying toasty throughout the day!
Folks, don’t pack heels. You can, if you want to spend the night out dancing and clubbing but consider putting your heels on at the club. It’s Hokkaido, it’s winter, and it’s ice. Nothing is sexy about someone wearing heeled shoes and eating is on the ice. I know this sounds like common sense but you’ll be surprised how often I have seen folks trying to wear sexy shoes out in the snow and promptly faceplanting. What types of shoes should you bring? Something with good treads– think of snow tyres for your feet. Boots should have a lining (not cotton!) and should be waterproof to some degree. I highly recommend Sorel/Sorel-style boots. They may be a bit pricey but you will use them all winter. Good winter boots are worth the investment. Also, don’t buy boots right before you come and put them on for the first time on the way here. It can be the same with snow boots as it is with hiking boots– break them in! We will be doing a lot of walking on this trip so make sure that you pack something that is comfortable, warm, grippy, and waterproof.
Have you heard about kairo? No, not the place that we’re going but the little-self-warming-sticky things you can put on your body, in your shoes, or wherever? They’re a wonderful thing to pick up. Pack a couple and put them in your bag so you can switch out over the course of the day, if need be. You can find hokkaido, cheaply, at most conbini, chemists, and markets.
Also, pack an extra pair of gloves (even just the cheap 100yen shop gloves). If you lose your gloves/a glove, a back-up will be a lifesaver. Try and save a few plastic grocery type bags. They’re good for packing wet things and they are also great for quick and dirty shoe liners in the event that your shoes do get wet.
What NOT to wear:
UGGs. Seriously. Just don’t. I’m not talking from a fashion standpoint but a practicality standpoint. These sorts of shoes offer no grip or traction. They are also nowhere near waterproof. The suede can and will get soaked through. If that happens, there’s the possibility of it freezing and an even greater possibility of you getting frostbite on your tootsies. The same thing goes for gym shoes! Regular sneakers or anything mesh with without traction on the soles/water resistance… not the best for your feet for Sapporo. And remember– you will likely be on your feet more often than not so comfort is key!
Again, avoid cotton for bottom layers. Avoid jeans if you’re going to be out playing in the snow. The same rule applies to fleece as an outermost layer if you’re planning on playing in the snow. The snow will pill and collect on the denim or fleece, leaving you wet and cold when all is said and done. On the flip side, denim and fleece are both a-okay if you’re not going to be engaging in snowy-sports.
-Snow jacket (waterproof level depending on what you want to do on the trip. Ski jackets work great)
-Snow/ski pants (A must if you plan on engaging in any winter sports in Hokkaido)
-Socks (Synthetic/Wool/Wool blend. Pack more socks than you think you’ll need.)
-Long johns/Heat Tech/Thermals (Remember– it’s all about layering!)
Winter is right around the corner (although, according to the Japanese calendar- winter started on November 7th/8th on ritto/立冬 ). One of the best things about the start of winter is the imminence of winter break. During this time, many folks will be travelling home to see their loved ones, utilising the time to visit other locations on the globe, or they may be diligently planning next year’s lessons at their desks.
For those who are lucky enough to have the time and means to travel, you’ll have the chance to stock up on goods from back home or maybe items that you weren’t able to bring with you when you first departed for Japan. As such, now is a good time to get an idea of what sort of clothing you’ll need for our winter trip to Sapporo this coming February. Japan isn’t always the best place when it comes to size selection or variety so take note of what you might need from this list, it may be something that you can get cheaper/already have back home!