5 Great Things About Winter in Japan
What happened? It seems like summer only just ended.
Winter has come round again; temperatures have plummeted, and anyone who ventures outside is wrapping themselves in scarves, fluffy earmuffs, gloves, and coats. All of a sudden, we're at sub-zero temperatures and suffering under violent outbreaks of cold.
As someone who hates being cold and hates snow even more, you'd think I would hate Japan's winters too. But winter is my favourite season in this great country, and here are five reasons why.
1. Hot Treats in Vending Machines
Boy oh boy. If you've ever been to Japan, you'll know what I mean when I say "vending machines". Unless you walk around with your eyes closed, you'll know that there is a vending machine on pretty much every corner of Japan, even in the small towns.
As well as the usual fizzy drinks, canned coffee and bottled water, some hot little treats appear when summer says bye-bye. These include:
- Hot chocolate. Van Houten cocoa is responsible for keeping me warm during walks to work...as well as my expanding waistline.
- Soup. Fancy some miso soup in a can? How about corn? Vegetable? Take your pick. Nothing like soup on the go.
- Hot coffee and milk tea. Milk tea tasted like "why God why" at first, but now it's the second best thing after hot chocolate. And there's nothing quite like grabbing a hot coffee from a machine instead of having to queue at Starbucks.
2. Winter Sports
Many parts of Japan where it gets devilishly cold host some brilliant opportunities to try out some winter sports. Pros, semi-pros, and beginners alike from all over the country flock to Hokkaido and Nagano to spend some time doing seasonal sports.
January is a great time to go, though the Christmas and New Year holidays are a popular time when teachers have time off work.
Are you a fan of Japan's winter sports? Are you team snowboard or team ski?
Team snowboard or team ski?
Pretty lights spring up as if by Christmas magic all over Tokyo and beyond this time of year. You can't escape (and why would you want to?) the dazzling, colourful surrealism of Japanese illuminations. There are openings and special events for this neon excellence, though there are many places you can see them for free around town.
There is literally no reason to not love illuminations. They're family friendly, give you a bit of that warm Holiday feeling, and they're pretty, oh so pretty.
4. Little Heat Patches of Joy
There's something comforting about wandering the cold streets with a bottle of hot chocolate in your hand and a heat patch or three on your back, stomach, legs, head... ahem. Heat patches are available all year round in larger shops, but they pop up as early as November in convenience stores. I stock up every year to combat my cold-bloodedness, and they're good for on the go or if you're sitting in your house. These lovely patches are just adorable, and provide some extra heat when your body decides to forget how to keep you warm.
There's also a non-adhesive type of patch that you can keep in your pocket or swap between your cold hands. They are amazing; the Japan Guy talks more about them on his blog.
5. Beautiful Clear Skies
Tokyo is humid and cloudy in the summer, making it irritatingly hot and actually quite depressing in the middle months of the year (especially June, where it rains all the time). When winter swings round, however, Tokyo has beautiful blue skies almost every day. You can see some gorgeous views of Mt. Fuji from Tokyo Tower or, even higher up, Tokyo Sky Tree. In summer it's rare to see such a view.
Unfortunately, winter is also a dry season, and it's important to stay hydrated.
So what are you waiting for? If you haven't visited Japan before, get over here for New Year and experience the joys of a Japanese winter. If you're already in Japan, get shopping and illumination-viewing and Mt. Fuji-hunting! Because winter will be over before we know it.