There’s nowhere else quite like Tokyo. A unique blend of old and new, the city is a feast for the senses, offering a seemingly endless world of interesting things to see, do and eat. We love visiting Japan and Tokyo has to be one of our favourite major cities. With its bustling streets, hidden laneways, unique eateries, stunning scenery and rich culture, it’s a place we keep going back to time and time again. That said, knowing what to take with you can be a bit tricky, especially if you haven’t visited Tokyo in the winter before. To help you plan your very best adventure, here’s everything you need to pack for a trip to Tokyo in the winter!
But first, watch this…
What’s the weather like in Tokyo during the winter?
Winter in Japan is from December through to February, with it being cool either side of these times owing to Autumn and Spring. In Tokyo, you’ll find winter temperatures ranging from around 2ºC to 12ºC, though it can be colder or warmer. It’s usually quite sunny with little rain and snow in Tokyo but the air is quite dry, which your skin will quickly notice! We visited Tokyo in late January and found the weather to be great! It was cold but not freezing and unbearable, making it possible for us to do plenty of outdoor sightseeing without getting too chilly.
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What to pack for your trip to Tokyo in winter…
Now you know what to expect from the weather, here’s a closer look at what you’ll need to pack for your trip to Tokyo in winter.
Clothing and footwear
- Comfortable walking shoes – I recommend packing a minimum of two pairs of comfortable, closed-in walking shoes. If you just pack one pair, there’s a chance your feet may begin to hurt from wearing the same shoes each day. Having two means you can switch between them. I packed a pair of white runners and my converse boots, which were both perfect.
- A fancier pair of shoes – I also packed knee-high leather boots, which I wore to places I felt I needed to be a little more dressed up and sneakers wouldn’t cut it. My boots were really warm and, with a very small heel, were comfortable too. I’d recommend packing one pair of boots, for men and women.
- Thermal underwear – If you feel the cold like I do, it’s a good idea to pack thermal underwear. There were some days the weather was warmer and I didn’t have to wear the bottoms under my jeans but most days I still wore the top. There were other days that were quite cold and I needed to wear the top and bottoms.
- T-shirts – I packed quite a few t-shirts which I layered between my thermal top and my warm jumper. T-shirts are great for layering and will ensure that, if you find yourself in a nice warm restaurant or cafe, you can take your jumper off without revealing your bare chest or thermal underwear. I packed one t-shirt for each day of my time in Tokyo and mostly white ones as they’re versatile.
- Jumpers and knitwear – Be sure to pack a good assortment of warm jumpers and knitwear. You’ll need them to keep you warm as you move around outdoors sightseeing but will also need to take them on and off when you find yourself indoors.
- Warm coat – Be sure to pack at least one really good, warm coat you can wear with everything. My preference is for a windproof, waterproof coat and my go-to is a 3/4 length, black North Face jacket. It goes with everything, is insulated, waterproof and incredibly warm. I packed a second ski jacket, just in case, but didn’t ever wear it.
- Gloves – You’ll definitely need a pair of gloves to keep your hands warm and I recommend getting a pair that has the fingertips free with a pull-down mitten you can put on and off. Personally, I prefer these as it means I can still operate my camera quickly and easily without having to take my whole glove off each time but, by pulling the mitten part down over my fingers, can keep them warm when I need to.
- Beanies and scarves – A few different coloured beanies and scarves are a great way to add variety to your winter wardrobe without taking up too much space!
- Jeans – I opted for two pairs of jeans and one pair of green trousers as well, cycling through the three different options during our trip. This was more than enough and the thick jean fabric kept my legs nice and warm outdoors.
- Dresses, skirts and tights – If you’re fashion savvy, you may have success layering cute fleece-lined tights with dresses and skirts. I haven’t mastered the art of how to do that just yet and tend to look like I’m just wearing a snuggie for some reason. But, if you’ve got the skills, this could be a great outfit option for you!
- Socks – Thermal socks are great for anyone who gets cold feet, just be sure not to pack socks that make your shoes so tight you get blisters or painful rubbing spots as you walk around! Your socks need to be comfortable enough you can spend all day in them without getting sore feet, trust me.
- Sunglasses – While it was chilly, it was also quite sunny, especially when we hired bikes to ride around town. I was glad to have my sunglasses with me quite a few times, to shield my eyes from the harsh light.
Camera or day bag
Be sure to pack a day bag you can use to carry everything you need when you head out sightseeing around Tokyo. I find a cute backpack is the best option for me, something small and a little bit fashionable that means my hands are free as I move around. When you head out sightseeing around Tokyo you might like to take a water bottle, your camera(s) and spare batteries, your beanie, gloves and scarf and any emergency medications you may need. I haven’t ever had a pickpocket experience in Tokyo or personally heard of anyone who has, so I don’t believe there’s any need for the kind of secure passport holders people usually use in some parts of Europe, for example.
Speaking of camera gear, you really will need a decent camera! If you’ve been thinking about getting a new camera or just upgrading to a decent one, this is the time to do it. There are some amazing photo opportunities in Tokyo, from incredible views of Mt Fuji to stunning gardens, hidden alleyways and mouth-watering food. Read: How to actually choose the BEST new travel camera.
Even in cold weather, it’s important to be mindful of the damage the sun can do to your skin. I recommend packing a good quality face sunscreen and applying it each day. Personally, I use Hamilton SPF 50+ Everyday Face Cream which is affordable, lightweight and non-greasy. It goes on well under makeup and ensures I don’t get burnt, even on cloudy days.
Beauty and makeup products
I packed my own shampoo and conditioner from home as well as my favourite hair oil, Schwarzkopf Extra Care Daily Oil Elixir, to ensure my hair didn’t dry out. Because I tended to be wearing a beanie most of the time, I found I could leave my hair out every day. I packed my straightening irons and just buzzed over my hair each morning before we went out for the day. In terms of makeup, I kept things pretty light and natural just opting for a more low-key look as opposed to the bold lip and all that.
A medicine kit
It’s really important you pack all your prescription medicines and put together an essential medicine kit of your own as you may have trouble getting your hands on some medicines if you get sick and don’t speak Japanese. Matt’s allergic to certain medicines and takes a few prescription medicines too so we had to make sure we had everything we needed with us, including a few epi-pens. I like to pack a little medicine bag which includes Imodium/something for an upset tummy, paracetamol and ibuprofen for headaches or injuries, loads of band-aids, hayfever/allergy medication, asthma inhaler, a very strong antihistamine, sleeping pills, valium in-case of a bad anxiety/panic attack, eye drops, cold and flu medicine, throat lozenges, travel sickness medicine, hand sanitiser and ginger tablets. Find Medicine Bags here.
Feminine hygiene products
Ladies should pack their own tampons, pads, diva cups etc as you may not necessarily be able to find your preferred brand and style in Japan. In my experience, the bathrooms in Tokyo were all fantastic, even the ones at the train station were nice! I always recommend packing hand sanitiser and keeping that in your bag as well, just in case.
Moisturiser and lip balm
The cold weather in Tokyo dried my skin out very quickly and I found I needed a lot of hydration. In addition to drinking extra water, I also slathered on face products. I’d recommend bringing a thick all-over body moisturiser (I often use virgin coconut oil from the grocery store) as well as your favourite face moisturisers too. If you want to see what I use, you might like to read my guide to my current skincare regime: My super easy and affordable 2019 skincare routine. I tend to use a fair bit of hand sanitiser when I travel so a little tube of hand moisturiser tucked in my bag came in very useful. I also found I needed really good quality lip balm as my lips dried out quite badly.
You might like to bring a few separate bags to put your dirty shoes, clothes and underwear in to keep your bag from stinking out and making your fresh clothes smell bad. These can be bought quite affordably from places like KMart and Target but you can also just use canvas bags and reusable shopping bags you might already have at home.
You’ll need a power converter to ensure you can recharge your camera, phone and other electronics. I always pack a power-board with me or a multi-USB. It means I can charge my iPhone and cameras while using my laptop and only need one converter. Yep, I’m a technology addict. Find Power Boards here and Find Power Converters here.
External battery pack
We were out exploring Tokyo ALL day every day and tended to go through phone and camera batteries quite quickly. I recommend bringing a backup battery pack so you can recharge your phone or camera, if possible, to make sure you don’t miss a photo moment either!
Packing hacks and tips
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you hack your pack!
Stash some eco-friendly bags and reusable sandwich bags in your luggage, they come in so very handy for storing dirty shoes and clothes as well as bars of soap, wet swimwear or leaky toothpaste tubes! Find Eco-Friendly Reusable Bags here.
Stop leaky bottles
If you’re worried about your shampoo, conditioner or body wash leaking in your bag simply unscrew the lid, place some cling-film over the top and screw the lid back on. It’ll stop everything from leaking and potentially ruining your clean clothes.
I use Tupperware or similar hard plastic containers to put all my toiletries in. This ensures no leaks will destroy my clean clothes and makes it really easy for me to grab my toiletries in one easy swoop, keep them together in the hotel and makes re-packing easier too. I also use a small container for all my jewellery and another one for electronics like adaptors, cords and chargers. It keeps me organised and stops me from losing things! Find Storage Containers here.
Put dryer sheets in your suitcase to keep your clothes smelling good throughout the whole trip. If you don’t have dryer sheets, a few drops of essential oil on a tissue, laid flat in-between layers of clothes, works wonders. I also have a little bottle of spray which instantly freshens up clothes, it’s from The Laundress and it’s amazing! No musty smelling clothes for you, my friend. Find Dryer Sheets here.
Useful travel resources for your trip to Japan
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TourRadar – for booking tours
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