Picture"I don't mind when it's cold out..."
The winter months get pretty chilly here in Matsumoto. And I'm talking about inside the house. Japan's aversion to breaking with tradition includes technological advances like home heating, and when the cold comes the community gathers at the gas station, lining up and waiting our turn to fill up our standard red-orange state-approved plastic cans with kerosene for the heaters in our living rooms. We keep warm this way, until it's time to take a bath in a bathroom that is not heated. Getting into the hot bath is heaven. Getting out is hell. Before we go to bed we turn off the heater. In the morning the air inside our homes, which are built without another recent invention callled insulation, is colder than the air inside our refrigerators. No joke. My heater has a digital display of the room's temperature. On most mornings in January and February it read 6 Celsius.

That's 43 Fahrenheit for you Americans. Yeah, you guys, the ones burning the heating oil non-stop. Wussies.
We don't heat our water either, not unless we're about to take a shower or a bath. And while my fingers go numb from the cold water I'm using to do the dishes, to me it's sensible and, dare I say, right. In our last home, in the States, we shut off the boiler when we weren't heating the house or the water. The thermostats and the water temperature dials only went so low, so after a while, even if we weren't bathing anytime soon, or we were going out for the day, the boiler would fire itself up, burning more heating oil for no practical reason. Before we moved out the oil heat people came out to check on the boiler, the standard maintenance check before the changing of the tenants. I told him that we regularly shut the boiler off completely, using the easily-accessible switch that was ostensibly accessible for emergencies only. "There's no problem turning the boiler on and off with this switch, is there?" I asked. After his incredulity faded enough to where he could speak he told me he didn't think so but in all his years as a boiler guy he'd never heard of anyone doing such a thing. Neither had my landlady, who was visibly concerned for no other reason that she couldn't understand why we'd bother.

There's an economy in the way Japanese people live. It's evident in the habits that persist. The house we live in now has double sets of windows throughout. Not just double-paned glass, but two sets of windows. I couldn't understand the logic when we moved in last August. Now I get the drift - and no draft, ha ha. But the walls are thin, like pre-fabricated partitions. The metal front door sports a permanent film of condensation on the inside. There's no dehumidifying system to speak of in the bathroom, so we have to open the windows, even in the dead of winter, to keep the walls and the fixtures and everything else from becoming coated with leftover moisture.

I wear two pairs of socks these days, along with thick slippers, to keep the cold floor from eating right through my feet. I take the clothes I'm wearing the next day to bed with me, tucking them down at my feet or along the edge of my four thick futon blankets. If I don't they'll be freezing in the morning when I drag  myself downstairs to fire up the kerosene heater again.

We keep the sliding doors to the TV room closed, to maximize the heater's efficiency as it hums and breathes away to keep our living room/kitchen space at a reasonable temperature. the good thing about this is it keeps the kids' television time to a minimum. The bad thing is, it takes away a major strategy of mine for keeping the kids entertained in a different room from the oone I am trying to enjoy. The solution involves a brilliant if not cramped invention called a kotatsu, essentially a coffee table with a heater mounted underneath and a removable top for installing the big blankets that hang down and trail out along the floor, enough to cover everyone's legs and still keep all the heat from escaping from under the kotatsu. With too many people, everyone is relegated to keeping only the bottom halves of their bodies warm. If there are only a couple people using the kotatsu, or if the three or four people using it are small like my kids, there's room enough for everyone to disappear up to their necks under those blankets. I feel fortunate in that my kids are fine with this set up for the times I let them watch TV - and also for the fact that I don't ever watch TV. I'll hang out by myself, next to this kerosene heater, thanks.

I've always said that I don't mind when it's cold outside, I just hate it when it's cold inside. Since moving to Japan I've had to change my tune. But I appreciate the mindset. I like the conservative customs. It's just sometimes I wish I lived in Okinawa.


08/26/2015 9:05pm

We all love the four seasons but the winter is liked by the most of us. Where it come with the cold chilly nights, it also take with it some dangerous and uncomfortable stuff. People freeze to death and all the human activities get stuck because of the heavy fog or snow. people doesn't hate when its cold outside but the problem comes when its cold inside.

03/12/2017 4:26pm

I must say that the snow is one of the best things about winter. I remember how my friends and I used to play in the snow during winter. We actually enjoy being in the snow because of its fluffy feeling. Anyway, I would really love to visit Japan someday. I want to be at that place during the winter season of course.

06/23/2017 10:07am

I have never been in Japan but I would love to experience their winter and spring season. I love to play in the snow and learn to ski. I am planning to go to Korea during winter season, but after reading your blog, I think I would go first to Japan. There are lots of things to do there during winter and I would love to try all those things. I like to experience how cold the weather is and definitely try the hot baths you are talking about.

12/25/2015 6:24pm

The winter season is really amazing and that is also having some complication with it as well. The humidity is very important in the room because dry air in the room make allergies more complicated. The humidifier makes your life better in winter and maintains your room humidity level.


It's pretty nice to wear a pair of wool socks, put on a sweater and read such an amazing article! Thanks for sharing but don't get frozen!

01/13/2016 2:02am

I am truly inspired by this online journal! Extremely clear clarification of issues is given and it is open to every living soul. I have perused your post, truly you have given this extraordinary informative data about it.

02/11/2016 8:17pm

I can only imagine how cold it gets in Japan. It is so unfortunate that you are not used to it and apparently you do not enough accessories to keep the inside of the house warm as you would want it to be during winter.

02/22/2016 8:19pm

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03/03/2016 8:08pm

I definitely enjoying every little bit of it. It is a great website and nice share. I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work.

06/06/2016 8:49pm

his is my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the leisure here! Keep up the excellent work.

09/21/2016 5:43pm

Individuals stop to death and all the human exercises get stuck as a result of the overwhelming haze or snow. individuals doesn't loathe when its cool outside yet the issue comes when its chilly inside.
But no doubt we love winter season.

11/27/2016 3:45am

The life is tough Japan in extreme cold weather, their style of saving from cold is quite different from western or American countries.

12/20/2016 9:42pm

12/26/2016 11:40pm

Due to extream cold weather life become very difficult in Japan Good discussion and suggestion are given to be prepared for the cold weather. your heating system is fantastic too.Thanks for sharing such a nice and informative reading stuff.

12/29/2016 4:24pm

It is a perfect equipment that multiplies the air and also heats the air depending on the temperature setting.The life is tough in Japan without heating system.

03/20/2017 1:23am

Nice blog good to see the living style of Japanese in cold weather. Sometimes it becomes very difficult to survive in such weather without proper heating system.


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