Do you want to know what to wear in Japan in December? Then you have come to the right place. So whether you are going to the cities like Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto or heading to the Northern island of Hokkaido or going to a Winter sports resorts we will tell you exactly what you should pack for Japan in December.
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Weather in Japan in December
Winter in Japan has firmly taken hold in December. And Winters in Japan are notoriously cold but how cold is it?
How cold is Japan in December?
As Japan is such a diverse country climate wise, the temperatures you experience are actually quite different. Now no matter where you go you are likely to experience cold but the actual temperatures and related weather do fluctuate a lot.
For instance in Tokyo you can expect temperatures between 6-10°C (42.8-50°F). Whereas in the Northern Island of Hokkaido the temperature is much colder at 2 °C/35 °F to -4 °C/24 °F.
Overall you can expect Honshu to be the warmest of the Japanese island and Hokkaido to be the coldest where more snow and ice can be found.
Note: the weather between months in Japan can change quite considerably so be sure to check out our other monthly guides:
- What to wear in Japan in November
- What to wear in Japan in January
How rainy is Japan in December?
Surprisingly December is actually one of the drier months in Japan. Overall you can expect around 9 days of rain in Tokyo in December, while in Hokkaido you are far more likely to get sleet, snow and hail during December.
Does it snow in Japan in December?
Yes it absolutely does snow in Japan in December however it depends on where in the country you are as to how much snow falls and how deep it gets.
Typically snow is more common in Japan from mid December onwards. The snow season typically runs for 3 months until February however can extend even longer.
Mount Fuji will usually be covered in snow by December and makes for stunning photographs (when you can see it). And you may even see some snow in Tokyo.
Whereas in Hokkaido, you are almost guaranteed to see snow, and heavy snow in December making it the perfect Winter wonderland.
Note: For more specific guidance on what to wear across Japan in December check out our regional guides:
- Hokkaido Winter packing list
- What to wear in Tokyo in December
- What to wear in Kyoto in Winter
- What to wear in Osaka in Winter
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 Japan?
Locals in Japan know how to rock a Winter Capsule Wardrobe and they know that layers are key to any outfit at this time of year.
Generally speaking the Japanese tend to dress practically in Winter. You are likely yo see lots of big thick coats 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 Japan in December
When looking at what to pack for Japan in December, layers are going to be your best friend.
We always recommend not overpacking when traveling however this can prove trickier in Winter due to the layers required. For tips on how to pack light in Winter check out our guides on the 54321 packing method and the sudoku packing method here.
What to Wear in Japan in December for Women
A coat is absolutely my number one pick for any Japanese Winter packing list no matter your itinerary. While a smart coat can be nice, we recommend packing a more practical coat to fit in with the locals and to cope with the weather.
For this reason we recommend packing something that is insulated for when the temperatures drop below freezing, and has some water resistance for coping with both snow and rain.
Some of our favorite brands of coats for Japan in December include:
Hat, Scarf and Gloves
Winter accessories are a must for Japan 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.
But if you are heading to Hokkaido you may want ski gloves with another pair of gloves that are touch screen compatible underneath.
I would also pack a pair of stylish ear muffs for December in the north too!
Depending on where you are traveling to in Japan and what activities you are doing once you get there will depend on what type of trousers you require.
For instance if you plan on doing outdoor activities in places such as Sapporo or Hakodate we recommend taking either walking trousers, ski trousers or some thicker lined leggings depending on your itinerary.
For cities we recommend a combination of thicker trousers such as jeans, cordouroy trousers or even some thick wool pants.
Jeans are perfect for sightseeing during the day in cities. However I would recommend picking smarter jeans such as black jeans or dark blue jeans that are more fitted or skinny jeans however you will see all sorts of styles of the streets of Japan. So it is most important that you feel comfortable.
If you want a smarter pant then we love a regular black pant (we love the Athleta Brooklyn ankle pant for travel) or a thick wool pant.
Skirts and Dresses
Japan in Winter, is probably too cold to be wearing dresses and skirts for sightseeing in my opinion. However I personally like to change into a dress for dinner in Japan, especially at more high end establishments.
As the nights can be very cold, I recommend wearing a sweater dress or a jumper dress, paired with thick tights and boots with a good sole that can cope if there is ice on the ground.
Blouses are perfect for Japan in the Winter for both sightseeing and going out to dinner. They are a versatile layering item and can be dressed up or down depending on where you are going.
T Shirts are a great base for Japanese cities in Winter. T Shirts that are plain or are lightly patterned are easier to make work as part of a capsule wardrobe. However graphic or slogan t shirts won’t be out of place on the streets of the major cities in Japan.
For Japan in December I would pack layers such as cardigans, hoodies and sweaters.
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.
It doesn’t matter where I am traveling to in Winter a pashmina is always on my packing list. A pashmina can be used as a scarf or lovely accessory but can double up as an added extra layer.
For those traveling to Japan in Winter we recommend packing thicker, flannel pjs.
Personally I don’t think you need a thermal base layer in the Southern cities such as Kyoto or Osaka however for Hokkaido I would definitely have a thermal base layer with you.
You may find it hard to think about swimwear on a winter vacation in Japan 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. Sneaker socks are a good way of reducing sweat and odour in your shoe. If you plan on spending outside or in the North then we recommend packing either thicker hiking socks or thermal socks such as those made of merino wool.
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 Japan in December for Men
The packing list for men is quite similar as the ladies packing list for Japan in December 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 Japan in Winter.
T Shirts and Shirts
A mix of long and short sleeve t shirts is a good idea, as well as a button down shirt for fancier restaurants.
Jeans are great for sightseeing in Winter. You may 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!
A hoodie, jumper and sweater alongside your coat / jacket are the perfect layers for 7 days in Japan.
Underwear, Socks and Pjs
Including thicker socks and potentially some thermals if you feel the cold.
Best Shoes for Japan in December
Ankle boots are my number one pick for Japan in Winter. They are easier to pack than knee high boots and if you select the right pair are waterproof and come with good soles. For more info on how to pack boots for travel check out this post.
To cope with the likely snow and ice, we recommend picking something like a Chelsea boot or Dr Martens with a thick sole with good grip.
Note: hiking boots are only really necessary if you plan on going on hikes outside of the city. For tips on how to pack boots in a suitcase check out this post.
Useful for cities in the South but not in the North where you will get lots of snow and ice.
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.
What to pack for Japan 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 such as Mount Fuji from Tokyo and Nara from Kyoto to name just a couple.
- 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.
- 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
- Moisturiser – needed to protect your skin from drying out in the cold weather.
FAQs About Japan in December Packing List
What do you wear to Japan at Christmas?
There are no special dress code requirements 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.
Can you wear jeans in Japan in Winter?
You can absolutely wear jeans in Japan in Winter. In fact they are an essential on any Japan Winter packing list for cities on Honshu.
Have you been to Japan in December? What did you wear? We would love you to tell us in the comments below!