We’re almost free from winter!

Posted by in Mary's blog

I don’t like winter.  I have fond memories of liking winter as a child.  I enjoyed playing in the snow with my brothers and sisters.  We built snow forts, had snowball fights, made snowmen and snow angels, and went tobogganing.  I think it was sometime in my teens that I stopped enjoying the season.  I’m just not a fan of being cold.

We’ve had a mild winter this year in Japan, and spring is just around the corner (my favourite season!!).  But winter in Japan still feels quite COLD.  I know I’m a Canadian and I’m very familiar with cold winters, but somehow it just feels colder here.  IT ISN’T, not even close to it (especially this year’s abnormally cold winter in Southern Ontario), but there are a few reasons why it feels that way.

Houses in Japan aren’t built to handle the cold.  They don’t have central heat or baseboard heaters for that matter.  Instead, stoves are used to heat most houses and schools here.  At my school, each classroom has a large gas stove with a long pipe to vent it outside.  It works ok.  We keep the doors and window closed aside from the occasional venting of the classroom, however, there is a flaw.  There are no heaters (stoves) in the hallways.  You can see what I’m getting at.  The temperature in the hallway is about the same as outside: COLD.  Stoves are also not kept running all day and night, but are used when they are needed.  That means if my students are coming from P.E. (Physical Education), the classroom is not going to be warm when I arrive.  Likewise at home, if nobody is home, there is no reason to heat the house (if you are awake, there is no reason to keep heating your bedroom).  So when we arrive home, it is usually pretty cold.  Sometimes we remember to set the timer on our air conditioner (used to both heat and cool), but sometimes we don’t.  Also, houses in Japan don’t seem to get insulated either or at least not very well, and I can often feel the cold air coming in through the windows.  There is just no escaping the cold in winter.

There are a few things Japan has that make winter more bearable.  The heated toliet seats are great, but there is a reason why we don’t see them in Canada.  In Canada, the bathroom just doesn’t get that cold.  The kotatsu is by far my favourite.  Sometimes I will sit on the floor and pull the kotastu blanket up to my neck.  The heat from the kotatsu can make me want to stay there forever.  In past years, we haven’t used our air conditioner as much and just huddled under the kotatsu, but with a new baby in the house the air conditioner has seen a lot more use and as a result our bill has also gone up.  Another favourite is the hot chocolate in cans found in many vending machines in winter.  If you have cold hands, it has the added bonus of warming up your hands as you drink it.  Hot coffee and hot soup in cans can also be found.  And this year, we even saw hot ginger ale.

February has been the month of sickness for our family.  We had the typical colds, coughing, and runny noses associated with winter.  I can handle those.  But in February we also got the stomach flu.  First, the Turtle got it.  Then he was kind enough to pass it on to his mommy, and I in turn gave it to Mike.  And just when we thought we were over it, the Bunny got it.  The Turtle and the Bunny also got pink eye.  Our household is still filled with the echoes of coughs and used tissues as we long to be well again.  We’ve been so sick of being sick, and we are so ready for spring already.

My current feeling for winter can be summed up in this statement: “Goodbye winter… you won’t be missed.”