5 Japanese Products to Help You Get Through the Winter

With each passing season in Japan comes exciting new experiences and delicious local flavors for visitors to enjoy. Like all things in life, however, the good is often accompanied by the bad or inconvenient. In the case of winter, one cannot enjoy Japan’s powder-like snow and sparkling illuminations without also enduring the dry winter air that chills you to your core. Thankfully, Japan is home to many amazing products to help you combat the cold. Read on to discover five of our favorite ways to keep warm through the Japanese winter.

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Kotatsu

Sometimes the perfect answer to a cold, snowy morning is spending the day at home with your TV or a good book. Unfortunately, heating an entire house or apartment can be an expensive comfort. If you tend to spend most of your time in one room, a kotatsu could be just the thing for your winter woes.

While it may look like no more than a table with a blanket to outside observers, kotatsu house a small heater under the tabletop. By draping a blanket over the top, you effectively create a warm bubble of space like your own personal oasis. Most kotatsu have an attached remote control as well, allowing you to dial in your perfect comfortable temperature. By heating just your immediate area rather than your entire home, you can keep warm without breaking the bank this season.

Kairo (カイロ)

Unfortunately, staying at home on blustery days isn’t always an option. When forced to brave the cold, Japanese locals often turn to tiny, portable heaters known as kairo. Rather than a mechanical solution, kairo rely on a chemical reaction to generate heat. These small sachets contain a special iron powder that once activated by squeezing and shaking the pouch, begin to heat up to a very warm, but safe, temperature.

Kairo are as versatile as they are convenient. They’re small enough to easily fit in a pocket, be placed in gloves, or simply held in your hand. Kairo also come in an adhesive patch variety that can be stuck directly onto your body. In addition to keeping you warm, these patches are perfect for aching, tired muscles after a long day of skiing.

HEATTECH

Ask anyone who lives in a cold climate and they’ll tell you that the best defense against the winter cold is dressing in layers. Typically, this means setting aside all sense of style and donning multiple bulky clothing items, leaving you feeling a bit like a waddling penguin. Thankfully, the Japanese clothing company UNIQLO has come up with a solution that doesn’t force you to compromise between function and fashion.

HEATTECH is a line of undergarments that is made from a special blend of fabrics. It feels incredibly lightweight to the touch, but uses water vapor from your body to generate heat. The special fabric also traps air inside, creating a thin bubble of warm insulation, all without adding extra bulk. In recent years, UNIQLO has also added HEATTECH lining to popular outerwear items like pants and jackets as well, making it even easier to be stylish and comfortable this winter season.

USB Powered Heating

If you use a heated blanket in the winter, you know just how hard it can be to get out of bed in the morning. Luckily, the comforts they provide need not be bound to electrical outlets. Throughout Japan, USB powered heating devices are becoming an increasingly popular choice as temperatures start to tumble.

From blankets, to cushions, to gloves, there is a wide range of portable products that can be powered by your laptop or an external battery you may use to recharge your phone. Simply plug in and enjoy the on-the-go warmth.

Hanten

If a bathrobe is a wearable blanket, one could consider a hanten a wearable comforter. Though not nearly as long, hanten are soft, traditional Japanese winter coats that are padded with thick layers of cotton for warmth.

What truly sets hanten apart from a standard winter jacket is their versatility. The soft fabric exterior makes them a great choice while lounging around the house. At the same time, they are often beautifully decorated and look right at home in the world of modern fashion. In fact, it’s incredibly common to spot locals wearing hanten at street festivals as the weather starts to cool. Between their stylish looks and how warm they will keep you, a hanten just may become as central to your wardrobe as your favorite pair of jeans.

Bonus Tips

For the coldest of days when nothing seems to be quite warm enough, here are a few bonus tips to help you thaw out.

Hot Drinks in Vending Machines

While Westerners typically associate vending machines with ice cold beverages, the Japanese variety follow the ebb and flow of the seasons. As autumn rolls around, hot drinks begin to appear in vending machines throughout the country. In addition to the standard fare like hot chocolate and teas, they will often sell cans of hot soup as well! The machines still stock cold drinks throughout the season however, so keep an eye out for the red (hot) and blue (cold) stickers that differentiate the two.

Nabe - Japan's Perfect Winter Meal

If the winter cold has killed your cravings for sushi, try this seasonal favorite instead. Chock full of meats, fish and vegetables, nabe is a hearty soup particularly loved by sumo wrestlers in training. After eating all of the added ingredients, the rich, flavorful broth can be finished off with noodles, or served over rice like a porridge. This incredibly filling meal is the perfect way to warm you from the inside out.

Visit an Onsen or Sento

There are few experiences as near and dear to the hearts of Japanese people as bathing in the natural hot springs known as onsen. Typically located in more remote areas, they often feature outdoor, secluded baths. While visiting an onsen is recommended any time of year, it's hard to beat the serenity of soaking in the soothing geothermal waters during a gentle snowfall. If visiting the countryside is not an option, try a sento instead. While they may lack the beautiful views of onsen, these city-based bathhouses are just as relaxing.

Keep Cozy This Winter Season

While it’s often overlooked by tourists, winter is an excellent time of year to visit Japan. Don’t let the colder temperatures keep you from enjoying the best this season has to offer. With a little preparation and the right products, you’ll be ready to face the winter winds in style like a Japanese local.

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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