Cold is not fun
Phew, nothing like waking up at 630am to bone-chilling temperatures- it does wonders for your constitution. It was a harsh welcome back to school with a wonderful and frigid walk to class at 8 this morning. Sad to say, once I finally arrived at my class 15 minutes late, my face was numb and the snot was running full force. Not a pretty sight, and I'm sure that it didn't impress the teacher much either.
Fortunately, I made it through class and then took a nice, long nap in my warm bed. You know what else is nice? Having central heating. A lot of people may not know this, but most houses in Japan lack heat and a/c as we know it in the States- opting for weaker, room-sized units instead. Combine this with a deceptively cold and dry winter, and basically, you freeze your balls off.
It's cold outside, and then once your inside, expecting the warm, comfortable blast of heated air, well, it's just not there. Japanese houses have a more open design to stay cool during the summer months, however that means that they do not retain heat well at all when it's freezing out. Insulation? No, I don't think so. The lack of carpet in Japanese houses also feels great on your feet in the winter. My host family's house had essentially one heated room, the tiny kitchen/tv/dining/living room, and that was it. I had a gas heater in my room at first, but the smell led me to request and even weaker electronic heater that made only a small difference. Better pile on those futons!
My estimate was the room was no warmer than 50 degrees F during the winter months, and was one of the reasons that led me to move into an apartment with better heat. 50 may not seem like much, but when it's consistently that temperature or lower 24-7, through all your daily activities, it can get to you. I imagine it's tough to understand for those who have had heat their whole life, it's not something that such a person would really think about. And of course, most of the Japanese folks I stayed with grew up that way, and dealt with it well enough. So maybe I'm just complaining.
Most people have an opinion on whether they'd prefer to be in hot or cold temperatures. Previously, I always preferred to be in cooler temperatures, but my experience in Japan has really led me to respect and fear consistently cold temperatures. Don't take it lightly. When you're extremely hot, it can be quite uncomfortable (and debilitating to the vulnerbale), but when you get cold, I mean really cold, it kind of feels like you're dying a little bit. The cold doesn't mess around, and you shouldn't either. Stay warm out there.