Japanese Winter Fashion: What To Wear And How To Wear It | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan
japanese winter fashion

Japanese Winter Fashion: What To Wear And How To Wear It

By Caitlin Collins Dec 14, 2021

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

Trying out winter fashion styles is a great way to express your style in Japan!

Have you experienced winter in Japan? Unlike its hot and unbearably humid summer, Japan has a cold and 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 each of the four seasons. Coming from a temperate region, I could generally wear the same clothes all year round; 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-style their wardrobes 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 is Japanese Winter Fashion Like?

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 across 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 flowing silhouette that’s popular in all seasons. Paired with a fashionable long coat, it’s all about being cozy!

japanese winter fashion, wool, japan, trends

Photo credit: canva

Typically, Japanese women’s fashion is a lot more feminine and youthful than say, for example, American fashion. Pastel colors are popular all year long, though in winter, expect to see a lot more festive seasonal block colors like red and green.

In winter it’s all about the accessories. Patterned scarves, cute earrings, elegant hair accessories, and stylish hats are more than plentiful this season.

japanese winter fashion, japanese fashion, trends, winter styles

Photo credit: canva

What accessories are big in 2021? Recently, for women, it’s been all about hair accessories. From classic clips to silk scarves and scrunchies, everyone is rocking some type of hair accessory this winter. Check out some of my favorites here, here, and here.

But let’s not forget about scarves! For both men and women, winter in Japan is all about the classic scarf. This timeless accessory is popular with everyone, however, tartan patterned scarves are especially popular amongst women. This year, though, silk scarves may be pushing tartan out of the spotlight; with many young reimagining new ways to rock the silk scarf, from headbands to belts to neckties!

A nice scarf is always a great go-to Christmas gift, so expect to find plenty of wonderfully cozy scarves at every clothing and gift store throughout the season.

What’s new on the shoe front? Due to the dry temperatures, Japanese people can go a lot further with their shoe choices than I ever could during the rainy winters back home. For women, heels remain as popular as ever, but boots are a must-have for both men and women this 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? Leather ankle-high boots are a must-have shoe for everyone this season! Their versatility means that you can pair them with jeans, dresses, or a skirt for an instant outfit upgrade!

japanese winter fashion, boots, japan

Photo credit: canva

So Many Choices This Winter!

Winter is all about textures! Japan’s winters are (mostly) rain-free so it’s a great time to get crazy with different fabrics and textures. Subtle, and elegant textures and fabrics are everywhere this season, and everyone is rocking a bit of wool.  One particular style that’s popping up at every shop at every price range is boa fabric.  This fuzzy, cozy fabric is all the rage on everything from indoor clothing to outerwear, to bags!

Like in many other countries, puffer jackets are all over the place this winter! From large, cropped puffer jackets to the thinner, longer puffer jackets found in places like UNIQLO, puffer jackets are a throw-back to the 80s that have dominated most of the last year. Along with this blast from the past, scrunchies and loafers are especially popular this holiday season, bringing a bit of old-school spirit back into everyone’s wardrobes! A few of my favorite “throw-back” favorites available this season can be found here, here, and here.

japanese winter fashion, puffer jacket, japan, trends

Photo credit: canva

All these trendy fabrics and textures give you plenty of opportunities to mix and match your favorites and try out some fun new styles!  Pair a long winter skirt with leather boots, wrap yourself in an extra-cozy boa jacket and finish it all off with a fluffy scrunchie. Or keep it simple by 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 Winter Fashion 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 with the latest trends through more traditional media. However more recently, especially with younger women, it’s all about Instagram! Instagram and other forms of social media are the go-to’s for everything fashion recently, with social media influencers setting the trends and pushing the coolest brands.

japanese winter fashion, social media, japan, trends

Photo credit: canva

The world is more interconnected than ever, and so is fashion! Global trends are spread from Japan outwards, and Japanese fashion is also taking a lot of inspiration from the US and other global fashion trends. Global superpowers in the fashion world like H&M, Zara, and more high-fashion retailers have taken Japan by storm and greatly influenced what people are wearing.

Fashions in Tokyo are starting to become 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 add a uniquely Japanese twist to 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!

Are you 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 set of items that you’ll find mainly 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!

japanese winter fashion, japanese fashion, trends, winter styles

Photo credit: canva

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

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 or hakama around popular shrines and temples. It’s very common for people to wear kimono or hakama 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 the extra free time!

japanese winter fashion, social media, japan, trends

Photo credit: canva

Another big day for kimono and hakama lovers is Coming of Age Day!  Held on the second Monday of January each year, Coming of Age Day celebrates everyone who has already in the past year, or who will turn 20 before the 1st of April 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 (though there are those who wear hakama), and kimono for women. Furisode is the style most commonly worn for this celebration, and the most formal type of kimono worn by unmarried women. Unlike hakama which usually go for more muted and subtle colors and patterns, furisode generally have bold patterns and prints, and women will pair the kimono with a fur shawl to stay warm during the festivities.

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

Winter Fashion; Cosmetics

Of course, fashion isn’t just about clothes, cosmetics are an important part of it too! Whether you’re looking for a casual look to go out shopping, something more formal for an end-of-year party, or even a full look to go with your kimono-look, Japan has a wide range of cosmetics to sort you out.

Summer makeup in Japan is all about trying to keep your makeup on 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.

japanese winter fashion, japanese fashion, trends, winter styles

Photo credit: canva

A must-have from 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,  and often clear winter days in Japan, there is a high risk of winter sunburn. Snow reflects the sun back onto your skin, increasing the chances of sun damage, as well.

As an added bonus (and 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 year-round go-to Japanese sunscreen can be found here.

Last but not least, don’t forget the lip balm! Do not underestimate the dry air this winter! Nobody likes the feel of dry, chapped 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 dry out my lips in the already dry air, and prefer to stick to lip balms or tinted lip balms for a bit of color.

What’s Your Favourite Japanese Winter Fashion Item?

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 trends, 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!

For More Related Articles:

One Size Fits All? What You Need to Know About Clothing Sizes in Japan

This article was originally posted on Dec 9, 2018 and has been edited and reposted on Dec 14, 2021.