Since I’m sensitive to cold even in tropical Manila and want to avoid headaches from wobbly temperature changes, it was a puzzle to prepare for a winter trip. If you opened this post, you’re probably in the same pickle… so just for you, I’m sharing my list on what worked for me in Shirakawa-go winter wonderland.
It’s always best to catch these at clearance season. On fabrics, the lightweight, non-bulky sweat-wicking ones that keep you warm but lets sweat evaporate quickly are best.
If you’re layering your head gear for below-zero degree temperatures, a combination of one reliably warm hat and one lighter winter hat will give you more flexibility on wearing one, the other, or both as the weather changes during the day. I’ve tried going out without a hat and started sniffling soon after. Usually, I like a brim for sun spot protection (avoiding the painful exfoliating facial as motive) but couldn’t find a rugged one so I just compensated with generous facial sunscreen. Just like with women’s age, 70 is the new 50! 😁
- Generic rust colored wool hat from TJ Maxx, US. SM Department Store might have many choices, too.
- Columbia fleece cap (SM Megamall)
I’m only learning the system of “layering” with say 3 or 4 lighter layers instead of 2 thick winter layers. The former is more flexible as you can remove or put on layers as needed, to let your body temperature keep its equilibrium even when the temperatures fluctuate or when you move indoors.
- Ultrathin turtleneck (Maxstudio, US but Check Uniqlo first
- Northface Fleece Button down cardigan (SM Megamall) – this is amazingly warm; versatile in the neutral grey color. I saw some nice fleece varieties in Uniqlo too (belatedly).
- Eddie Bauer Men’s Flannel Shirt (Whistler, Canada, US, etc.) -it was men’s that was on clearance – very practical because it’s washable and rugged.
- Montbell Climaplus Fleece Scarf (any Montbell Japan store) – very light but warm.
- Uniqlo Ultra Heattech [Extra Heattech was not warm enough for me) thermal pants (SM Megamall)
- Columbia Omniheat breathable waterproof thermal pants with vent pockets (if too hot) (SM Megamall)
- Northface men’s Gore-tex gloves (since women’s wasn’t on sale) (for snow, Gore-tex is the waterproof material and this was warm enough) (Sportchek Vancouver)
- I also brought along a generic thin glove with touch-screen sensor for when I needed to use my hands to take photos and such since the Goretex gloves above give the same finger flexibility as boxing gloves (TJ Maxx or Nordstrom)
- Uniqlo thermal socks – double layer (SM Megamall)
- Waterproof backpack. Sportchek Vancouver salesperson swears by Osprey brand for its free rain sack and for the service/replacement warranty. The clasps for hiking poles (with snow basket) and other trekking features are helpful. The hands-free benefit of a backpack are valuable. I just got the smallest available: Hikelite 26L. Check this video to understand its features. After using it all day, I saw the difference in how the design structure relieves your back of soreness (as compared for example to other more handsome travel backpacks like my Tumi) and the vent space between the backpack and bag relieves you of overheating: sweating when on the train. You just need to get organisers or plastic lock bags because it only has one pocket. Roxy BGC carries Osprey.
- Snow hiking shoes (Please see * list below)
- Spikes for Winter Shoes (any Montbell, Japan store) (Please see ** list below)
- Hiking poles: not necessary for Shirakawa-go tour but very helpful for Snowshoeing.
- A few granola bars, pack of nuts were helpful because hunger doesn’t always sync with when it’s convenient to get a meal.
- A couple of smaller water bottles for sips was more convenient than big bottles whose bulk you must carry all day.
- Lightweight umbrella
- UV sunglasss that stay on your head even when you’re looking down.
*SNOW HIKING SHOES
FEATURES TO LOOK FOR IN WINTER TREK SHOES (I got one size larger to allow for winter-bulk socks). This was recommended by a salesperson at Sportchek, Vancouver: the Merrell Aurora 6-Ice.
- Arctic Grip bottom tread for wet ice traction
- Waterproof all over
- Reinforced front upper Toe area to avoid injury
- Winter weight inner insulation for warmth
- Comfortable for walking all day such as in Bowen Island, Whistler in autumn, Stanley Park, all-day city walking.
Ground with thin layers of snow becomes slippery when the snow melts (e.g. the foot bridge). I recommend shoe spikes (from Japanese camping store, Montbell) which are considerably easy to stretch then slip over your shoes. Please try for size before purchase.
My dear tour guide (Mai, the best female tour guide in Kanazawa area) at first asked me if I wanted to remove them before entering Shirakawa-go Village to ease walking but when we were finished, she agreed that the shoe spikes were a good idea because despite careful treading and holding the foot bridge cable rails, she and another lady slipped and fell down. p.s.
Prayer for Protection:
A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.