Surviving Winters in Japan– The Drugstore Way

Winter in Japan might sound amazing... until you're actually here. That Hokkaido powdered snow, endless amount of sukiyaki and nabe, and all those holiday illuminations do sound great, but if you can't feel your fingers, it's a bit of a problem.

Winter here is cold, just like Summer here is hot.

Let us explain: Winter here comes with a wind that you're able to feel in your bones, and if you ever begin to think that you're fully prepared for the cold here, you're kidding yourself. In combination with the air conditioners that pump out dry, icy air, then it's inevitable that your skin's moisture level and overall condition will shrivel up, just like everything else in Winter.

Like every year, it's a constant battle to find ways to keep warm and hydrated inside, so here are our top tips for making sure that you don't... well, freeze to death this Winter.

Hotels & Accommodation

More often than not, hotels and accommodation in Japan have air conditions that also have heat settings, so make sure you're able to use that by finding these characters: 暖房 (pronounced as 'danbou', meaning heater).

As some of you may already know, most Japanese homes don't have indoor heat insulation, meaning that if it's 5 degrees celsius outside, you can bet it's 5 degrees celsius inside too. So, if a 24/7 stream of electrical heat might be a little too environmentally unfriendly for you, here are some other tips of ours that might help you get through Winter in Japan.

Warming eye masks. Yuzu, rose or chamomile and ginger.

Heat packs

These convenient small packets of portable heat are life-savers. They come in the ”regular” bag type, which you can pop into your pocket and stuff your hands in there all day, and the ”stick-on” type, which you can stick directly onto your clothes. The best part is that these heat packs usually last a minimum of 8 hours and run for about 15 hours, so unless you're planning to pull an all-nighter, these babies will stop you from that nasty enemy, hypothermia.

(There are different sizes and types of heat packs. Image from Odigo)

The regular heat pad is also great to put into your mittens or gloves on especially chilly days, and the variety for heat packs run pretty wide, with other types being "in-shoe" or "in-sock" heat-pads. Sizes vary and because it's Japan, unfortunately every heat-pack is also individually packaged, ready for your activation.

Again, these stay on for a really long time and we don't recommend you use them while you sleep (even though we've probably done that 100 times over).

(Heat packs for shoes. Image from Odigo)

Price: around ¥300 for a pack of 10 

Warmers

The fancier version of heat packs (and we're sure it's much more reusable), is the pouch warmer! This is a special little bag that's filled with things like adzuki beans or soba kernels that you heat in a microwave oven. These reheatable stones will help keep your body warm during the night, and are safe to use while you sleep (unlike the heat packs). Yes, it's a lot pricer and may be more inconvenient, but in the long term, we can guarantee you that it will be more cost efficient.

(Image from Odigo)

There's also a hot water bottle type, called 'yutanpo' in Japanese and a gel-type that works in a similar way that is also available at drugstores. 

Price: around ¥1500 

Warm eye masks

If you're having a tough time getting to sleep on those cold Winter nights, then this eye mask is your only way to go! Filled with aroma oils, like lavender, rose, and citrus, the mask heats up for about 10 to 15 minutes when removed from the packaging.

(Image from Odigo)

Price: ¥500 for a pack of 5.

Feeling under the weather?

It is so easy to catch a cold or to feel a bit under the weather during Winter– especially when temperatures drop below zero. Even when you try to find refuge against the cold in shops or restaurants, the air conditioner that blasts heat forces you to shed those two or three extra layers you have on.

Cough drops

Throat lozenges are admittedly, is weaker here in Japan, but we managed to find the diamond in the rough's with these babies!

(Image from Odigo)

Perhaps it's the placebo affect that's working or that these cough drops are actually strong and soothing, but either way, anything to get us to stop sneezing in this cold! This cough drop is called 'aistrouchi' (literally, ice troche), which is strong, soothing, and has a hint of lemon to really get your immune system up and running again. Like all medicines, you shouldn't take more than 6 per day, with a 2 hour time gap between eat lozenge intake, so just be wary.

(Image from Odigo)

Vicks is internationally known for soothing throats all over the world and luckily Japanese drugstores have recognised its skill. We always go for our trusty Vicks medicated drops and highly recommend them to you too!

Price: ¥300 - ¥500

Ginger drinks

Luckily for us in Japan, hot lemon and honey drinks are available everywhere– in vending machines, convenience stores, and even drugstores. These hot lemon drinks are our saviors when it comes to helping us feel better and unfreeze from a Winter night out.

But more than anything, the best solution to beating those sore throats and helping you warm your insides is ginger drinks.


(Image from Odigo)

Some of these ginger drinks are sold as powders, where you can just add hot water to them, or actual warm ginger drinks. Both will burn going down, unless you drink it every day, but we can assure you that you'll feel so much better after taking a shot of ginger.

(Gudetama ginger drink powder. Image from Odigo)

Price: around ¥200

STAY MOISTURIZED

With the cold air outside and super warm air conditioner inside means that your skin is in desperate need for moisture during the Japanese Winter. To hydrate your skin during Winters in Japan, masks and lotions are your only way to go.

(Image from Odigo)

Face masks

In Asia, sheet masks are extremely popular and available everywhere. There are sheet masks for every skin-type but the hydrating and moisturizing kind is a life saver for skin in Winter. You can browse and choose a mask that suits your skin concerns, but for Winter, ingredients like hyaluronic acid and collagen are great for plumping up your skin and bringing it back to life!

(Image from Odigo)

You can even have some fun by buying sheet masks with prints on them, like animals, monsters, anime characters or even traditional Japanese geisha's. These also make for great souvenirs that don't take up much room in your suitcase. 

Price: Around ¥100-200/ mask. There are masks in all price ranges, but the cheaper ones are around ¥700 for 10 masks

Moisture lotions (Hada labo toner)

Japanese skincare is famous all over the world for giving its users the softest and healthiest looking skin. One really important step in Japanese skincare is lotions and toners– after cleansing, a hydrating toner will help lock in moisture to your skin and prepare your skin for the lotion that it deserves! Western style toners are often harsh and used as a way to get rid of excess make up, but Asian skincare relies heavily on revitalization and the improving the state of your skin.

(Image from Odigo)

There are a lot of different brands and variations but one of Japan's most popular products is the Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion. Set at a reasonable price and does an amazing job of bringing moisture back to skin, this lotion is what we recommend as one of the best products to use for your Winter skin.

Price: average price of most drugstore skincare is based at around ¥1000. The Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion (170 ml) is priced at ¥750.

Hand cream

Dry and crusty hands are the worst in Winter! Soothing and moisturizing your hands with a nicely scented hand cream is an easy and cheap way to get in that daily dose of luxury. You can find a vast variety of hand creams and moisturizers at the drugstore and ofter there are testers, which you can try to find your favorite before spending your precious yen.

(Image from Odigo)

If you find these funny glove-like products in the drug store, more often than not, they're actually overnight hand treatment packs that preach to make your hands softer by the time you wake up. We haven't tried it ourselves, but can definitely see this product working some magic!

Price: around ¥500, and ¥1000 for over night treatments.

Bath products

Taking a warm bath is a great way to stay warm and stay moisturized. Using bath salts or other bath products with hydrating ingredients during your bath time is another tip you might want to use for surviving Winter. If you are staying in a hotel or Airbnb, chances are that you have access to a bathtub, so make sure to take advantage of it in Winter! Bathing is relaxing and warming after a long cold day exploring Japan, and there's a reason why onsens (hot springs) are so popular in Japan during Winter, because it keeps Japanese people warm and relaxed throughout the colder months.

Price: ¥100 and up. 

Heat tech

Japan is famous for having some really smart clothing, like dry tech in summer and heat tech in Winter. Uniqlo is the place go to get these high-tech clothes, but you can also find similar products in places like drugstores. Warming gloves, mufflers (neck warmers), socks and tights are often sold for those last minute freezing fronts.

(Image from Odigo)

These heating, and occasionally, slimming tights claims to add 5 degrees of heat to your body. So that maybe worth a try if you want to wear skirts during Japanese Winter.  

Price: ¥980

There you have it! 10 products to try from Japanese drugstores to help you battle the cold in Winter. Let us know if you've tried any of these products, and don't remember to stay warm and hydrate this Winter!


Johanna Forsberg