Winter in Japan
It’s nowhere near minimum temperature yet, but damn is it cold recently. It was 5 degrees Celsius last night and whether you understand Celsius or not, that is cold. Not freezing, but cold. Not icy, but cold. It’s not snowing, there’s no blizzards blowing, death is not coming upon us while eating a popsicle sandwich and laughing maniacally, but it is cold.
I don’t mind the cold, especially since it is accompanied by fun winter sports. But as much as I love snowboarding, and anything snow related, there is a line. An un-insulated, un-heated school with the windows wide open is my limit. When it gets to that point, I throw up my white flag and pray that summer will forgive me for ever forsaking it, longing for the days of sweaty discomfort, because at least I could feel my fingers then. I couldn’t think straight through the humid haze, but I could still move, albeit it slowly, I wasn’t frozen to the spot.
The only thing that gets me through the days are the Japanese versions of heating. They are pretty ingenious to give a little credit. These are a few of my favourites.
1. カイロ (kairo) Heat PacksKairo will literally be your hands and feet’s best friend. Popular with skiers and snowboarders around the world (called hand warmers), they are small little heat packs that stay warm for hours once opened. They come in stick (貼る) and non-stick (貼らない) varieties. I personally use the sticky ones to stick to the bottom of my socks, and the non-stick ones I keep in my pockets for my hands.
2. こたつ (kotatsu) Heated TablesThis is found purely in Japan I believe. I don’t have one, but I wish I did. It is a small low to the ground table that has a heating device on the underside of it. It is accompanied by a blanket draping down on all sides like a table cloth, which you can tuck yourself under and enjoy the delicious warmth for hours on end. Just beware of falling asleep.
3. ホットカーペット (hotto kaapetto) Hot Carpets
This is another that I do have. Similar to the concept of a heated blanket, except it is a carpet, the idea being that you sit on it and it keeps you warm. It’s not bad, but I’m still not sure if you are allowed to put furniture and things on top of it. I’m pretty sure the answer is no. If I had a pet though, I would certainly be getting this pet one. How cute is that?
4. ストーブ (sutoubu) HeatersAt school this is a kerosene filled fire heater that stinks up the staff room. At home this can be anything ranging from an electric heater to a reverse cycle AC. It’s up to you. I have a small electric heater that really packs a punch, but I can’t leave it on too long for risk of fire. This is one of the hazards of tatami flooring.
When all else fails, I ensure that I take a nice long hot shower every night just before bed, so that the residual heat will warm up the covers in no time. I also wear as many layers as is humanly possible when I am going outdoors for extended periods of time. I may look like a marshmallow, but at least I am toasty warm.
Good luck this winter. Stay warm. Stay away from influenza and have a good Christmas everyone. See you in spring. J