If you’re a lucky little thing like me, you’ll be packing your bags to leave for the winter season in Japan to enjoy its nipple deep, endless JAPOW!
Japan is a funny, mystical, but sometimes challenging place to spend a long winter. For all the strange and annoying experiences you may encounter trying to accomplish everyday tasks, you will have thousands of incredible moments that will stay with you for life.
Here’s a list of things you should plan or take with you to make life over there, that tiny bit easier.
Japan is still a cash society. Getting to an ATM can sometimes involve a cab ride or long walk in the cold. Plan to take cash and not use your card as much as you would at home. I find this is also a good way to keep track of your spending and a good habit to take home.
#2 Strong painkillers + cold and flu tablets
Maybe it’s a reflection on how little the Japanese are physically, or maybe strong over-the-counter medicines are just hard to find in ski resorts. Either way, make sure you take whatever medicine you use back home with you. I have found it really hard to find the equivalent strength over there. Trust me on the cold and flu medicine, Lemsip, and vitamin C supplements.
#3 Hot Sauce & spices for cooking
Japan has THE BEST food but if you’re planning on cooking at home and don’t want use soy or miso in your Italian Spaghetti Bolognese, take a few herbs and spices with you. I take several hot sauces, cinnamon, Italian herbs, turmeric (for inflammation) & Himalayan salts.
#4 Warm, grippy, winter aprés boots
The copious amounts of JaPOW extend to the night and your job is to walk through it. Sometimes after a few too many beers! I’ve seen countless people eat s**t and break legs in the street. Some wander out in Uggs or summer Vans. Don’t be that person. Take knee-high winter boots & stay warm, dry, upright and in one piece!
#5 High performance thermals
Cotton just isn’t going to cut it in those cold temperatures. You need warm, technical fabrics that wick moisture from your skin, dry quickly and don’t smell after multiple wears. Quality thermals will be your best friend on and off the mountain. Take at least two pants and 2 tops.
I also recommend anything Patagonia or Patagucci as us ski-bums call it! – They are best quality & will last you a lifetime (+ lifetime warranty).
#6 Glove liners or inners
Have I mentioned how cold it gets in Japan, especially in Hokkaido? Let me say it again, IT’S FRICKING COLD! Grab yourself a pair of good quality glove liners. They are great for on the mountain as an additional layer in your glove or mitt, but also when out at night, walking between bars. You can thank me later (or buy me a beer if you see me in Niseko!).
#7 Low light goggle lens + spare lens
It snows. A lot. While visibility is always going to better in the trees, there are going to be some days when you just can’t see a thing. A low-light goggle lens is going to be your best friend. so will a spare lens in your bag/pocket when you main lens steams up. Personally, I like a yellow or rose lens. If you’re going to Niseko and want to do some night riding, I recommend taking a clear lens for maximum visibility in the dark.
SunGod make some great goggles which are fully customisable (frames, straps & lenses) with several low light lens options. They can also ship to Japan.
#8 Don’t bother with your Australian / USA hair dryer or straighteners
The voltage in Japan is different, almost always 100 – 127 V and 15amps compared to 240 V in Australia & UK. So your electronics that require a high voltage will run really slow/weak (kettles, juicers, hair dryers, straighteners). They have Amazon in Japan (in English), so you can buy anything you need when there.
#9 Intuition liners
On the “it’s fricking cold” front, get yourself some Intuition liners for your ski or snowboard boots. Intuition make the warmest and best fitting liner on the market and will make all the difference when it comes to feeling your feet or not!
#10 International driving license
If you’re planning on doing any driving at all, you’ll need an International driving license. You can normally get these the same day back in your home country for a smallish fee. They are valid for 1 year.
#11 Coconut oil for cooking & a great moisturizer
Coconut oil is my go-to. Great for cooking and amazing to put on your dry skin and hair after a long hot session in the onsens (natural hot baths). Buy organic. I also love this rich moisturiser cream called Egyptian magic. It’s a really rich balm that stops my skin and my lips chapping (my chin gets the worst from rubbing on my jacket). It’s used by a bunch of celebs too, look into it. It does wonders.
#12 A Type A electric plug adaptor
Brands that you know and trust are hard to come by and the local brands to do not work very well. Don’t be the guy or girl that smells. Buy deodorant that doesn’t have hectic metals and crap in it, like these organic options.
Cover image by Niseko Photography and Guiding.