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Saturday, March 6, 2010
The art of peripheral heating
By AMY CHAVEZ
In my Japanese house in the countryside, I don't have central heating. Just peripheral heating. In an era where just a simple word like "change" can get a president elected, I suggest that the next person running for prime minister in Japan use the slogan "central heat!"
The other day in the hardware store, I noticed a huge display of peripheral heating products to keep you warm. There are electric sofa blankets to place over the bottom cushions of your sofa, plug-in foot pockets for your feet, and electric zabuton pillows to sit on. The list goes on.
It's not a matter of which to buy, of course, but how many. These products are conveniently located next to the extension cords and multi-socket adapters, which are located next to the nabe pots.
Sure, why not plug in the nabe pot too? If overloading the electrical outlets in your house causes a fire, at least the burning house will keep you warm.
You gotta feel for arsonists in Japan — they're probably just trying to stay warm.
In old Japanese houses, a variety of factors ensures you are frozen solid all winter long. Single-paned windows, a lack of insulation and non-sealed windows and doors contribute to cold drafts as well as heat loss. You just couldn't plug in enough of those peripheral heating products to keep you warm.
Unless you happen to live in a hospital, where there seems to be no limit to the amount of electrical appliances. Maybe that's something hospitals should offer — a warm-up room.
At my parents' house in the United States, during the wintertime the field mice move inside where it's warm. In Japan during the winter, the mice move out. My house doesn't provide any warm, soft insulation in the walls for them to nest in during the cold months either. No wonder so many mice move to the cities. If I ever do insulate my Japanese house, I probably won't put the insulation in the walls, floor or ceiling. I'll just lay it on the living room floor and nest in it.
I wonder how many people go to the hospital each year with hypothermia from being inside these houses. You'd expect there to be public service announcements to heighten awareness of hypothermia. People should be able to go to the emergency warm-up room at the hospital.
It's no wonder so many elderly people die in Japan during the cold winter months. If you had a fever, you'd never even know it.
At times I have managed to heat one central room in the house to a livable temperature.
But to heat the entire house is not affordable. Places like hallways and bathrooms are still cold, which is why I believe the Japanese use heated toilet seats.
It's so cold in my bathroom that the spiders are wearing leg warmers. Even my white-furred feline friend is cold. But she's not as cold as the wild birds outside. Just the other day I noticed a bird swoop down and pick up a tuft of my cat's hair lying on the grass. Soon there will be white, fur-lined nests in trees all over the island. If you're like me, I've succumbed to using the denki (electric) carpet. As a result, I spend most of my winters in the horizontal position, in an effort to keep the entire body warm. By springtime I have bed sores.
But the denki carpet is so nice, I wonder why they don't have wall-to-wall denki carpet? You'd think they'd sell it in large carpet bolts. Has anyone ever tried this? Let me know if you have. I am very interested in doing research in this area, like coming over to your house and staying the entire winter.
The only problem I can see with wall-to-wall denki carpet is static electricity. You'd have to be very careful who you touch so you don't electrocute family members unintentionally.
Or how about carpeting the walls as well as the floor with denki carpet? That way you could lean against the wall and stay warm too. No more bed sores!
Oh, but the carpet burn . . .