Japanese houses don’t have central heating and air, as many Japan blogs have been noting recently (here’s Amy Nakazawa’s take from last year; it’s nice and thorough). Today, Simon points to an article by Amy Chavez about how gaijin can survive this:
The first thing you’ll need is a wall-mounted heater and air conditioner, which the Japanese refer to as “aircon.” This will keep the average person warm enough, but not the average gaijin. Therefore, supplement the “aircon” with a “kotatsu,” a small table with a heat lamp under it, to keep your legs warm. If you turn up the kotatsu high enough, it’s almost like sitting around a bonfire. You’ll find that almost all of your body is warm now, except your fingers. Therefore, sit on your hands. Now don’t move until springtime.
Read the whole thing; the ending is funny (and scary).
I haven’t actually experienced much of a Japanese winter. Our honeymoon took place in March, and when we were in Kyoto it snowed (boy was that neat).
However, our ryokans were warm and cozy for the most part. In the ryokan on Miyajima, which was the coldest, we had a heating mat under our futon. The bathroom was freezing in the morning.
As my experience is limited, I’ve never had the opportunity to try a kotatsu, though I’ve always wanted to. I imagine that if Sean and I ever move to Japan for any length of time, he’ll spend the winter sitting at the kotatsu with his computer.