Sunday, June 3, 2012

Letters From Matt, #9: Haramachi, Japan: Fire 'n Ice

Letters From Matt are letters from my brother, Matt, from various of his domestic and international travels. The letters span decades, and I share them on Living Rootless at intervals, in no particular order. 

December 1990
Haramachi (now part of Minamisoma), Japan

Dear Family, 
…. There are many paradoxes in Japan. One of which I am experiencing this moment. The Japanese are more efficient than Americans when it comes to cars, hot water, and home heating. For instance, the average home does not have a gigantic hot water heater that is constantly keeping large amounts of water at 160 degrees. Rather, they have a very small gas-powered water heater that turns on only when you need the water for a bath. I must heat water on the stove to clean my dishes. Nobody I know ever uses hot water for washing clothes. And it is not unusual to see a solar water heater on top of the house. 

The winter is cold here and yet very few houses have a furnace. Most houses are very cold inside, but they have something called a "kotatsu." It's an electric heater that fits under the dinner table. A blanket is fit between the table top and the kotatsu so that it drapes on the floor trapping all the heat under the table. I am sitting on the straw mat floor this instant with the blanket over my lap and my feet toasty warm under the table. The rest of the apt. is cold. This is the Japanese way. 

Not only does it save tons of energy, but it undoubtedly keeps the family closer together. 

Here's the paradox. 


So on one hand they are very miserly with generating heat but on the other hand, none of it stays inside the house. 

SO I'M FREEZING! except for my feet, which are burning hot. 

Oh well, I guess every culture has its idiosyncrasies, certainly including our own. 


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