We think we are a land of extremes in Australia when it comes to weather, but according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency, Japan could give us a good run for our money.1 Their climate ranges from subtropical in the south to subarctic in the north.
Northern Japan has warm summers with very cold winters and heavy snow, while eastern Japan has hot and humid summers and cold winters, again with heavy snow. Travel south and west and you’ll get hot and humid in summer and mild winters. A country of contrasts considering Japan is one twentieth the size of Australia.2
But it’s Japan’s northerners that we’re interested in for this article, as we explore some ways to keep warm in winter.
Apart from the obvious solutions such as layering up with warming clothes, blocking draughts from doors and windows, and relying on well insulated surroundings, the Japanese have some good tips around food and drinks that might provide that added extra comfort.
Root vegetables feature fairly prominently in the Japanese diet, so it’s probably no surprise to see that daikon (Japanese radish), carrots, lotus root, and ginger are recruited for a warming bowl of Nabe, a supercharged soup that’s more like a stew.
Ginger is known to warm the body. In fact, a Japanese study showed that women suffering cold-sensitive extremities enjoyed a 20-minute increase in temperature of their palms after consuming a ginger-containing beverage. Putting a good slice of ginger in a warming cup of miso soup might just extend the warmth.
Of course, any bowl of soup or hotpot will be warming and nutritious, and winter is the perfect time to whip up a batch to keep in the fridge and pull out for lunch or drop it into a Thermos flask for lunch out of home.
Slip on some slippers. Removing shoes when entering someone’s home is an important custom in Japan, and slippers are the footwear of choice when indoors. They’re also a sensible way to keep your feet warm, especially if you have polished floorboards or tiles.
Another popular item in wintery Japan is Kairo.4,5 These are small pouches that act as pocket warmers. Some are gels that are activated, while others contain other compounds including charcoal and iron. The heat that is generated can last a few hours, depending on the contents.4,5
Made in Japan, but available here in Australia, we’re fortunate to have access to Hotteeze Heat Pads, long-lasting heat pads that warm you up anytime you feel cold and stay hot for up to 14 hours. They’re also environmentally friendly, as the contents can be used as a soil conditioner. There is a full range of options available from the large Heat Pads, that can be discreetly stuck to your undergarments, to Hand Warmers that sit in each pocket of a jacket, or if you are one to get cold toes, the Hotteeze Feet Warmers can be stuck you’re your socks inside your shoes to keep feet toasty warm for up to 6 hours at a time. Check out the full range here.
Finally, there’s movement. There’s nothing quite like some exercise to get warm blood flowing through the extremities. And before you say it’s too cold outside, a quick internet search will deliver an abundance of options for exercising indoors without any fancy equipment.