Winter in Japan. What to Wear and How the Japanese Are Wearing It. | Guidable

Winter in Japan. What to Wear and How the Japanese Are Wearing It.

By Caitlin Collins Dec 9, 2018

This post is also available in: Thai Vietnamese Portuguese (Brazil)

Have you experienced Japan in winter?  Unlike it’s hot and unbearably humid summer, Japan has a cold, very dry winter!  From December to early March; expect clear skies, sunny days, and briskly cold temperatures.

Before coming to Japan, I never had to have specific clothes for four seasons.  Coming from a temperate area, I could generally wear the same clothes all year– Jacket on in the winter, jacket off in the summer.  However, don’t expect to be able to do this in Japan!  Because of the drastically different seasons, people in Japan have specific wardrobes for all seasons.

People in Japan love shopping, so these drastically different seasons give fashionistas plenty of opportunities to completely re-do their wardrobe four times a year.  Winter is especially busy; Paired with the busy Christmas and New Year shopping seasons, retailers are going all out to get you into some new styles!

So, what are Japanese people wearing this winter?  Let’s find out

What do Japanese girls wear in winter in Japan?

Trends come and go every year, but a few staples hold strong for Japanese girls.  Long skirts, chunky knits, and fur-accents seem to be the go-to staples year after year.  Fashions differ through different age ranges, and social groups, but there is a general silhouette that Japanese women tend to stick to.  Loose sweaters and long skirts or trousers create a flowy-silhouette that’s popular in all seasons.  Paired with a fashionable long overcoat– It’s all about coziness!

Typically, Japanese women’s fashion is a lot more feminine and youthful than American fashion.  Pastel colors are popular all year long– though in winter, expect to see a lot more festive seasonal colors like red and green.  In winter it’s all about the accessories.  Big scarves, fluffy earmuffs, fur-accents, and cute wooly hats are more than plentiful in this season.

What accessories are big in 2018?  Since late September, it’s been all about hats.  From classic berets to bringing back 90s inspired pastel newspaper-boy caps, everyone is rocking a hat this winter.  Check out some of my favorites here, here, and here.  Pompoms are also here to stay, with knit caps with large fluffy pompoms still a major staple of every girl’s winter wardrobe for these chilly evenings.

And don’t forget about scarves!  Japan is all about classic tartan print scarves, these timeless accessories are especially popular with high school students.  Though this year, faux-fur may be pushing tartan out of the spotlight; with many young working women rocking the softest faux-fur fluffy scarves you’ve ever seen.  A nice scarf is always a go-to Christmas gift, so expect to find plenty of wonderfully cozy scarves at every clothing and gift store through the season.

What’s new on the shoe front?  Due to the dry temperatures, Japanese women can go a lot more out there with their shoe choices than I ever could in the rainy winters back home.  High heels remain as popular as ever, but boots are a must-have for winter!  Japanese women tend to go for a boot with a slight heel, but there are many popular flat-bottom boots as well.   Looking for something more trendy?  Thigh-high boots are the must-have shoe this season!  Made iconic by Ariana Grande recently, you can pair them with skinny jeans, or a mini-skirt for an instant outfit upgrade!

Fur, velvet, and knits– Oh My!

Winter is all about textures!  Japan’s winters are rain-free so it’s a great time to get crazy with different varieties of fabrics and textures.  Bold, expressive textures and fabrics are everywhere this season, and every girl is rocking a bit of velvet, faux fur, and chunky knits.  One particular that’s popping up at every shop at every price range is faux sherpa.  This fuzzy, cozy fabric is all the rage on everything from outerwear, bags, to accents on jeans!

Just like in the US, faux velvet (or velour) is all over the place in 2018!  From silky turtlenecks to the softest leggings; velour is another key feature of the 90s throw-back that’s dominated most of 2018.  Velvet scrunchies and hair accessories are especially popular this holiday season, bringing a bit of old-school festive back into every girl’s wardrobe!  A few of my favorite velour favorites available this season can be found here, here, and here.

Faux-fur is also making a comeback this winter.  Faux-fur accessories and detailing on all your winter wear will give you the extra-cozy layer of warmth you’ve been looking for!  Japanese girls are especially crazy for faux-fur purses this season, with fun fluffy purses a common sighting on the streets of Tokyo.

All these trendy fabrics and textures give plenty of opportunities to mix and match your favorites and try out some fun new styles!  Pair a chunky knit jumper with velour trousers, wrap yourself in an extra-cozy sherpa coat and top it all off with a fluffy purse. Or keep it simple with adding hints of fun textures to your daily wardrobe– A fun accessory is an easy way to mix things up!

How do Japanese girls keep up with the latest trends?

Fashion moves so quickly in Japan, it can be hard to keep up!  Unlike a lot of other countries, fashion magazines are still widely read here, with many people keeping up to date on the latest trends through traditional media.  However; especially with younger women, it’s all about Instagram!  Instagram and social media is the go-to for everything fashion recently, with social-media influencers setting the trends and pushing the coolest brands.

The world is more interconnected than ever, and so is fashion!  Global trends are spread from Japan outwards, and Japanese fashion is taking a lot of inspiration from the US and other global trends.  Global superpowers in the fashion world like H&M, Forever 21, and more high-fashion retailers have taken Japan by storm and greatly influenced what people are wearing.  Fashions in Tokyo are going to be a lot more similar to those in London or New York than in previous years– But that doesn’t mean that Japan’s unique fashion scene is gone for good!  Though global trends are plentiful, Japan manages to keep a uniquely Japanese twist on every seasonal trend that passes by.  There’s a reason the rest of the world looks to Japan to set some of the most popular trends we’ve seen!

Must have winter wardrobe staples!

Looking for that special item that will keep you nice and cozy on even the coldest days, without sacrificing style?  Luckily, Japan has you covered with these wardrobe staples!

One particular item that you’ll only find at popular Japanese retailer Uniqlo is “Heattech” (meaning “heating technology”). Heattech is a Uniqlo-exclusive brand of inner-wear and a must-have staple of every Japanese person’s wardrobe in winter.  This unique, light material keeps you extra cozy when layered under all of your favorite clothes.  Uniqlo makes heat-tech everything, from leggings and tights to undershirts and scarves.  Next time you’re in Japan, make sure to pick up some heat-tech clothing to keep you extra warm and cozy!


Layer it, or wear it straight!  Heattech is versatile with every style.

Another must-have item this winter are smart-phone friendly gloves!  No longer will you have to choose between texting and warmth, with these gloves you can have it all!  Available at every department store (and a very popular Christmas gift!), these gloves are made with a special material in the finger-tips that make using your smartphone easy, even while keeping you nice and warm.

Looking to bring your coziness to the next level?  Give fleece-lined leggings or tights a try!  Without adding any extra bulk, these tights will keep you nice and cozy, and will be a great transition piece to bring your wardrobe from Autumn to Winter.  Keep wearing your dresses and skirts even on the chilliest days, or layer these cozy tights under jeans or loose trousers for that extra layer of warmth.

Don’t forget about kimono!

The winter season is a popular time to wear kimono in Japan!  Especially around the New Year, expect to see a lot of people taking photos in kimono around popular shrines and temples.  It’s very common for people to wear kimono for their first shrine visit of the New Year, and kimono hobbyists will have a chance to wear more of the traditional fashion over the winter holidays, because of all of their extra free time!

Another big day for kimono is Coming of Age Day!  Held on the second Monday of January each year, Coming of Age Day celebrates everyone who has, or who will turn 20 that year!  Young people put on formal dress, and attend a celebration at their local city hall, and then spend the rest of the day celebrating.  Getting dressed up generally means suits for men, and kimono for women.  Furisode is the style most commonly worn for this celebration, the most formal type of kimono worn by unmarried women.  Furisode generally have bold patterns and prints, and women will pair the kimono with a fur shawl to stay warm during the festivities.

Heres a top tip:  Layer heat-tech underneath your kimono to stay nice and warm on the chilliest days!

Winter Cosmetics

Of course, fashion isn’t just clothes– you have to get your face right too!  Whether you’re looking for a casual look to go out shopping, something more formal for an end of year party, or even going all out for your kimono-look, Japan has a wide range of cosmetics to sort you out.  Summer makeup in Japan is all about trying to anchor your makeup to your face during the hottest, most humid days, so it’s only natural that those products wouldn’t be the best fit for winter.  In winter, it’s important to keep your skin hydrated and to keep your makeup from drying out your skin in the cold weather.

A must-have at the pharmacy is sunscreen!  While many people think sunscreen is just for summer, it’s incredibly important to wear in winter– especially if you’re going to be out in the snow!  Due to the sunny, clear winter days in Japan, there is a high risk for winter sunburn.  Snow reflects the sun back onto your skin, increasing the chance for sun damage, as well.  As an added bonus (besides protecting your skin from damage) most Japanese sunscreens will moisturize your skin, making it a great base to layer under your daily makeup routine.  My all year go-to Japanese sunscreen can be found here.

Don’t forget the lip-balm!  Do not underestimate the dry air this winter!  Nobody likes dry, cracked lips so be prepared with some lip-balm or chapstick.  I tend to avoid matte liquid lipsticks in the winter in Japan, as they tend to over-dry my lips in the already dry air and stick to lip-balms or tinted lip-balms for a bit of color.

What’s with the mask?

Have you ever been riding a train in Tokyo and wondered if there’s a flu outbreak?  Why is everyone wearing a mask?  Don’t worry!  It’s just Japan’s most often overlooked winter accessory– the surgical mask!

Surgical masks are a common sighting all year, but especially so in winter.  Why is this?  Don’t worry, not everyone is sick.  Face masks that cover the mouth and nose are worn for a variety of different reasons.  They are worn to prevent the spread of germs during cold and flu season, to keep the face warm during the cold dry winter, or for privacy or comfort.  In fact, many women choose to wear a mask during their morning commute before they put their makeup on at school or at work– It’s just a preference!

These masks can be bought in any convenience store or drug store, and come in a variety of different sizes, colors, and styles.  Masks are worn by men and women, young and old– everyone!  You can also find cloth washable masks in fashionable patterns or styles at many clothing stores.  Personally, my favorite masks for winter are “wet masks”, paper masks with a moist insert pack to act like a portable humidifier.  Japan’s winters are painfully dry, and many people complain of throat irritation from the dry air, so keeping a bit of moisture in the air you breathe can make a world of difference.

Ready for winter in Japan? Have you decided what to wear yet?

Winter is my favorite time of the year, and Japan has loads of fun things to get up to during the coldest months.  Now is a great time to go shopping, try out some new fashions, and maybe take some fashion risks!  Bring in the New Year with some exciting new styles, and make sure you’re staying warm this winter!

Make sure you get the right sized clothes for shopping in Japan !! Read for more details: