In winter, snow covers many areas of Japan. As you’re out and about enjoying the pristine white surroundings, do take care to observe local customs and etiquette. If you’re not familiar with snow and freezing temperatures, here are a few tips to ensure that you will receive a warm winter welcome from the locals.
1. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Just like in other seasons, have respect for nature and don’t make a mess. When a lot of snow piles up, many Japanese enjoy making snowpeople and other creative sculptures outside their homes and in public areas. You may take photos from a respectful distance, but please don’t touch them in any way. Snow sculptures are fragile, so please respect the hard work of those who make them.
2. Remove Coats and Hats When Entering Homes
If you are staying at homestay or minshuku-style lodgings, or visiting someone’s home, remove your coat and hat in the entryway (genkan) of the residence and hang them up neatly. There is no need to remove your outerwear when entering public buildings, such as department stores or shopping malls. Some indoor tourist attractions such as museums and theme parks offer cloakrooms or lockers where you can put away coats and other outerwear to avoid getting too warm.
3. Brush Off Snow Before Going Indoors
If you have been walking around in the snow, please brush or shake off any snow that has stuck to you and your shoes before going into heated areas. Be careful not to track snow indoors, as snow melts and forms wet puddles which can cause the floor to get slippery and dangerous. If it is snowing and you have been using an umbrella, shake off any snow on it too and place it in the prepared area and/or inside a bag.
4. Do Not Remove Socks Outside Your Lodgings
If you need to take off your shoes to change into indoor slippers – such as when visiting homes, or taking part in certain activities – do not remove your socks. Only take off your socks when you are back in your accommodations. This is not just in winter, but in other seasons as well.