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Saturday, Dec. 8, 2001

JAPAN LITE

Making central heating cool


It's wintertime and I'm huddled under the "kotatsu," the only square meter of heated space in the house. Sitting under the kotatsu is like grilling your limbs under a broiler or sticking your feet inside a toaster oven. I've taken on the two-tone look: blue upper body and red lower.

Why is it that after all these years, the Japanese haven't embraced central heating? The whole family huddling together under the kotatsu seems so old-fashioned, like cave men huddled around a fire. Some people on my island still use a hibachi, a ceramic pot with coals that heat a few surrounding air molecules.

Central heating could be just the thing to revive the economy. If the Japanese were properly introduced to the benefits of central heating, there would be a boost in consumer spending. Once they decided they needed it, they would buy all the heating products. Of course, the products would have to have a Japanese feel to them.

Instead, Japanese companies continue to come up with novelty items, such as robot dogs, that no one needs. Think of all that wasted brainpower to invent a robotic dog when they could have invented:

The house quilt
With the Japanese passion for covers of all sorts, it's a wonder that someone hasn't thought of covering an entire house to keep it warm. Furthermore, it would be very fashionable to have a house cozy with lace, applique or cartoon characters. Entire neighborhoods could have theme-based cozies.

Green tea insulation
It might be difficult to sell the Japanese on the idea of insulation, since they seem to like their houses drafty, as if they were living in a treehouse. If Japanese houses were made out of bamboo, at least we would have the benefit of hearing the rustling of bamboo leaves. Perhaps insulation could be marketed as healthy, made of seaweed and green tea. Insulation would make houses warmer because they would be airtight. Imagine -- no more indoor typhoons! And no more huddling around the kotatsu. Insulation could bring a modern image.

Colored heat
In an attempt to win people over to central heating, we could color it to make it more fashionable. If we had colored heat, we could see it floating around the room. Then, if we could make heat a little more tactile, we could gather up globs of it and throw them like snowballs. Heat would be fun!

Musical heat
Perhaps if we disguised heat in music, Japanese would be more tolerant of it. The stereo would be a good medium for the distribution of heat, since it would produce warm music rather than warm air blowing out of some unit stuck in the wall. Classical music would come out of speakers as loud heat.

Electronic sheep
Everyone knows that having lots of sheep in a barn keeps the barn warm. Rather than robot dogs, we need robot sheep that would give off body heat without the messy cleaning and feeding regimen. The colder it got, the more sheep you'd bring inside.

Body temperature gauge
Perhaps we're trying to do the wrong thing by changing the temperature of the air around us. It might be easier to adjust the temperature of our bodies. With a body temperature gauge, you could just increase the temperature of your blood to get warmer.

I suppose that not even these inventions would convince all Japanese of the benefits of warming products. After all, there is one easier way of getting warm I haven't mentioned yet. If you live in one of the many houses here made of concrete, it's often warmer to just step outside.



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