After hauling the laundry out of the washer my hands were numb. The washer sits outside of the ofuro (tub room) in a little tin-roofed mudroom type area that is attached to the house. Temps have been dropping into the 40’s and 30’s. Not bad I guess if you live in a country where homes are centrally heated-unlike Kyushu Japan.
The first year here was hard. Mornings were the worst. The alarm would go off at around 6am and I’d have to use all my willpower to make myself get out of bed and face the freezing kitchen. Before leaving the bedroom which has an electric heater / AC type wall unit (too expensive to put into every room) I’d don sweatpants, knee socks, a long-sleeved undershirt, sweatshirt, neck warmer , long fingerless “house” gloves, slippers and my sweat jacket.
Once in the kitchen I hit the power button on the kerosene stove and then the coffeemaker switch. After I fired up the gas stove to cook breakfast things heated up pretty quick. There is a thermometer on the kerosene stove that registers the indoor temp-most mornings during the winter the room temp is around 10-12 degrees c-about 50 degrees F. Last winter it was around 8 degrees c for a while or about 46 degrees F.
Most mornings before the kitchen heats up you can clearly see your breath when you talk or exhale just for the fun of seeing your breath in the kitchen.
You can always see your breath in the toilet room. Thank goodness our toilet seat is heated.
Nothing much has changed except that we are used to it now. Except the freezing cold tub-room. You never really get used to that. No heat at all in there. There is a technique to surviving taking a bath in the winter. The trick is to get into the hot tub as fast as possible and sit in it until your body is heated. Then getting out and scrubbing down isn’t so bad-it’s almost a relief when you are super heated from the hot water. The Japanese ofuro is hot-really hot. Specially in winter and now I understand why. Sure feels awesome on a cold winter’s day. I still think it’s funny how steam rises from your entire body when you first get out of the tub.
So the days have become cold now and we are wondering how much snow we will get this year. This area doesn’t get much but, it does get cold. Rumor has it that this winter will be a very cold one with more snow than usual.
At the moment we are at the end of our extended autumn. The ginkgo trees seem to be at peak and the leaves are starting to fall off.
My inner child loves shuffling through the golden leaves on the way to the store. I never get tired of shuffling thru autumn leaves nor of the earthy smell that rises up from the chilly ground.
The photo above invokes feelings of sadness-not sure why.
Our front momiji will soon be bare. It didn’t “autumn” nicely this year like it usually does. It went red quite suddenly and developed a scraggly look. Perhaps the scorching summer had something so do with it.
Hard to believe that in a little over three weeks the New Year will be upon us. Local grocery stores are starting to display New Year decorations. Actually they are more than just decorations, they each have a cultural and traditional significance.
Pictured below is a bin of shimekazari-sort of a wreath you hang on the front door.
I wrote a blog post a while ago about the meanings of the Japanese New Year decorations:
Just for the fun of it-a quick snap of our local grocery store. It’s kind of a mini-department store with groceries on one side and clothing / blankets / carpets etc on the other. There is a pharmacy way in the back and a new 100 yen section too. This is my usual go to store-about a 15-20 minute walk from the house. In the center they set up some tables and chairs and you are welcome to buy pre-cooked bento or a sandwich and eat at one of the tables. I actually do that sometimes. Makes life interesting and sometimes I end up meeting someone new. People are curious about “foreigners” and often approach me with questions. Now that my Japanese is better I don’t mind.
We have yet to secure a ryokan for our annual family New Year. Several years ago-since we moved back to Japan actually, MIL decided that she wanted the family to spend the New Year holidays at a traditional Japanese inn where no one would have to cook. Cooking traditional foods is a huge part of the New Year celebration in Japan. Each dish has a special significance (post to come later). It is quite a lot of work for the womenfolk.The menfolk have the task of keeping the plastic tubs full of ice and beer and drinking it.
This year hotels and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) are full across Kyushu. We may have found something in Nagasaki but- not sure. Everything is up in the air right now and one possibility is that our home turn into “ryokan” for the event. Not something my husband nor I really want but if there is no place else to go then that might be a possibility.
And just a postscript: for those that don’t know-I have a separate blog where I blog about my Christian faith and related issues Ordinary Faith