Living in Japan

How to Stay Warm at Home in Japan

Japan’s eastern and western regions experience relatively mild winters, but as temperatures drop in the next few months you may still feel the cold creep in at night and even in the daytime.

Readers in northern Japan may chuckle at Tokyo’s average daily December temperature of 7.6 degrees C (46 degrees F), but if you are looking for ways to stay warm at home, here are some ideas (traditional and not-so-much) to try.

Use Your Heater Efficiently

As is often pointed out, central heating is almost unheard of in Japan. Many rental apartments in Japan come with wall-mounted air conditioning and heating units like this one.

Wall-mounted air conditioning and heating units are common in rental apartments in Japan.

Wall-mounted air conditioning and heating units are common in rental apartments in Japan.

As it gets colder, of course, you can just turn up the thermostat but the increased energy usage will also be reflected in your electricity bill.

According to government statistics, in the Kanto region (which includes Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, and Kanagawa) the average household electricity bill peaks in February, at about 13,977 yen (about $116).

Depending on your household and apartment size, this average could be much lower or higher, but your winter electricity bill could easily be double what it is in the spring and early summer.

The government’s official energy-saving campaign (setsuden.go.jp) recommends the following to get the most from your air conditioning/heating unit:

  • Clean the filter every two weeks to increase energy efficiency. Otherwise, the inside of your air conditioner may end up looking like the one below at the end of winter, as it desperately tries to push warm air into your room through a layer of dust and grime.
    • There are professional companies that will come to your home to clean your air conditioner/heater, but they can be expensive. To clean the filters yourself simply pop the cover open and slide out the filters. Scrub them gently with soap and warm water and let them air dry before replacing them.
Clean the filters in your air conditioning/heating unit every two weeks or so.

Clean the filters in your air conditioning/heating unit every two weeks or so.

  • Point the vents downward. Since warm air rises, you don’t want valuable warm air to be blown above your head, rather than toward sitting and standing level.
  • Place a small fan below the air conditioning/heating unit to circulate warm air around the room.

Insulate Windows and Doors

One complaint we sometimes hear from foreigners living in Japan is that their apartment or house is not as well insulated as their place back home.

In fact, there are many inexpensive, easy-to-use products available in Japan for insulating your home.

When shopping at your local DIY store or on Amazon.co.jp, use the word 断熱 (dan-netsu) or insulation in your search.

For example, aluminium insulating curtains significantly cut down on heat loss in the winter (and prevent the loss of cool air in the summer), though they are admittedly not the most attractive thing to hang in your living room.

A lot of heat is also lost through the front doors of apartments. A solution is to rig up a large plastic or aluminium insulating sheet to keep warm air from escaping through your front door, but again you will be sacrificing aesthetics for energy efficiency, as your genkan (foyer) might look like this:

DSC_0234

Use a high-tension pole and large plastic  or aluminium sheet to inexpensively insulate your front door.

Click here to see insulating curtains and here for insulating 3M tape for sealing up your front door on Amazon.co.jp.

Kotatsu

A kotatsu (火燵) is a low, wooden table frame covered by a heavy blanket, underneath which is a heat source. It is the way that many families in Japan stay warm in the winter. The photo at the top of the article is a modern kotatsu.

A kotatsu heats up your whole body with a minimum of heat loss because most of the heat is trapped under the blanket. The downside of a kotatsu, of course, is that once you comfortably settle yourself in, you may not ever want to get up.

Kittens enjoying the warmth from a kotatsu. Photo: buzz-netnews.com

Kittens enjoying the warmth from a kotatsu. Photo: buzz-netnews.com

Settling in for the winter in a kotatsu. Photo: bellemaison.com

Settling in for the winter in a kotatsu. Photo: bellemaison.com

Make Nabe for Dinner

Kill two birds with one stone by cooking a nabe (鍋 or nabemono 鍋物, a traditional Japanese hot pot dish) for dinner.  There are many kinds of nabe but whatever kind you choose to make, the steam from the bubbling pot will help heat your house, while you enjoy a hearty meal.

Chanko nabe was originally served only to Sumo wrestlers.[citation needed] Chankonabe is served with more ingredients than other nabemono, as it was developed to help sumo wrestlers gain weight.[citation needed] Many recipes exist but usually contain meatballs, chicken, vegetables such as Chinese cabbage and udon

Heat up your body and your home with chanko nabe (which usually contains meatballs, chicken, vegetables and Chinese cabbage). Chankonabe was developed to help sumo wrestlers gain weight. Photo: Nesnad- Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons

Pet Sleeping Bag

We heard the other day that if you’ve thought of it, there is already a Japanese company marketing it. This one is for readers with a feline or canine companion. Pamper your pet with this sleeping bag, available for 2,380yen ($20) on Amazon.co.jp.

Pet sleeping bag. Photo:

Pet sleeping bag. Photo:  ottostyle.jp

Stay warm everyone and enjoy the end of the year holidays!

Photo Credit: Bellemaison.com