Robin’s Questions Answered

Robin had these questions:

How do you/they survive in the heat and humidity? Do you at least use fans? Is air conditioning even available? I can never understand why Japan, a country of such wonderful electronics etc, puts up with season after season of cold and heat and humidity without doing what Americans do – get central heating and air conditioning.

To answer these questions I actually discussed them with the four women in Tuesday-ladies group. I really wanted to get their opinions and perspective. It was very interesting! The answers are from the perspective of native Japanese-all older mature women.

Here are their comments (various comments from the 4 women):

Central heat and air conditioning are not cultural in Japan. We Japanese enjoy living naturally with the seasons and natural temperatures. Culturally we have other ways of keeping cool or warm during various seasons. For example-we have kotatsu heater tables , kerosene stoves and warm clothing in the winter. In the summer we use electric fans, cool neck scarves, hand fans, and ice.

Living with the natural temperatures is good for the body. We are hard workers both inside and outside. Relying on central heat or coolness would affect our body in an adverse way and we would become weak-and not be able to work so hard outside during winter or summer months.

Japanese people view central heat and cool as something “foreign” in many ways. It does not fit well with our philosophy of life.

Central heating and cooling is considered a luxury. It is a very expensive system to install and only rich people can afford such luxury.

Traditionally Japanese do not have personal rooms for everyone. Houses are small and families traditionally gather together in one room. That is the room that is heated with a kotatsu or kerosene heater. It is considered wasteful to heat or cool the entire house when only one room is being used.

Japanese houses are structurally different. They aren’t built with the intention of installing a central system-anyways, it would be far too costly to install.

Electricity to run a central system would be too expensive.

There is some form of central heat in Hokkaido because it gets very cold there and they have lots of snow. We don’t need that kind of system here because it does not get as cold and anyways-we are tough.

And some notes from Mrs. N: Robin-we do have wall units that can be installed (not cheap) that blow cool air in summer and hot air in winter. We have two such units-one in our bedroom and one in the TV room. However we only turn on one at a time-running them both at the same time is expensive and anyhow-we only heat or cool the room we are in-this is the philosophy here-motainai or waste not want not. This is Japanese culture. Takes some getting used to. Sometimes I complain and whine….  :)

4 thoughts on “Robin’s Questions Answered

  1. My take on it always was that in Japan they heat (and cool) the person. Kotatsu, clothes, fans are items that can be used on a person, not a space. In the USA they heat/cool the space not the person. So, the process by which people adjust varies.
    This really came home for me when I saw the sleeping kimono from Tohuku at the amuse museum- a giant padded and quilted kimono that the man of the house donned and then all the rest of the family were wrapped inside- the people were warm, the house was not. Efficient use of minimal resources

  2. Thank-you so much for the information. This really clears things up for me (and makes me feel like Americans are weather-weenies!!) Maybe America could use more of this sense of “living with” and thus acclimatizing to whatever the ambient weather temperatures are. Quite a lot of folks in America do try to keep their heat turned down to 68 degrees in winter and wear sweaters etc. Please tell your Japanese friends thank you for such thoughtful comments and information.

  3. Hi Robin- I’m glad you enjoyed the interaction! My friends will be thrilled- really! Living in the country -little opportunities like this that enable them to interact with a global community is actually really exciting for them. One in particular doesn’t have Internet – in fact she still uses an old fashioned washer and a black dial desktop phone! She will be thrilled! I’ll tell them. 😊👘

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