Getting cold

I’ll just be moaning in this one. Don’t read if you’re already feeling down. Or maybe it makes you happy to hear about other people being down as well.

Remember how last Sunday I wrote winter was coming? Well on Monday it snowed. Quite a bit. Same on Tuesday. Admittedly pretty much everything melt down during daytime and on Thursday –I think- it rained a lot and it’s nowhere near freezing anymore. Still I think you can say winter is here. At least it’s cold. And that’s where the fun starts.

Usually winter is one of my favourite seasons (aren’t many to pick from though). While in summer you’ll get cooked no matter what you do (unless you’re lucky and have an AC that is) winter gives you the perfect excuse to stay inside because that’s what everyone does to keep warm. Apparently not so much in Japan.

While trying to figure out how my heater works I stumbled across these two: “On heating an apartment in Japan” which starts with “Japan does not believe in warmth without risk.” and “How to cut out home heating oil – Japanese style”  which basically ends up talking about how the philosophy of Gaman –endure, tolerate- is oh so great. I’d recommend you read both of them. Not only because they’re quite interesting but also because I’ll assume that you did, so if anything from here doesn’t make any sense it’s your fault. Now go read and then come back.

Sounds like fun right?
The heating method that sounds best to me is a kotatsu. I don’t really do anything besides sitting at my desk when I’m not sleeping so why not sit at a kotatsu? Well, shamefully there’s no space for that.

But luckily the apartment already came with a built-in heater which runs on gas directly coming from the wall into the machine which spits the fumes back into the wall. Leaving you with a warm and clean aired room. Or so the idea. I couldn’t really find anything helpful on how to use it; I do however recognize the “ON” sign.


So many “I’m Feeling Lucky” buttons

First time I pressed it the machine made noises and smelled really bad. Yay. So I turned it off again. Or at least tried to because it wouldn’t stop. (Did I mention that it looks quite old as well and the heater of my classmate next door –so presumably the same type- just needed to be repaired?)

After a while though it didn’t smell that much anymore, there actually was some warm air coming out and then finally it seemingly turned itself off altogether – at least as far as you can judge by sound. Later I tried it again and while it didn’t smell as horrible as the first time it also didn’t heat up at all. So either I am doing something wrong or it’s broken. Both seem equally likely to me. I’ll have to survive another day without heating before I can ask about that tomorrow. (On a side not: I’m pretty sure the smell isn’t gas or fume but just old dust and stuff. Not lethal, still ew.)

Presuming that I can actually make it work somehow we’re still left with smell and noise. Not something I’d like to have on while trying to sleep (or in general really). “But why don’t you just turn it off during night?” First: Waking up in a freezing room makes getting up even harder and second: I can’t because of freezing water pipes.

This week all students who live in apartments had to attend an” Explanation for preventing water pipe freezing”. Whenever temperature drops below -4°C and we won’t use any water for a few hours (eg. over night) we have to drain all water pipes to prevent them from freezing. Wikipedia states the daily mean for January and February being -3.6°C and -3.1°C the average low from December to February between -4.1°C and -7°C. So at least in those three months that means a lot of water going down the drain for nothing. I seem to be located in a slightly better insulated building, where draining is only required if pipes remain unused for a period of two days or longer (if I got that right). As long as the room is well heated all the time.

But why should those pipes freeze at all just because they’re not used for a while? Because insulation is more or less non-existent. (Although you already know that because you read the two articles, right?) I can’t tell you anything about how thick the walls are but I can tell you that the bathroom curtain is blowing in the wind all the time. Did my best to fill the cracks with foam tape but that didn’t help much. I also doubt that the other window is closing completely tightly.

As mentioned in my first post, Hokkaido in winter gets really cold. It has always been that way (at least as long as humans live here) and it will probably stay that way a bit longer. Heck, Hokkaido and especially Sapporo is famous for its winter! So why don’t people built their homes according to the climate? I totally understand that you might want to spend less money on insulation or central heating if you live somewhere where it just rarely ever gets that cold. But in Sapporo it’s winter for almost half a year and you’ll soon spend all that money you saved earlier on bubble wrap to tape your single-paned windows with, dozens of heaters plus electricity/gas/oil, loads of drained water and whatnot. And you’ll probably still be cold. I don’t really buy the argument that it’s cheaper to tear down. Not that I know anything about destruction prices but it can’t be much more than all the wasted money accumulated over the years, right? Oh well, but it’s the tenant who has to pay for all the stuff, not the owner. That’s it.

So I got a 2.5 liter hot water bottle, taped the windows with all kinds of things, built a duvet fort, keep myself wrapped in a blanket all day, drink exclusively hot ginger water or spiced “coffee” and always have my laptop next to me because the internet is a place full of lovely people which makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I’ll leave you with a few more links on winter in Japan, in case you as well need some inspiration on how to stay toasty:

Keeping Warm in the Winter, Japan-Style

Surviving In Japan:
(Which by the way is another really helpful page that saved me a couple of times. If you ever consider coming to Japan remember that one!)
8 ways to winterize your Japanese apartment (or house)
24 ways to Stay Warm in Japan This Winter