Ishikawa winters, while breathtaking, can be some of the harshest in central Honshu. Over the weekend, about 50 cm of snow fell and I’m worried that my house will soon be buried in snow.
It didn’t take long to realize that winters in Japan present some very different issues. The absence of central heat, the un-insulated homes, and the usage of gas heaters and kotatsu are among them. In addition, bills can easily double or triple with rising energy consumption. This is my third winter in the Noto and I’ve learned how to stay even warmer while significantly lowering my bills and being more “Eco-Friendly”.
Problems and their Solutions
1) Wasted time and gained weight being in the kotatsu all the time.
-Bring any kind of “portable task” drawers full of clothes, random paperwork, letters, jewelry, etc. to organize while sitting in a warm area of the house and listen to music or watch a TV show. (I heart Multi-tasking!)
-Changed the kind of food that I prepare and limit “kotatsu snacks” to fruits.
-Commited to exercise at a gym with a friend and to do an in-house exercise program. I do a 20 minute exercise program that I found on the internet. Exercise will warm you up and keep you warm well after the exercise session. Plus, your healthy body is more tolerant of the cold.
2) Didn’t like using gas heaters.
-Started using an extra comforter or two. Creating insulation is a great way to keep warm. So, I layer bedding and clothing as much as possible.
-Bought an electric oil space heater (10,000 yen) and an electric space heater (3,000 yen). They have a timer so that can shut off after a few hours when the room and futon is warmed up.
*The drawback is that the air gets too dry (which I address in #3).
3) Laundry took forever to dry.
-Do all the laundry possible on the same day and dry it all at once. To avoid it taking a week for things to dry, I hang things in my bedroom that I heat during the night. The clothes usually dry by morning and it adds moisture to the dry air (free humidifier!).
4) Getting dressed was painfully cold.
-Bring the clothes that I’m going to wear to the room I sleep in (including coat and scarf) so they are warm when I wake up. If it’s not the morning and you’ve been using your kotatsu, put the clothes down under the kotatsu to warm up before changing.
5) Didn’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen.
-Cook a lot of one pot dishes like nabe and stews that will last at least a couple days. Put it in the refrigerator or freezer.
-Use the same boiled water to cook vegetables then pasta. After removing the pasta, quickly rinse the hot pot in the sink (not using soap) and use it to make the sauce.
7) It takes a while for the water to warm up enough to wash face and hands.
-Turn on the button for the hot water while you brush your teeth with the hot water on. By the time you finish, the water is warm enough for your face and hands.
Additional Energy-saving Tips
-Keep all doors and windows shut right. Block a under door drafts with a towel.
-Do the things that need to be done in cold areas of the house right after a hot shower or after exercising when your body is still warm.
-If you have a heated toilet seat, be sure to unplug it when you go away for a weekend of snowboarding.
-Bring food and clothes to the bedroom so that you can eat and change in a warm room.
-After a hot shower, open the door just enough to pull towel in, close it and then completely dry off before getting out.
-Buy an aluminum mat (about 1,000 yen at the local homeware store) and put it under the kotatsu to conduct heat.
-Close doors right when you leave a room. Also, make sure those little vents on the bottom of doors and windows are properly closed.
-Soak up all the free office heat you can! Bring a book or something else that you can do and stay after work for a while.
-Hit up the local onsen. Taking baths at home uses a lot more water than a shower (unless you live with your family and are using the same water like Japanese families do). There are so many onsens in Ishikawa. So why not take it as an opportunity to get you out of the house and utilize water that would be there heating whether you go or not.
-Have lots of nabe party sleepovers! Not only is it fun but, the energy that is saved if two or three people are cooking and staying in the same place really adds up.
Stay warm and try to save money and resources whenever possible. “Challenge-y!”