January 20, 2011

Sound off!

Actually, let's keep talking about the cold.

Here's the thing: when you get into this program, or another ALT program, and you're packing to come to Japan, don't be like me. Don't say, "Oh, I'm going to a warm area, I don't need super-warm clothes. I can just layer these summer tops!"

Don't be like me back in the summer (i.e., an idiot). Don't be like me then, or you will be like me now, and you will hate yourself for it.

You see, things that are true:

1) Beppu is relatively warm (compared to, say, Nagano, yes, I know.)
2) Beppu is warmer than New York (I am asked about this 20 times a day.)

Things that are also true:

1) When people say "there is no insulation or heating in Japan," they mean there is no insulation or heating in Japan.

Or, as I put it to several of my coworkers: Yes, New York is colder. But in New York, we're not cold




I'm cold on the walk to school. I'm cold when I get to school. I'm cold sitting at my giant metal desk. I'm cold when they open the windows in the middle of winter, because they do that here. I'm cold when I walk home. I'm cold when I sit in my room, even next to my tiny space heater. I'm freezing when I go into the bathroom or hallway/kitchen area. I'm sometimes so cold in the middle of the night that I wake up of cold.

In fact, basically the only times I'm not cold are when I go to night school, which turns its giant kerosene heater to levels of crazy, or when I'm standing in the shower with all the hot water on.

As I said on my Facebook: I think I have a tendency to seem kind of disaffected sometimes -- it's a New York/Jewish/ex-goth/Ivy League thing -- but anyone who doubts my commitment to Sparkle Motion staying here should have seen me half an hour ago, when I went into the bathroom to take a shower and almost started crying it was so cold.

But I have to admit, a lot of this would have been mitigated if I hadn't been an idiot in the first place and just brought some warmer freaking clothes with me. Or believed my predecessor when she told me that the fan heater was totally sufficient for winter. Of course, she was from England, and I hear people are all insane there, too.*

*Disclaimer: I love English people and the insane.

I will say one thing that is also true about Japan, though. You hear all the time about how nice Japanese people are, and sometimes that's just not true at all, but sometimes it really is. To wit: today I was at the store, stockpiling on long underwear-like items with names like "Inner Heat," when a woman came over and shoved a piece of yellow paper into my hand. I blinked at her uncomprehendingly. She jabbed at it.

"This, use this one," she said, pointing. I realized it was a coupon flier, with several of the coupons X-ed out, but several more that were still usable and totally applied to my purchase. I saved a bunch of money! She ran off before I had a chance to thank you, so thank you, random woman!

I tried to pay it forward and give the flier to someone else, but no one else seemed to be seriously shopping, and the one woman I tried already had one, so I guess the universe wants me to be a greedy bastard for now.

Anyway, that was a tangent, and none of this was actually the point of this post. Oops. What I really wanted to do was put up a straw poll and/or recommendations list for myself and interested readers.

So! My fellow Oitans/temporary Nihonjin, what are you doing to beat the hea... wait, no. Dice the ice? Cheese the freeze?

Ooh! Kill the chill!

...Anyway, for dummies like myself, let us know your favorite methods for making it through the winter.


  1. "Or believed my predecessor when she told me that the fan heater was totally sufficient for winter. Of course, she was from England, and I hear people are all insane there, too.*"

    As a crazy English/Welsh person (aha), I managed perfectly fine with just a fan heater last year. This year is significantly more cold than last year! :(

    This year I am coping by wearing lots and lots of clothes and never leaving my bed unless I absolutely have to...

  2. I never leave my kotatsu unless I have to... If I am not under the kotatsu then I am on my futons with my heated blanket.

    I also take really really long baths in the winter. I am talking 2hr., iPod in the waterproof speaker, reading a book, refreshing the bath water periodically kind of baths.

    At school there is always some part of me that is cold. My torso might be warm (my face even turns all nice a red) but my fingers will be blue and my feet frozen... The bath is a nice way to get the all over warmth.

  3. Hey hey hey, have some cold fighting advice from a second year Nagano-Jet:

    1) If your heater has a timer, use the holy hell out of it. The timers aren't there for show. Before I go to bed, I set my timer for half an hour before I wake up. I find that I am much more willing to get out of a warm bed when the room around me isn't freezing.

    2) Have people over for nabe. Enjoy said nabe under the kotatsu and pretend that you are all huddled together because you like one another and not because it's a body heat thing.

    3) Stock up on those disposable heating pads that you always see your students playing with. They actually help a lot. Keep them in your pockets during the day for glorious success. They make disposable heating pads specifically for your shoes, and I can't recommend them enough. Even with the heaters on, the floors at my school are *so cold* that they make the soles of my shoes equally as cold. Socks can only go so far!

  4. Wear heat tech from uniqlo all the time under your clothes. Wear tights and maybe even a few pairs of socks, leg wamers could be nice too. Gloves and caps...
    And wrap yourself into your sheets when you're at home, even when you're not in bed. Buy a warm fluffy pyjama and warm fluffy clothes to wear over your normal clothes at home.
    And, as I found out just recently, proper shoes a r e in fact warmer than tearing apart converse...
    Drinking a hot chocolate or warm ocha is nice too (;

    and wait for spring to come, summer will be warm enough and you'll be complaining about the humid hot climate early enough ...
    good luck!