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Hokkaido Winter Travel! Clothing tips from a local writer.

Wondering what to wear for your winter trip to Hokkaido? A locally-based writer shares some tips on the best clothing to handle the winter weather from November to February!

Average Temperatures November – February

When choosing your winter wear, it’s important to consider the variation in temperature throughout Hokkaido. For your reference, here are the average winter temperatures in Sapporo, Hakodate, and Abashiri, which is known as an excellent place to view drift ice.

Entering December, the cold suddenly intensifies, and the average daily temperatures in the urban areas of Sapporo drop below freezing. Even on days which may feel warm at noon, evenings can suddenly become extremely cold. For an enjoyable visit, please be certain to prepare suitable cold-weather wear.

For information regarding yearly temperatures throughout Hokkaido, please see:

Recommended Items for a Winter Visit to Hokkaido

The basic approach to clothing for the winter season is… dress in layers which can be easily added or removed to suit your plans! For visitors who will mainly attend outdoor events, such as the Sapporo Snow Festival, you will spend a long time in cold temperatures, so it is important to select effective, cold-resistant outerwear.

On the other hand, within heated buildings and cars, dressing too heavily will cause you to sweat, which could put you at risk of catching a cold.

For these reasons, we recommend the following items to help stay warm!

Recommended Items

  1. Heat-Retaining Innerwear: We recommend to select an inner layer with excellent heat retention, such as Heattech.
  2. Inner Down: Simply layer under with your standard outerwear for extra heat! Thin, packable types are easily portable and convenient for travel.
  3. Stick-on Heating Pads: To prevent cold feet during outdoor events, try heating pads designed to go inside your shoes. Heating pads to help keep your abdomen warm are particularly recommended for ladies!
  1. Select outerwear to suit your itinerary!
    If you will mainly be attending outdoor events such as the Sapporo Snow Festival, a winter coat made of heavy materials is best. To prepare for falling snow, select a water-repellent or waterproof jacket, or a hooded jacket. Jackets from quality outdoor brands will offer better performance.
    If you will be mainly walking, a longer-cut jacket which covers to the waist will ward off the cold so you can focus on enjoying your day.
  2. Bring a stole or scarf and gloves to protect against the cold.
  3. Tights with a high denier number rating: For ladies who wish to wear skirts, take note of the denier number of your tights. In winter, you’ll need a denier number of 80 or more! Fleece-lined tights are another warm, convenient option.

Month-by-month Clothing Tips

Now that you know the basics, let’s take a look at specific clothing for each month.

November Clothing Tips

From around mid November, you can see your breath in the mornings and evenings, and the first snowfall will begin to reach even the plains. Air temperatures will remain above freezing, and depending on how long you will be outdoors, you should select outerwear such as a light down or heavy coat. This is also around the time of year to start using heat-retaining inner layers. To control your warmth, wear layers and add accessories such as stoles.

Selecting Footwear

In early November, you can get away with pumps or sneakers, but once the mid November snowfall begins, you’ll need to shift to non-slip footwear. Booties and short boots are fashionable options that will keep you warm.

December to February

Now it’s truly winter! For this time of year, we recommend to prioritize protection against the cold with clothing such as thick down jackets or long coats. Add warmth by layering a knitted top over a heat-retaining inner. When wearing a skirt, select tights with a denier number of 110 or greater for thorough cold protection. For even better results, also consider tights with fleece lining, or tights made of exothermic material.

For bottoms, we recommend fleece-lined garments or items made of exothermic material for warmth. However, please be careful with jeans, as once the cuffs become wet, they are very slow to dry.

Complete your outfit with a scarf or stole, gloves, a hat, and slip-stop shoes or long boots.

Choose your footwear carefully!

While snow-covered roads can be difficult, conditions become even worse when snow melts during the day and freezes into smooth, slippery ice in the mornings and evenings. Icy roads often lead to serious accidents.

In such conditions, it is better to wear snow boots, or footwear with serrated soles.

You can also buy rubber pull-on cleats at shoe stores, drug stores, and convenience stores. These are an inexpensive solution, but it’s not uncommon for one to come off unnoticed and be left behind…

Stay warm, stay safe, and please enjoy your visit to Hokkaido! ♡