In the winter time, it can seem very cold in Japan because they don’t use central heating. They don’t believe in it. I was told about an American woman who got frost bite on her feet from going into people’s houses and taking her shoes off in the house like everyone in Japan when it was cold outside. When I was teaching in Japan, sometimes, I just couldn’t believe the coldness when I was sent to a classroom behind a toy store to teach Japanese children. At my house, the floor was very cold because they put the heater/air conditioner up on the wall, and hot air rises, so my floors were very cold. The Japanese do it because of Shintoism, and they have ways of dealing with it.
To begin with, Shintoism teaches that you must stay as close to nature as possible. That is why the Japanese put their futons (Japanese beds) on the tatami mats (straw mats). That is why they sit in the floor. It is also why they don’t use central heating. There were samurai who were so serious about being good Shinto that they used no heating at all in the winter. However, the Japanese have developed ways of staying warm in the winter, and if you are new to Japan, you need to learn about these ways.
To begin with, you will need a space heater. The toughest Japanese who are really into Shintoism wouldn’t use one, but most of them do. After that, you can find tables with heaters on the bottom. There are two types of tables like this. One is built into the house. There is a hole under the table where you dangle your legs, and the heater is down there beyond where your feet go. They put a quilt on the table, and then cover it with a table top, so when you sit at the table, you can be very comfortable. My professor, when I was a student, had a table like that. At my house, I had a small table that had the heater attached to the bottom of the table. It sat in my tatami room, and I sat on zabutons (Japanese cushions made for sitting on) next to the table. The quilt went over the table, and my feet and legs were under the table where the heater was. The quilt went over my legs. Another kind of heater they use is a toilet seat that has a heating coil in it. When you sit down, the toilet seat heats up. They have all kinds of interesting gadgets for keeping warm.
If the gadgets aren’t enough, you can also find a quilted kimono to wear in the house in the winter time. It is huge, and it will probably drag behind when you walk, but it will keep you warm. It is like wearing a blanket, but it has sleeves, so it is less awkward than wearing a blanket.
I knew American women who heard about the woman who got frost bite on their feet, and they had a good solution. In America, we have these big fluffy slippers that completely cover our feet, and many American women used those and carried them everywhere in their purses when they went out. There are solutions to their need to be good Shinto and not adequately heat their houses in winter. After all the gadgets, etc., if you are still cold, run a hot ofuro (the Japanese bath) and soak until your skin gets red and your body warms up.