The coldest part of the winter is upon us in Japan. I hate this time of year. Don’t get me wrong, as a fat guy I detest summer and the humidity that comes with it. Japanese summers are the worst. The humidity is so high that there are days that you just wish you had passed in your sleep during the night. June brings us the rain season. If you’ve never experienced a rain season here I’ll try my best to describe it to you. It rains, all the time. With that rain is summer heat. Put those two together and, well, Tarzan would sweat here. So, I’m not looking forward to summer at all. But let’s get back on topic.
January/February are the coldest months of the year. Now, it doesn’t get so cold here in Shizuoka that it snows, and the citizens of Shizuoka will be quick to tell you that it’s warm here, but, in my opinion, they use the word “warm” rather loosely. I try my best to convince people to say “It’s not as cold here as other places in Japan” rather than using the word “warm”. To be honest, it’s not as cold here as it is in other places. Hokkaido, the northernmost island, is the coldest. Tons of snow all the time. It’s so cold up there that they actually have an “Ice festival” every year. Pretty amazing festival too. I’ve never been to one but I hope to go someday. Artists around the world descend on Hokkaido every year and build these huge, monstrous ice sculptures. And I don’t want you thinking that they are up there running around building oversized snowmen. Here are some pics….
Yeah, pretty impressive. And there are hundreds of these things all over the city. I really do hope to go up there sometime and see it.
Anyway, so it’s not so cold here in Shizuoka. But let me tell you something. The Japanese have taken everything in history and made it smaller and more efficient. But, a few things they skipped over were heating and insulation. Homes are not insulated here. Windows are not sealed so tight that air can’t get through. Hardwood floors on the first floor of a home are standard, and of course there is an open, dead space of cold air blowing beneath it. So, yeah, it may not be as cold here as other parts of Japan, but you’re constantly in the cold. Instead of working on insulation, heating, sealing etc… they thought it better to make heated toilet seats, hot carpets, and the kotatsu. A kotatsu is a small table that most Japanese have in their living room. In the summer months it looks like a normal table. But when winter comes it steps out of it’s Clark Kent disguise and becomes the main area of the house for 3 months. You see, a kotatsu has a heating element underneath it. What they do is they put a huge comforter looking thing over top of the table and it hangs off all four sides. The table top actually comes off so you can put the comforter on and then put the top back on over it and continue to use it as a normal table. What everyone does is they slide into the kotatsu, pull up the cover, and try to stay warm. A kotatsu really is nice and cozy, only problem is that you’re only warm from the waist down. Your face is still out in the cold. Not to mention that you’re fighting for foot space with everyone else and if there are any pets in the house, you can pretty much bet they’re under there too.
One thing though, you can’t take the kotatsu into the shower with you. And for me, that is the worst part of winter, having to get up and take a shower. I can deal with living in the cold. More layers of clothes, a few extra blankets and I’m set. Showering though, Jesus. The worst part of my day this time of year is when I have to take a shower before going to work. This morning it was -3 outside, that means it was like -40 inside. When I got out of the shower this morning the shock wave of cold hit me like a sledge hammer. My nipples were so hard I could have etched glass with them. You actually stand there brushing your teeth praying that you don’t slip into hypothermia and die. I usually dry off and then make a mad dash to the living room. We have an air conditioning unit that heats the room up nicely and I’m not afraid to run it 24-7 from December to March. Other times I try to time my shower while my wife is drying her hair. She’s got hair down to her waist and it’s really thick so she runs that hair dryer for a pretty long time. How pitiful is that? It’s so cold that I actually look for heat from the hair dryer.
Anyway, if you’re planning a trip to Japan in the winter months be prepared to freeze your teats off. Pack an extra sweater.
Y’all come back, I’ll leave the light on for ya.