Do you want to know what to wear in Hokkaido in Winter? Then you have come to the right place. This guide tells you what to pack for Hokkaido in winter whether you are visiting in December, January and February with guidance on weather and special events.
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Weather in Hokkaido in Winter
Hokkaido is the Northern Island of Japan (the Southern is Honshu) and it’s winters are much colder and harsher than the cities in the South.
So what can you expect from the weather in Hokkaido in Winter?
How cold is Hokkaido in Winter?
Although Winter is technically classified as December, January and February, winter weather can be experience in Hokkaido as early as November through to as late as April depending on how far north you are.
Typically however you can expect the average temperature in Hokkaido to be below freezing in Winter.
The warmest part of Hokkaido in Winter tends to be the Southern city – the most famous and biggest of which is Hakodate. However even Hakodate has an average temperature below freezing in Winter.
Then the further North you go the colder the temperatures get. For instance Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido experiences temperatures between 2°C/35F to -8°C/17. And further North still in Asahikawa the temperatures don’t get above freezing with a temperature range of -2°C/28F to -13°C/8F.
Therefore if you are traveling to Hokkaido. in Winter it is really important to be prepared for EXTREMELY cold weather, snow and ice.
How rainy is Hokkaido in Winter?
It can rain in Hokkaido in Winter but given the temperatures being below freezing you are more likely to see snow and ice.
Does it snow in Hokkaido in Winter ?
Yes it absolutely does snow in Hokkaido in Winter. Now depending on where on the island you will affect how heavy and when the snowfall is.
Snow tends to be heaviest in January and February but snow can fall as early as November on the higher ground.
In fact back in February 2022, Sapporo recorded its most ever snowfall with a whooping 60cm falling in one 24 hour period. But the benefit of this is that Sapporo holds one of the best snow festivals in the world.
Hokkaido is also a great winter sports destination with Niseko having some amazing snowfall from December to March. However this is a general Hokkaido Winter packing list so for a winter sports specific list check out this post.
Note: For more specific guidance on what to wear across Japan in Winter check out our regional guides:
- What to wear in Japan in December
- What to wear in Sapporo in Winter
- What to wear in Tokyo in December
- What to wear in Kyoto in Winter
- What to wear in Osaka in Winter
- What to wear in Hokkaido in Spring
Note: we always recommend checking the forecast at your destination(s) 7 days out from travel to make sure there are no expected weather fronts i.e. heatwaves or cold snaps.
How do local people dress in Hokkaido?
All locals in Hokkaido know how cold the weather gets in Winter. And they really know how to rock a Winter Capsule Wardrobe.
Generally speaking you are likely yo see lots of big thick coats with plenty of insulation and fur hoods and lots of winter accessories. However it is worth noting that the Japanese are very stylish so bear this in mind as you are packing.
What to Wear in Hokkaido in Winter
When looking at what to pack for Hokkaido in Winter, layers are going to be your best friend.
We always recommend not overpacking when traveling however this can prove trickier in Winter especially in places such as Hokkaido due to the layers required.
What to Wear in Hokkaido for Women
Winter Coat / Jacket
A winter coat / winter jacket is absolutely my number one pick for any Hokkaido Winter packing list no matter your itinerary. And the coat you pack should be very practical for very cold weather. This means a coat with plenty of insulation as well as waterproofing and wind resistance to deal with the Hokkaido winter weather.
Some of our favorite brands of coats for Hokkaido in December include:
For more information on how to pack Winter Coats for travel check out this post
Hat, Scarf and Gloves
Winter accessories are a must for Hokkaido in December.
I would recommend taking with you a matching scarf and gloves set that match your winter coat to finish off the look. But be sure to get gloves that are touch screen compatible so as you are likely to be taking lots of photographs.
You may also want ski gloves with another pair of gloves that are touch screen compatible underneath to cope with the extreme cold temperatures.
ON top of these you may also want ear muffs to protect all your extremities.
For Sapporo, Otaru and Hakodate we recommend taking either walking trousers, ski trousers or some thicker lined leggings for spending time outside.
Whereas for cities we recommend a combination of thicker trousers such as jeans, cordouroy trousers or even some thick wool pants on days when you are planning on being more indoors.
Jeans are perfect for sightseeing during the day in cities when inside and you can pick whatever style you feel most comfortable in. But for outdoors thicker and insulated trousers are best. And you may also need a thermal base layer.
Skirts and Dresses
It is WAY too cold in Hokkaido for dresses and skirts for sightseeing. I would only even consider wearing a dress for restaurants. However even then it would have to be a veryh thick dress with thermals underneath maybe and certainly paired with thick tights or fleece lined leggings and boots.
T Shirts are a great base for cities in Winter. But you will need tees with long sleeves to use as a base layer.
Layers are absolutely essential for Hokkaido in Winter. I would pack a mix of sweaters, hoodies and fleeces.
Hoodies are a great casual top layer for sightseeing in the day at places such as museums, interactive spaces and galleries. However I like to have something smarter for evenings.
I personally never travel in Winter without a merino wool sweater. Merino wool is one of my favorite fabrics to include in a Winter capsule wardrobe. That is because it provides extra warmth as they are an insulating fabric but is also compact unlike a thick knit. Therefore it is easy to pack and doesn’t take up a lot of space in your case.
And fleeces are useful for outdoors as they are quick to dry and are a thin but very insulating layer.
For those traveling to Hokkaido in Winter we recommend packing thicker, flannel pjs.
Absolutely essential for those who plan on spending any time outdoors in Hokkaido in Winter.
You may find it hard to think about swimwear on a winter vacation in Hokkaido however if you plan to use spas or onsens then you may want swimwear with you. However depending on the onsen you plan on visiting you may be required to go nude.
Underwear and Socks
Goes without saying. The best socks for Hokkaido have to be either hiking socks or merino wool socks that are insulating.
Also if you plan on packing any dresses we recommend having thick tights or fleece lined leggings to go underneath them.
What to pack for Hokkaido in Winter for Men
The packing list for men is quite similar as the ladies packing list for Hokkaido in Winter and we recommend packing:
A practical warm coat with some insulation as well as being water proof and wind resistant is a good idea for Hokkaido in Winter.
T Shirts and Shirts
Long sleeve t shirts are an essential in Winter, as well as a button down shirt for fancier restaurants.
Jeans are great for sightseeing in Winter in cities but you may want thermals underneath them.
You may also want to add a smarter pair of chinos or smart wool trousers to the packing list too for nights out and fancier dinners.
However for more outdoor activities and going North you may want some fleece lined trousers too! For a winter sports packing list for Hokkaido click here.
A hoodie, fleece and sweater alongside your coat / jacket are the perfect layers for 7 days in Hokkaido.
If you plan on spending anytime outside be sure to have thermal underwear with you.
Underwear, Socks and Pjs
Including thicker socks.
Best Shoes for Hokkaido in Winter
Given the amount and depth of snow in Hokkaido snow boots are going to be an essential. These are usually fur or fleece lined for extra warmth, are waterproof and have good rubber soles for extra traction on the ice.
My favorite brands for snow boots are Columbia.
For tips on how to pack snow boots in a suitcase check out this post.
If you are ski resorts in the North then you will need the appropriate sports wear. This guide isn’t intended as a winter sports packing list so see this post for more information.
Note: if you have other shoes with you or shoes that don’t cope well with ice then you may want to purchase snow cleats to slip over your shoes so they have better purchase on the ice. But the shoe you put them on will need to be waterproof to deal with the snow.
What to pack for Hokkaido in Winter (Non Clothing)
- Crossbody Bag – I always travel with this type of bag as it is a great pickpocket deterrent anywhere in the world.
- Backpack – for storing items on your day trips.
- Universal Travel adaptor – Japan uses two types of plug a and b. Therefore you will absolutely need a universal travel adaptor.
- Power Pack / battery packs
- Sun screen – necessary even in Winter.
- Lipbalm – absolutely an essential to protect your lips from cracking in the cold.
- Moisturiser – needed to protect your skin from drying out in the cold weather.
- Travel First Aid Kit
- Blister plasters
- Toiletries – for our essential toiletries packing list click here. These could be purchased in the big cities easily, however it can be easier when not familiar with language to have them packed with you
- Hand Warmers – as the weather is so cold in Hokkaido in Winter we recommend packing a plentiful supply of hand warmers with you to add into your gloves.
- Ice Scraper (optional depending on car hire) – If you are renting your own car then you may want to bring an ice scraper / deicer with you. This way you can clear your windows and head off early in the morning.
FAQs About Hokkaido in Winter Packing List
What do you wear to Hokkaido at Christmas?
There are no special dress code Hokkaido for japan at Christmas. it is most important that you dress for the weather. However if you are going to a special Christmas dinner you may want a smart casual outfit that is also warm such as sweater dresses and thick tights with thermals.
What to wear to the Sapporo Snow Festival in February?
The snow festival in Sapporo is a highlight of a winter vacation in Hokkaido but you need to be prepared for the cold.
You will need a minimum of 3 layers on to visit the Sapporo snow festival such as thermal base layer, merino wool sweaters and thick insulated coats. And you may also want to have hand warmers / body warmers too alongside winter accessories.
And shoe wise you will definitely be needing your snow boots!
Do you need winter boots in Hokkaido?
Yes you will absolutely need winter boots in Hokkaido. We recommend having fleece lined snow boots worn with a couple of pairs of socks.
How many layers to wear in winter Hokkaido?
If you are visiting Hokkaido in Winter you are going to need at least 3 -4 layers on every day. This should consist of thermal base layers, insulated layers like merino wool sweaters and thick insulated coats paired with winter accessories.
On top of that you may also want some hand and body warmers too!
Can you wear jeans in Hokkaido in Winter?
You can wear jeans indoors in Hokkaido in Winter. But for outdoors you would want a thermal base layer under them and in some locations you would want thicker fleece lined trousers or thermal insulated jeans.
Have you been to Hokkaido in winter? What did you wear? We would love you to tell us in the comments below!