Dressing for Winter

Running your heater constantly is bad for the environment and bad for your wallet. By changing how you dress and how you think about clothing, you can save money and save the earth.

1. Get Thermal Wear
Thermal wear, 保温下着 (ho-on shitagi), is a type of undergarment designed to trap heat and keep you warm while being much thinner and smoother than traditional long underwear. There are undershirts, of course, but you can also buy socks, leg warmers, scarves, underpants, gloves, stomach-warmers, etc. I like the undershirts and leg warmers best. Throw a undershirt under your pajamas, suit, or casual wear, and you’re set! Thermal wear is sold mainly at Uniqlo, Jusco, Shimamura, and Aeon.  Uniqlo’s line is called Heat Tech (hiito tekku, ヒートテック). Be sure to measure (bust/chest, length, waist) before you hit the stores because they tend to come prepackaged. Jusco/Aeon tends to have a better selection of sizes than other stores. Also, while this trick doesn’t work quite as well in reverse, if women’s sizes are too small or fit strangely, try men’s!
English explanation

The labels are often in English and have pictures of radiating heat; in department stores, they are usually with the underwear and socks.

2. Buy wool blends
100% cotton garments, especially thick sweaters, take forever to dry in the winter. Instead, shop for wool blends—the wool will dry much faster AND be warmer. Wool is ウール (uuru); acrylic is アクリル (akuriru); nylon is ナイロン (nairon); and cotton is 綿 (men).

3. Bring a blanket to work
If you work in one office (or even two), purchase a small lap blanket to use while you work at your desk. Your coworkers will be doing it, too.


4. Get better pajamas and home-wear

If you are used to running around your apartment back home in a tank top and cotton pajama pants in the dead of winter, you’re going to need to reevaluate your winter wear. If you have guests, you can always throw on a nicer sweater, thermal wear, and some leg-warmers under your jeans, but if you’re just watching TV, reading, or studying alone, it’s okay to not be 100% fashion forward to stay warm.

  • Make lighter pj pants last into winter by wearing leg-warmers underneath.
  • Get a bulky wool sweater to wear around the house or invest in some fleece pajamas or a housecoat from Uniqlo or Jusco.
  • Fingerless gloves are great for nights at home Skyping; an “indoor” hat will prevent the heat from escaping from your head before your shower/bath.
  • Thick wool socks or Heat Tech “home socks” will prevent your feet from freezing; wear thinner Heat Tech socks with your work shoes.

5. Get indoor “boots”
These slippers are fuzzy on the inside and cover the ankles. Shimamura tends to have then for fairly cheap, and they’re the best thing when you need to get out from under the kotatsu to cook, do laundry, or just move around.

6. Make the most of your wardrobe by layering
Japanese offices and schools do “cool biz” in the summer to reduce the use of AC. “Warm biz” is encouraged in the winter. You can extend the use of lighter clothing by layering.

  • Women’s dress shirts that have ¾ sleeves are great under long-sleeved sweaters (covers the arms).
  • For long-sleeved dress shirts, add Heat Tech underneath and/or a sweater vest, cardigan, or sweater on top.
  • Invest in a good winter suit, or at least warm dress pants/skirts and a wool blazer, especially for events and for staying warm before and after sweater season.
  • Leg-warmers are great because you can add or remove them more easily than long-johns—take them off before the long bike-ride to work and put them on when you get there.
  • Get a tube-scarf (neck-warmer) for home—unlike a regular scarf, it won’t get tripped on or dunked in your dinner.
  • Turtlenecks are another option for keeping your neck warm at home and work. I personally don’t really like the way I look in them, so I tend to add a nice scarf to some outfits to keep my neck warm.

Also, see this post on how to keep your apartment warm in the winter.

Stay warm!

Leah Zoller is a second-year CIR in Anamizu and the editor of this blog. She believes staying warm in winter and living an eco-friendly lifestyle absolutely go hand-in-hand.

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5 thoughts on “Dressing for Winter

  1. It’s my first year in Ishikawa. All my friends tell me how terrible winter is here, and they told me to buy long boots . I already have a pair of snow boots. It isn’t that long, about halfway to my knees(am average asian height). Do I need longer boots or is that enough?

  2. It depends on how much it snows where you live. It snows a lot around the mountains and in the Okunoto, but not as much in Kanazawa. My below-the knees boots were fine for the snow up north, so maybe another taller pair might be nice? It’s always nice to have a spare pair, though.

  3. Thanks for the insightful and helpful post! I was trying to look up the Japanese translation for a synthetic blend jumper I bought while over in Japan.
    I will be travelling to Niseko next yr in January to snowboard, what kind of weather will I be expecting? I know it will be real cold (as compared to NSW, Australia), so I was advised to wear thermal underclothing, a fleecy mid layer then finish with a snow and waterproof outer layer? Your thoughts?

  4. Thank you for reading and for your comment. I am very familiar with Ishikawa’s weather, but unfortunately I have never been to Hokkaido. The winter weather across Japan varies a lot. For example, in Ishikawa, the weather tends to be around 0 C in the winter and is very wet, while in Nagano the temperatures are much colder but the climate is drier. I would recommend looking for the Hokkaido JET (HAJET) website or for travel guides on Hokkaido to see recommendations for Niseko.

  5. Thank you for these info. I’ve been looking around on what to wear during winter in Japan, office winter clothes for women to be exact 🙂 I’ll be working in Yokohama and staying somewhere in Kawasaki this February and I really don’t know how cold it could be even if I hear it doesn’t snow much in these cities? I came from a tropical country so it would be really new to me. Will be reading your other posts too… thanks again

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