How to stay warm in winter…Japanese style

13 Feb

The day before yesterday, it was snowing in many parts of Japan…including Tokyo.

(That day (February 11th) was also a holiday in Japan, so we didn’t have to go to work or school in the snow.)

Does it snow in the winter where you live?

It normally snows one or two days each winter in Tokyo. And not a lot of snow. The snow that fell here Friday melted later in the day.
(It does snow much heavier in northern Japan, though.)

How do you stay warm in the winter where you live?
Do you heat your entire house with electric central heating? It’s a waste to heat the whole house all day…especially parts of the house that are unoccupied.

In Japan we stay warm in winter a bit differently.

First of all, rather than heating unused rooms of the house with central heating, homes here use either an electric wall-unit air-conditioner / heater or a gas heater and warm only rooms with people in them.

Japanese wall-unit A-C / heater is high-tech with a timer and remote-control.

The same gas room heater that we have.

The heater isn’t on all day and night. Once the room is warm enough, it’s turned off. Saves money.

But this isn’t the only technique used here.
We also use:

Heated carpet

炬燵 (A "kotatsu") traditional Japanese table with a heater under it to keep you warm in winter and a blanket to keep it's heat in.

"Hanten" winter room coat

湯たんぽ (Hot-water bottle)

Also, bathtubs in Japan are separate from the shower and they have a thermostat that keeps the water warm…so, unlike bathtubs in America, Japanese baths are used daily—especially in the winter.

Outside the house, during the cold months in Japan you can buy hot canned coffee, tea and other drinks from vending machines.

And many people carry 「ホカロン」 (charcoal hand-warmers).

Charcoal hand-warmers

Does your country have any useful techniques like these to stay warm during the winter?

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18 Responses to “How to stay warm in winter…Japanese style”

  1. Asad Niazi February 14, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    By the way, Japanese Gas & Fan Heaters are very much liked and available here.

    Like

    • tokyo5 February 14, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

      Well, they’re quality so it makes sense.
      My heater is in Japanese, of course … but I’m surprised that they’d be in Japanese in another country.

      Like

  2. Asad Niazi February 14, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    Hello tokyo5,
    Can you help me out. I have a Tokyo Gas heater which is working fine here in Pakistan.
    I had one problem, the menu and all the instructions are in japanese and I dont understand a word of it.
    Is it possible that I send you the menu pics and you tell me what it says. meaning translate the menu to me or if you could help me locate the manual in english?
    Thanks for your cooperation in advance.
    Regards
    Asad Niazi
    asad70@gmail.com

    Like

    • tokyo5 February 14, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

      You have a Japanese gas heater in Pakistan?
      Where did you buy it?

      You have it working, but you have a question about the display or the functions?

      I’ll be happy to help … but couldn’t the store that sold it to you answer your questions?

      Please use me blog’s “Contact Me” form to email me.

      Like

      • Asad Niazi February 14, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

        I like to send you the menu display picture and if you could let me know in simple english what is written there.. meaning what button does what, It will be a great help.
        Thanks for your time.

        Like

      • tokyo5 February 14, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

        OK. Send me a photo of it.

        Like

  3. Windy April 17, 2011 at 2:34 am #

    Hmm… all the methods mentioned are useful, and I certainly got to give them a try this winter. That said, I’m not left with the overall impression that the Japanese way is that much better than the American way. It uses less electricity, yes, but it’s not equal in comfort, and it’s quite inefficient in its own way.

    There’s no denying that heating your entire house is quite wasteful, especially if you aren’t heedful of the temperature you’re keeping it at, but insulation is a huge advantage. I’d be curious to find out precisely how much energy is wasted in the Japanese system due to the fact a room can’t seem to hold heat/AC for more than twenty minutes. It bothers me that the entire time I have the heat on, it’s -running-.

    I also think the Japanese should consider moving away from–or drastically improving upon–the gas space heaters. I can’t bring myself to trust something that recommends I air out the room so regularly lest I poison myself with monoxide. (Besides, that’s more hot air going out the window -_-‘)

    At the same time, a lot of Americans could stand to keep their thermostats lower and deal with the remaining discomfort via extra layers, hot water bottles, and some of the other nice things you listed above. It’s my personal opinion that we could also use better-made comforters. I was cold at night in my centrally heated house because in spite of being 50-55F at the lowest, my blankets didn’t insulate me that well. In comparison, my bedding here–which includes an electric blanket that I shut off before sleeping–has kept me warm on mornings that were a little below freezing. If I were to meet the maker of my Japanese winter bedding, I’d seriously offer to buy them a beer. Kotatsu and hot water bottles are also amazing.

    In the end, I’m not sure what the real solution is. I guess I think it lies somewhere between the two. Though, I admit I think my fellow Americans have a little more to learn from the Japanese method than vice versa.

    Like

    • tokyo5 April 17, 2011 at 3:36 am #

      It’s true that Japanese houses should be better insulated but I still stay that the Japanese methods of staying warm in winter are superior.

      That said, winter has just ended…summer will be here before long. I’ll have to write a post explaining “How to stay cool in summer…Japanese style”!

      Like

  4. Eric February 17, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    I actually think the heating situation is not efficient at all in Japan. Heating up each room separately from freezing cold all of the time is a waste of energy. If the houses were properly insulated and kept the same temperature all of the time like in Canada, the heater doesn’t have to be on very often to keep it warm. Whereas with barely any insulation keeping the room warm is impossible. Maybe it’s fine in Tokyo where it’s not so cold, but up here in Sendai indoors it can sometimes be 0 or 1 degrees inside. If you heat up the room, once you turn off the heat it quickly becomes cold again (like in 30 minutes). Doesn’t sound too efficient to me.

    Like

    • tokyo5 February 17, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

      >I actually think the heating situation is not efficient at all in Japan…in Canada, the heater doesn’t have to be on very often to keep it warm.

      As I wrote in this post, most people in Japan don’t depend entirely on the heater to stay warm. Using the gas heater in only the room you’re in (and switching it off once the room is warm), as well as Hanten, Kotatsu, etc. saves a lot of money.

      I know someone who lived in New York. He told me that his electric bill was sky-high every month in winter due to heating the whole house…even if he kept the temperature set as low as could be tolerated.

      It’s true that houses in Japan aren’t well-insulated…but my house is comfortable in winter and it’s not so expensive.

      Like

      • Eric February 19, 2011 at 11:24 am #

        >I know someone who lived in New York. He told me that his electric bill was sky-high every month

        I agree,heating you house only with electricity is easily the worst way. That’s why in Canada we mostly use natural gas to heat our houses. It’s the cheapest and best.

        >It’s true that houses in Japan aren’t well-insulated…but my house is comfortable in winter and it’s not so expensive.

        Yeah, and you live in Tokyo which isn’t really cold at all. In fact it’s quite warm.

        Like

      • tokyo5 February 20, 2011 at 1:44 am #

        >Tokyo…isn’t really cold at all. In fact it’s quite warm.

        Sendai and Canada are colder than Tokyo…but it’s not “warm” here in winter.
        It’s plenty cold here right now.

        It’s also quite hot and humid here in the summer…and similarly to how Japan has many ways to stay warm in winter, there are many great ways to stay cool here in the summer.
        Next summer I’ll write a post about that.

        Like

  5. metalodyssey February 14, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    Our house is hooked up with electric central heating. There is no way to turn off the heat per room, so unoccupied rooms get the heat, no matter what. I really like the efficiency of your heating system(s) you have in place there… money means everything, especially in the Winter when the electric bill goes up! We are careful with setting our thermostat too. Our “usual” temperature setting is 67 degrees fahrenheit, maybe 68 or 69 degrees is set inside for those “wicked” sub-zero to below freezing nights.

    I’m always making sure that everything is weather tight, with no air blowing in from the door or window cracks. Sealing up these little areas where heat can escape out is a wise thing to do. Our house in only 5 years old… still it’s not 100% weather tight or full-proof!

    Did you get any home-made chocolate today? You lucky if you did. 🙂

    Like

    • tokyo5 February 14, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

      >Our house is hooked up with electric central heating.

      I think that’s the way nearly every house is in America.

      >money means everything

      Japan also has many ways to stay cool in summer without central A/C.

      Other things that are common in American homes, but not common at all in many other countries including Japan are electric clothes dryers and dishwashers.
      They’re both wastes of money…and clothes stay in much better shape if they’re never put in an electric dryer.

      >unoccupied rooms get the heat, no matter what.

      You could turn it off and use gas heaters in the living / dining rooms when everyone in your family is in the same room.

      >Our “usual” temperature setting is 67 degrees fahrenheit, maybe 68 or 69 degrees

      67 – 69°F = about 19.4 – 20.5°C.
      We keep our gas heater set in that same temperature range.

      >Our house in only 5 years old… still it’s not 100% weather tight or full-proof!

      That’s something that American houses have over the ones here…houses here aren’t built very well insulated.

      >Did you get any home-made chocolate today (Valentines Day)?

      Yes. From my wife and daughters.

      Like

  6. Bryn February 13, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

    You forgot kotatsu! I finally bought one this year. So cozy! Once I’m all tucked in, I hate getting up! The newer houses on base have central heat/air, but we live in an older house with steam radiators in each room. They’re always on full blast in the winter because we have no insulation, just plain, cinder block walls, and the doors and windows are horribly drafty!

    Like

    • tokyo5 February 14, 2011 at 12:59 am #

      >You forgot kotatsu!

      Actually, I didn’t forget about the “Kotatsu” heated table…it was one of the first things that I thought of when I decided to write this post. But I forgot to add it in.

      Thanks for reminding me though…I just added it to the post.

      >I finally bought one this year. So cozy!

      Yes, they’re very nice.

      >The newer houses on base have central heat/air

      It’s a waste of money to heat / cool the entire house like that, I think.

      I had no idea what types of houses are on the American military bases in Japan…are they “American” style. Do you wear your shoes indoors?

      Like

  7. bartman905 February 13, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Well, Canada is known as the Great White North … so it snows here 12 months of the year (well, not quite).

    One thing that I did not experience during my almost 3 year stay in Japan was living in a traditional home without central heating as you do. We lived in a new and modern high rise, western style apartment building (where many foreigners and expats live). I really shouldn’t even mention that we had heated floors.

    Like

    • tokyo5 February 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

      >We lived in a new and modern high rise, western style apartment building

      Yeah, you lived in “Roppongi Hills”…not the type of place that most people in Japan live in. 😉

      >I really shouldn’t even mention that we had heated floors.

      Actually I was going to mention heated floors and heated toilet seats in this post…but they’re not found in the “average” home in Japan.

      Like

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