To Drive the Cold Winter Away: Resource Roundup

Starting to feel the cold? It’s been a (relatively) mild winter so far, but Ishikawa snow and storms can last through March. Brace yourselves–winter’s still here.

Staying Warm

SnJ Guide to Winterizing Your Japanese Apartment

SnJ Guide to Heaters in Japan

Kerosene Heaters: How to Use Them and How to Clean and Store Them

Energy-saving Tips for Staying Warm

How to Dress for Winter

Staying Healthy and Happy

Lifehacker on Avoiding the Winter Blues

Cold Medicine in Japan

Flu Prevention from the CDC

Life Outside the Kotatsu

Driving in Winter in Japan: common sense articles from Fukuoka JET and Japan Info Swap

Upcoming Festivals and Events (Japanese)

Hakusan Snowman Festival, Feb. 8th t0 10th, 2013. If you contact the Hakusan International Association by January 31st, you can reserve a spot on a special tour bus for foreign residents and visitors. The cost of the bus tour is 1,000 yen. See the 2013 Snowman Festival Tour Flyer  for details.

Kenrokuen Winter Light-Up

The weather has been awful lately, but nothing in Kanazawa is more beautiful in the winter than Kenrokuen (兼六園) in the snow!

Kenrokuen’s FREE winter light-up will be held

Friday, 4 February, to Sunday, 6 February 2011


Thursday, 10 February, to Sunday, 13 Feb. 2011 (including the holiday on Friday, 11 Feb., Constitution Day)

from 17:30-21:00 each night. (Last entry at 20:45.)


Take the bus bound for “Kenrokuen shita” (兼六園下) from Kanazawa Station (East Gate bus-boarding area #3; West Gate bus-boarding area #4); get off at Kenrokuen-shita (兼六園下). The Kanazawa Loop Bus and the Flat Bus (look for the signs in English by the East Exit).

From Kanazawa Station, it’s about a 25 minute walk to Kenrokuen via Korinbo (香林坊).


Hot-Ishikawa (Japanese)

Leah Zoller is a second-year CIR in Anamizu and the editor of this blog. She thinks Kenrokuen in the snow is one of the only redeeming factors of the Ishikawa winter.

SAD Times?

Japan, you have heard over and over, has four seasons. Though winter technically doesn’t begin until December 22nd (the solstice), both the weather and the department stores have moved into full winter mode. As you read this, you’re probably under your kotatsu eating something covered in Melty Kiss, with Heat Tec leggings and undershirts at the ready for your cold, windy, wet, dark tomorrow.

In addition to gangs of common colds, winter also brings with it another illness: Seasonal Affective Disorder, aptly anchronymized SAD. SAD isn’t the same as chronic or depression, though it can compound it, and it can start at any time in someone’s life. Those of you coming from the Southern Hemisphere are especially prone to SAD this season because you get two winters back to back–winter in your home country before coming here, and now winter in Ishikawa.

Most doctors believe that SAD is a response to a lack of natural light, often compounded by a change in nutrients as people change from a diet filled with summer and fall veggies and fruits to one…less filled with veggies and fruits. Symptoms include lethargy, disinterest in daily activities, oversleeping, overeating, anxiety, mood changes.

The good news is that even in Ishikawa, where the sun barely peaks through the clouds in the morning and it’s pitch black when you leave your school/BOE sometime around 4:30, there are lots of things you can do to winterize your mental health.

1. Try for 30 minutes in natural light–sunlight if you can get it–every day. This is a clinically proven way of beating the winter blues, and you will feel a little better almost immediately. If you have your lunches free and the weather permits, spend half an hour outside. If you don’t have lunch free, chances are, your school or BoE allows for one or two smoke breaks. Ask if you can use them to spend some quality time with the sun.

2. Wake up with the sun. Wait, don’t skip this one! Sunrise is at about 6:55 am here–morning sunlight probably starts just a little earlier than you wake up. Set one alarm for sunrise and one for your normal wakeup time, and just open the curtains when you hear the first one. Starting the day with some natural light makes a big difference.

3. Eat for your brain. Yes, chocolate is awesome. So is beer. So are tempura and croquettes. However, your brain needs some other things to get through the winter. During winter months, it’s best to up your consumption of folic acids, amino acids, omega 3s, protein, and vitamins C and D. Spinach (ほうれんそう), fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, mikans, milk, eggs, and whole grains like brown rice (玄米, genmai) and quinoa (キヌア) are great ways to come by these ingredients naturally. Stashing the mikans on your kotatsu along with (or instead of) the other snacks will also prevent guilt.

4. Don’t isolate yourself. Meet up with your friends often, especially your friends within the community. It’s easy to complain with other ALTs, CIRs, or foreigners about your troubles here, but much harder (or at least much more impolite) to complain to that nice lady at the bakery who likes to practice English with you, or the family that sometimes invites you out to dinner. Stay connected. After all, people all over the world have been driving the cold of winter away with the company of family and friends for millenia.

In two weeks, it will stop getting darker and start getting lighter every day. Meanwhile, your friends, Area Leaders, Prefectural Advisors, and JET hotline staff are there to help.

Stay warm and happy!

Lauren is an ALT in Komatsu and has a little too much experience with the winter blues from her days in Oregon and Minnesota.

My Experience with Phase Two

Winter in Ishikawa is well known for plunging people into Phase 2 of culture shock or cultural fatigue. The honeymoon period has worn off, and you’re sick of waking up freezing, being asked if you can use chopsticks, and perhaps getting a little bored.

Road Rage

Phase 2 is the “I hate everything and everyone and I wanna go home” phase. You can’t solve Phase 2 overnight, but the best advice I received about conquering Phase 2 was when I was studying abroad at Kansai Gaidai.

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Dressing for Winter

Running your heater constantly is bad for the environment and bad for your wallet. By changing how you dress and how you think about clothing, you can save money and save the earth.

1. Get Thermal Wear
Thermal wear, 保温下着 (ho-on shitagi), is a type of undergarment designed to trap heat and keep you warm while being much thinner and smoother than traditional long underwear. There are undershirts, of course, but you can also buy socks, leg warmers, scarves, underpants, gloves, stomach-warmers, etc. I like the undershirts and leg warmers best. Throw a undershirt under your pajamas, suit, or casual wear, and you’re set! Thermal wear is sold mainly at Uniqlo, Jusco, Shimamura, and Aeon.  Uniqlo’s line is called Heat Tech (hiito tekku, ヒートテック). Be sure to measure (bust/chest, length, waist) before you hit the stores because they tend to come prepackaged. Jusco/Aeon tends to have a better selection of sizes than other stores. Also, while this trick doesn’t work quite as well in reverse, if women’s sizes are too small or fit strangely, try men’s!
English explanation

The labels are often in English and have pictures of radiating heat; in department stores, they are usually with the underwear and socks.

2. Buy wool blends
100% cotton garments, especially thick sweaters, take forever to dry in the winter. Instead, shop for wool blends—the wool will dry much faster AND be warmer. Wool is ウール (uuru); acrylic is アクリル (akuriru); nylon is ナイロン (nairon); and cotton is 綿 (men).

3. Bring a blanket to work
If you work in one office (or even two), purchase a small lap blanket to use while you work at your desk. Your coworkers will be doing it, too.

4. Get better pajamas and home-wear

If you are used to running around your apartment back home in a tank top and cotton pajama pants in the dead of winter, you’re going to need to reevaluate your winter wear. If you have guests, you can always throw on a nicer sweater, thermal wear, and some leg-warmers under your jeans, but if you’re just watching TV, reading, or studying alone, it’s okay to not be 100% fashion forward to stay warm.

  • Make lighter pj pants last into winter by wearing leg-warmers underneath.
  • Get a bulky wool sweater to wear around the house or invest in some fleece pajamas or a housecoat from Uniqlo or Jusco.
  • Fingerless gloves are great for nights at home Skyping; an “indoor” hat will prevent the heat from escaping from your head before your shower/bath.
  • Thick wool socks or Heat Tech “home socks” will prevent your feet from freezing; wear thinner Heat Tech socks with your work shoes.

5. Get indoor “boots”
These slippers are fuzzy on the inside and cover the ankles. Shimamura tends to have then for fairly cheap, and they’re the best thing when you need to get out from under the kotatsu to cook, do laundry, or just move around.

6. Make the most of your wardrobe by layering
Japanese offices and schools do “cool biz” in the summer to reduce the use of AC. “Warm biz” is encouraged in the winter. You can extend the use of lighter clothing by layering.

  • Women’s dress shirts that have ¾ sleeves are great under long-sleeved sweaters (covers the arms).
  • For long-sleeved dress shirts, add Heat Tech underneath and/or a sweater vest, cardigan, or sweater on top.
  • Invest in a good winter suit, or at least warm dress pants/skirts and a wool blazer, especially for events and for staying warm before and after sweater season.
  • Leg-warmers are great because you can add or remove them more easily than long-johns—take them off before the long bike-ride to work and put them on when you get there.
  • Get a tube-scarf (neck-warmer) for home—unlike a regular scarf, it won’t get tripped on or dunked in your dinner.
  • Turtlenecks are another option for keeping your neck warm at home and work. I personally don’t really like the way I look in them, so I tend to add a nice scarf to some outfits to keep my neck warm.

Also, see this post on how to keep your apartment warm in the winter.

Stay warm!

Leah Zoller is a second-year CIR in Anamizu and the editor of this blog. She believes staying warm in winter and living an eco-friendly lifestyle absolutely go hand-in-hand.

Dealing with Winter

New to the Ishikawa JET Blog? Here are the links to all of our posts (to date) on dealing with winter!

Get your heater in order:

“How To Use a Kerosene Heater”

“How to Clean and Store Your Kerosene Heater”

Buy a cheap kotatsu:

“Sales and Bargains! Woo-Hoo!”

Save energy while staying warm:

“Energy-Saving Tips for Staying Warm”

“Stay Warm: Use a Hot Water Bottle”

“Korinbo Uniqlo to Open” (get some heat tech!)

Drink lots of tea:

“Lupicia Tea”

“Hot Lemon Drink”

Don’t catch a cold:

“Simple Flu Prevention”

“Recipe: Ginger Tea”

Kakkontou (葛根湯) – Prevent Your Cold with Ancient Chinese Herbs”

Take care of your skin:

“Winter Skincare”

Hide out in a cafe (and use their heat!):

“Restaurant Review: Sanuki no Udon-ya Hatabou and Café Moritat”

“Coffee Break at Nizami”

Have a warm and safe winter!

Leah Zoller is a second-year CIR in Anamizu and the editor of this blog. She would like to thank all the bloggers for their hard work writing these articles.

Winter Photo Contest 2010

Photo: Wide Island View

The folks behind the Hiroshima JET blog, Wide Island View, have decided to team up with the Ishikawa JET blog and do a little cross-prefectural promotion.  As part of that, we’d like to help advertise the Winter Photo Contest — with prizes — over at the Wide Island View website.

Send in your best winter photo of Japan, and get a chance to win some fun prizes, sponsored by NetPrice Japan.

Your photo must:

  • be set in Japan.
  • have a winter theme.
  • have been taken during the past six months.
  • have been taken by you.
  • be at least 1,200 pixels on any side (most cameras do this…)

Interested?  You’re competing against fellow foreigners, not professionals here.

Submit your photos to: wivcontests (at) gmail (dot) com and include

  • your name
  • your JET placement
  • photo title
  • location and short description of photo

Winners will get their choice of 3 prizes (see their site for pics!) and will have their photos displayed on the Englipedia website — whee, bragging rights!  Other photo submissions may also featured in the Shashin Spotlight on the Wide Island View website.

The deadline is April 1st, 2010.  Winners will be announced on April 5th on the Wide Island View website!

Check it out and help represent Ishikawa in a faraway prefecture!

Stay Warm: Use a Hot Water Bottle

While it’s hard to avoid using electric heaters (space heaters, kerosene heaters, and kotatsu) while at home in the winter, you can reduce your overnight electric use by using a hot water bottle to stay warm in bed. Sold at home-goods stores, the Japanese 湯たんぽ (yutanpo) are hot water bottles made of durable hard plastic and come with a soft cover.

Colorful Hot Water Bottle; image from

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