As the last of the Autumn leaves fall from the trees and the temperature drops, it’s time to start thinking about winter-proofing your house. Japanese houses are famously poorly insulated and lack central heating – I am still shocked that my parents-in-law rely on only a small kerosene heater and kotatsu as heat in their big, draughty house. Department stores and hardware shops are full of products to help winter-proof your home; we’re here to help you sort through the multitudes!
Firstly, keeping your house warm. Heating is expensive and getting more so; the trick is to keep the heat in. The usual tricks that we grew up with like thick curtains, shutting the blinds before it gets dark and wear warm clothes all apply! But the big problem here is keeping rooms warm without constant heater use. A good place to start is the front door – the biggest culprit for cold. A simple solution is the use of door snakes block breeze coming in under the door. They’re incredibly easy to do yourself, check out this link for ideas! Another idea to keep heat in living areas rather than in the genkan or outside is to use a curtain. Rods are found in almost every 100 yen shop and you can use a simple shower curtain or splash out on a beautiful noren.
Windows, or as I like to call them giant holes that suck in and out heat, are a problem area for most people. Add to that the dripping condensation that accumulates at night and it’s a recipe for frustration. A popular product here is bubble wrap that acts as a layer between the windows and the room. There are various types available, some that glue on or some that stick on with water. Check out Amazon for product ideas. The benefit of bubble wrap is that while it helps keep the cold out, it allows the light in which is important particularly for those with south facing windows. If the view isn’t that important to you, thicker, stick on products will do the same thing. Check out Nitori for some cute Christmas themed ones or even the pet aisle, some people swear by pet toilet mats to soak up the condensation!
Last winter, dampness seemed to be a never ending battle for us – the things in our closets were constantly damp and we grew some lovely mould. To protect your belongings, line closets, especially those that have an outdoors wall, with foam pads and place moisture absorbers in drawers to protect clothing. And as were told, open up windows (and your closets) during the day to dry out rooms.
Under foot, aside from fluffy slippers, heated carpets are a godsend, particularly for those with small children who like to play on the floor. For extra warmth place foil lining under the carpets. Of course, heated mats aren’t suitable everywhere, a solution to cold floorboards are floor tiles. While we’re down on the floor, let’s not forget that favourite of all Japanese warmers, the kotatsu; my kids love to snuggle under one while drawing, reading or playing games.
All the heating can take all the moisture out of the air and while this is good for condensation, it’s not so good for our bodies. A good humidifier will help keep germs at bay and more importantly, let everyone get a good night sleep by helping the snorers amongst us.
Finally, nothing beats a warm drink! A small cup of sake every night is a sure fire way to get your body heated; or as recommended to me by my housewife students, ginger and honey tea is another body warmer. A cup before bed will also help you sleep.
So good luck and just remember – in six months time we’ll all be worrying about the rainy season!
Mum to three very loud boys and wife to a patient Japanese man, I'm Australian and moved to the Kansai area in 2012. Aside from navigating all the craziness of being a mum in another country, I work semi-full time and try to keep my sanity! Of course I clean but I don't cook!