I Hate You Japan

I did my first I Love You Japan post but now I'm going to lay right into this country. Sure it's fun to live here and every day is an adventure. I like adventures. But on a daily basis some of them become tiresome, real fast.

And now, the #1 reason Japan sucks ass:


That's a picture of my house. Snow started falling this week and I'm painfully reminded of its inefficiencies. Heated toilet seats are nice and all, but seriously? That's NO replacement for a warm house, people! Is it really too much to ask? These days, in what's known to be the most developed Asian country and some would argue the most modern country in the world? Yes, apparently it is too much to ask.

Let me explain. Houses here have no central heating. Whatsoever. In anyone's house anywhere in Japan. Instead kerosine heaters heat one or two rooms that are kept shut off from the rest of the house. Also, homes in Japan are constructed with little or no insulation and paper-thin walls. I can't really figure this one out. My only theory is if the house falls down during an earthquake the walls won't be heavy enough to kill people ... as much. But that's all I got.

To stay warm people are fond of using electric space heaters, the aforementioned heated toilet seats, heated lap blankets, heated shawls and hand muffs (powered by USB port – I kid you not), heated rugs, heated foot pillows, hot water bottles, heating pad inserts for clothing, "heat wipes" (chemically heated wet wipes), and probably the dumbest of all, the Kotatsu.

This brilliantly designed contraption is a coffee table draped by comforter or blanket with a heater inside. Um no, I'd rather get in a sleeping bag with my dogs than take part in that aesthetic nightmare. Sorry. Would you want your living room to always look like a kid fort? Didn't think so. No matter how cozy and "exotic" these things look.

Here's another one, just in case you think I'm making this shit up. Note the obtrusive kerosine heater in the corner.

We have one kerosine heater in the main room, which is the living room and kitchen. The heater runs all the time and thankfully it's is hooked up to the ugly tank outside that also heats our water via the slightly less ugly (and extremely loud) on-demand water heater next to it. Both sit outside of all homes for the world to see, so I'm guessing city code requires them to stay out there in sub-zero winter temperatures. Because that makes so much sense.

Anyway. About that kerosine, a very nice man comes by in his cute little truck to fill the outdoor tank. He has no set schedule and sometimes he shows up every week or so, but sometimes not for weeks and we nearly die from exposure when the tank runs out. When we figure out what's going on we get someone who speaks Japanese to call the gas company and they send him over. That happened three or four times last winter. Good times.

Back inside, smack next to the bed in the bedroom upstairs is another kerosene heater we have to re-fill by hand every few days. (I keep it strategically hidden under a sheepskin in summer.) Can't tell you how many times we turned it on to warm up the room before heading up to bed, only to find it empty and cold, oh because there's no gauge on it. (Yeah, there's intelligence for you.) Refilling this thing is a real joy: Take its inner tank out, try not to drip gas on the bed (or tatami, stairs, hall, my slippers, the dogs, etc.) go outside with dish gloves on to avoid getting gas all over hands – the horrible smell takes days to dissipate – and attempt to pour or, if fingers aren't frozen yet, hand-pump kerosine from portable tanks, also left out there by the gas man. If he showed up that week.

The rest of the rooms are all cold all the time. When I say cold I mean you see your breath from December through March. I put on a down jacket to go in those rooms. So much fun!

It's not like I haven't been proactive. I've asked around. The expats laugh and say "Welcome to Akita!" A friend from New Zealand even calls winter here inhumane. Japanese people totally accept this way because to them there IS no other way. One guy suggested I put bubble wrap on the windows, so I went to the hardware store to investigate. The stuff is made specifically for windows, but it looks like aluminum foil. Sorry Japanese dude, I refuse to put foil on my windows LIKE A CRACK HOUSE. I don't care if there's no crack in Japan, I have standards.

So living through the cold months in Japan is one step away from winter camping. I'm from Colorado, I like camping, I like winter, I've even winter camped before ... but living like this every day?? It's rough. Not to mention totally inefficient and expensive. I don't think I'll ever understand it.

Okay, rant over. That was a long one. Believe it or not I'm trying to stay positive about living here but I'm still a realist and (I hope) this exercise will be cathartic so maybe I won't attempt hara-kiri before I split Japan. In other words, good on you for being my virtual therapist.


  1. I LOVE your commentary-I'm dying laughing at my desk and everyone wants to know what I'm laughing out loud about (especially at the crack comments)! And while I'm laughing my warm tush off, I do have sympathy for your cold one. (Try) to stay warm and know I'm still working on sending some sunshine and warmth your way-I've left explicit instructions for Kevin to pass along in a northerly direction to you. :) In the alternative, I hope the gas man starts showing up more often.

    1. I'm here to entertain! So many things here continue to perplex me and if I don't keep a sense of humor about it, I'll start resorting to violence. Which reminds me I need to write a post called How to Survive a Dog Attack in Japan ;)