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Winter Survival

Fukuoka winters can get surprisingly cold, and heating methods are supplementary rather than central. Here are several methods you can use to keep warm.

Slippers, cozy socks and layers of cheap unattractive clothing are your first line of defense.

Cooking is healthy, gets you moving and the gas burners and toaster oven generate lots of heat.

Kerosene heaters are freestanding units also use batteries or electricity. All are designed to shut off automatically if moved, tilted or shaken. Newer types shut off if there is not enough oxygen in the room. Always leave a window or door slightly open as lack of ventilation can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Kerosene (灯油 toyu or 石油 sekiyu) remains popular because it is relatively cheap, though getting it from the gas station to your home on a bicycle can be cumbersome. Plastic kerosene containers (ポリ容器 pori youki) and siphons (給油ポンプ kyuuyu pompu) are sold at home goods stores.

Stoves (ストーブ sutoobu) refer to the old battery-operated types and emit somewhat smelly fumes, especially when switched on and off.

Fan heaters (ファンヒーター fan hiita) are newer electric types with time and temperature settings as well as a fan to disperse the heat.

Air-conditioners (エアコン ea-con) generally heat as well as cool. They require more power to run than kerosene heaters but are undoubtedly more convenient. Instructions for air-con usage can be found here.

Kotatsu is a low table with an electric heater attached below the tabletop. Two blankets are used to trap in its heat. A kotatsu jiki (コタツ敷き) is spread flat on the floor like a carpet. Then a kotatsu futon (コタツ布団) is placed between the table frame and the detachable top. In the cold winter months it’s easy to get sucked into the kotatsu and never want to leave, however sleeping under it is not advised.

Hot water bottles are an environmentally friendly way to keep warm. Place one in your bed a few minutes before you hop in to warm up the sheets. They also keep your feet warm throughout the night. Boil the same water repeatedly to conserve resources.

Pocket warmers (カイロ kairo) are singleuse packets that heat up when exposed to air. Some have adhesive for sticking right onto your clothing. They usually stay warm for about twelve hours. Do not sleep with kairo.

Humidifiers put much needed moisture – often lost through use of kerosene heaters and air-con units – back into the air. Prevent waking up with a dry scratchy throat by:

  • Placing a kettle of water on top of a stove heater (ストーブ sutobu).
  • Hanging wet laundry inside.
  • Opening the bathroom door after a steamy hot shower.
  • Buying a cheap electric humidifier.

Money Savers
General Maintenance:

  • Clean filters (air-con, fans, fan heaters and vacuum) so they run more efficiently.
  • Adjust temperature settings in the fridge.
  • Turn off gas in the bathroom and kitchen when not in use.

Heating:

  • Arrange furniture with the seasons.
  • Close off unused rooms – it’s not economical to heat the whole apartment.
  • Consider warming foods (soup, stews etc) in winter to be another supplementary cooling/heating device.