I made a winter trip to Hokkaido – Japan’s most northerly main island. Before I left I was warned by the group that invited me to be prepared for chilly temperatures. They obviously don’t live in Calgary where chilly takes on quite a different meaning. Still I needed to put some thought into what to pack for Japan.
Hokkaido, which is at the same latitude as Toronto, is famous for its spectacular mountain scenery, volcanoes, natural hot springs and ski areas. I am told that the average temperature in Sapporo in January is -3.6 °C and I suspect that’s a moist rather than a dry cold which is always more penetrating, but still it’s not the -25°C temperatures we sometimes get for a few weeks every winter. With that in mind here’s what to pack for Japan in winter – appreciating that it can be rainy, snowy, cold and sunny.
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What to pack in Japan with winter activities and hot springs in mind
Over the eight days I’ll be in Japan I have to pack for drift ice walking, downhill skiing, fat tire biking and snowshoeing – not to mention visits to onsens or hot springs, the Akan International Crane Centre and nightly dinners.
My goal is to take carry-on only so almost every piece I take will have to have multiple uses.
- Enough winter socks and underwear for a week
- One scarf
- One buff – great for keeping the wind off your neck
- One winter hat
- One pair of gloves like these Summit G5 from North Face that feature a built-in overmitt; one pair of warm mitts
- One pair of snow boots that I can wear on the plane
- One pair walking shoes
- One pair of flip flops (for padding around hotels)
- One complete pair of long underwear
- One pair warm outdoor pants like these insulated ones from Varg
- One pair of black leggings
- Two pairs of comfortable pants for walking with one pair to be used for everyday wear and one pair for on the plane or in a relaxed setting like the Levita pant from Arcteryx
- One Goretex raincoat – that can be also be used as a base layer
- One warm coat that can be worn under the raincoat
- One set of sleepwear
- One fleece top with a hood like this one I love from Varg made from recycled wool
- Two – three long-sleeved wicking shirts
- One short sleeved shirt (I’ll bring one of my Icebreakers)
- One bathing suit (though they don’t seem to wear them in onsens)
- Toiletries and makeup
- One pair of sunglasses (I’m a huge fan of Maui Jim)
- A book or two, notebook, computer, phone, chargers
- One GoPro
- Camera and lenses with a battery charger
- Water bottle
- A few bars in case of travel delays
After I’m back from Japan I’ll make any adjustments I deem necessary in the blog from my on-the-ground experience but I think I have enough clothes both to stay warm and to cover all the planned activities.
Further reading on things to do in Japan
- Drift Ice walking in Hokkaido, Japan
- The Fabulous Kiroro Ski Resort Experience, Hokkaido
- Getting Naked in Japan: The Onsen Experience
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