Monday, January 27, 2014

Staying warm in Japan

Not supposed to look like this!
The stereotype of Japan is that the houses are cold and drafty...annnd that's one stereotype I can confirm that's definitely true. :)

It’s cold in our house. So far our “record low” in the house is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. How do know that? Well, first of all, I could see my breath in the kitchen. And second, the olive oil was thick and cloudy, which apparently can happen below 45-50 degrees. Yeah. Yikes!

It’s not that cold outside – above freezing, usually. However, our house is old for Japan (1975) and lacks insulation and double paned windows. Even newer houses aren't that well insulated - one of the mysteries of Japan. We can actually feel the wind blowing through the house. I’m from Minnesota, so I *thought* I was used to the cold. Ha! Well, this is a whole different story.

We have ductless wall unit air conditioners that also function as heaters. These are used in most of Asia and lots of other places around the world. Very inefficient in our house – sometimes we can’t heat the living room above 55 degrees even when we have the heater set on the maximum setting (30 degrees Celsius/86 degrees Fahrenheit!!). I envision that all the heat goes straight out the roof. Also, not all of our rooms have heaters – the bathroom and kitchen don’t, so we use a space heater or we just tough it out.

Useless air con/heater unit

The heated toilet seats in the bathrooms are awesome too. Technically, it's a "Warmlet," as opposed to a Washlet, which is the full-on Japanese bidet toilet. When we discovered we had them in the house, we thought "ooh, fancy!" No, no, not really -- more like a necessity when it feels cold as ice in the bathroom!

We also have a pretty sweet bathtub like all homes in Japan. Our furo fills up with the touch of a button and recirculates the water so it stays warm. It’s nice and deep, which I love.

Don't you love the color scheme?
Lots of people use kerosene heaters. Kerosene is cheap, but you have to make sure to have proper ventilation or the fumes will kill you! Also you have to siphon it in there from a tank and risk spilling it all over the place...and well, thanks but no thanks.

Kotatsu are pretty popular as well. They are low tables with a heater underneath covered by a thick blanket.  Back in the day, they used to be heated with coal, but now they’re electric. They even have heated electric carpets too.  I’m sure Hashi would love one but Igor and I aren’t big fans of sitting on the floor Japanese style  :-/ They even have heated electric carpets.

Here's a kotatsu cover for sale at Nitori (Japanese IKEA)

So most days you’ll find me wearing my heaviest wool sweater and Uniqlo HEATTECH clothing, sitting under my electric throw blanket with the dog, drinking tea. :)

He's a snuggler :)

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