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4 Ways Japanese People Stay Warm in Winter

winter in Japan

Japanese winters can be colder than you expect! That’s not only up in the north, where snow and ice festivals are common. Even in Tokyo or Osaka, the winter months can be tough for people from warmer climates. Here’s four ways you can stay warm and toasty and enjoy the peaceful Japanese winter.

Sugar free black coffee ad design in 3d illustration surrounded by paper art ripe red coffee cherries on a coffee plant

1. Nothing like a warm can of coffee!

Japan is famous for vending machines. You can find them on any corner in the city, or even on long empty roads in the countryside. Did you know they sell hot drinks, too? Look for any drinks with a red button that says “あたたかい”. Usually, they come in a can or bottle that is a bit on the warm side. It’s a great way to keep your hands from freezing. Of course, you can find an even wider variety of these at the convenience store too.

You’re not limited to only coffee, either. They have green tea, black tea, and even corn soup is a common sight! Whatever you’re feeling, the machine has a warm drink to meet your tastes.

japanese hot pot

2. Winter foods to warm your body and soul.

We’ve got drinks down, now how about food? No food says ‘winter in Japan’ more than nabe! Nabe (鍋) is a kind of hot pot, filled with a flavored broth, lots of vegetables, and usually some meat added in. 2020 might not be the year for it, but nabe is a great way to share a meal with friends, whether at home or dining out. Everyone can fill up their own bowl, and you’re always welcome for seconds and thirds!


Nabe takes some time to prepare and cook, so what if you’re hungry now? Head to your local 7-11 or Lawson to try some oden (おでん)! Your first time in Japan, you might’ve even seen it without knowing what it was. In winter, most convenience stores will have oden on display near the register. If you saw a lot of different vegetables sitting in a stew, that’s oden.


Unlike regular nabe, which has a lot mixed in, you can pick and choose exactly what you want in your oden for a great price! Don’t know where to start with all the options? Two of the most popular are daikon (Japanese radish) and boiled egg. Give it a try! A different cultural experience than the rolling hot dogs you see at 7-11 in America, for sure.


One more warm winter food is a piping-hot yakiimo (焼き芋), or roasted sweet potato. You can often find these fresh-made in supermarkets, or even from sellers on the street. It’s greatness is in the simplicity – a roasted sweet potato, no seasonings or additives needed.

kotatsu table

3. Kotatsu

It looks like any ordinary table on top, but it’s a special winter tool in almost 50% of Japanese households. A kotatsu (こたつ) has a heater under the tabletop, and the special blanket helps to keep the heat in. This makes it the spot in the house you want to be – no need to turn on the other heaters! Add a bowl full of mikan on top for an iconic Japanese winter image. 


If you’re using a kotatsu, people tell you to avoid falling asleep. They say you’ll catch a cold if you do. It might be true, but actually, experiments haven’t proved it either way yet. For sure though, you don’t want to touch the heating element in your sleep. Be sure to practice good safety usage with your nice and cozy kotatsu!

japanese hot spring

4. Beat the cold with a trip to an open-air onsen

Being outside in the winter is one thing, but taking a trip to the open-air bath? It’s more common than you think! Going on a winter onsen trip is a great way to spend the day or weekend outside of the city. Not every onsen has an open-air bath, so if you’re interested, look for one that has “露天風呂” (rotenburo). Crisp, cool air around your head with the hot spring water keeps you feeling refreshed. It’s so warm, you need to be careful when you’re getting in/out or staying in too long – avoid heat shock!



Of course, there’s lots of other ways to conquer the cold. Pocket warmers, and aircon heaters, and so on are necessary too, but these are a few ways to do so in a fun Japanese way. Made it through winter, enjoyed spring, and heading into summer? Don’t forget to check out our article on how to stay cool!

For more information about living and teaching in Japan with Interac, please see here.