Feb 23, 2018
Moving to snow country in Japan? Nothing that anybody tells you can prepare you for just how snowy Japan's colder regions can be, so my family was relatively unprepared even though we thought we had planned ahead.
Now that we’ve survived nearly a whole long winter here, I wanted to share some of the key lessons learned that we picked up during this season.
Here are my top five:
1) Go for gumboots, not snow boots
Snow boots are great, but they are relatively impractical for daily life in Japan. First of all, they are a pain in the behind to take on and off easily, which is incredibly frustrating in a country where you have to take shoes off so often. Also, in places like where I live, the town uses a sprinkler system to get rid of snow. That means that people here deal a lot more with pools of water then with piles of snow in their daily pedestrian traffic .
2) Don’t be afraid of gas heaters
When we first moved out here, we figured that we would be able to get by with our electric heaters; that is until we got our first electric bill and our eyes nearly popped out of our heads. Japanese kerosene heaters are surprisingly effective and while they cost more than a few pennies, they are still a heck of a lot cheaper than electric heaters. My recommendation is to employ those gas heaters as much as possible. Your warm body and fuller wallet will thank you.
3) Invest in a Kotatsu and/or heated rugs
If your house is anything like mine, there is no central heating and it is drafty. In those situations, you may want to save gas or electricity by minimizing how many heaters you have running. A kotatsu (heated table) or heated rugs give you a place to hunker down and stay warm, even when the rest of the house is icing over.
4) Opt for 4-Wheel Drive and Snow Tires
You don’t need a Toyota Land Cruiser to brave the wintry roads out here. We did just fine with our Honda Mobilio. Why? Because our Mobilio has four wheel drive and we purchased snow tires. You’d be surprised how many smaller cars in Japan come with 4WD/AWD options, and while snow tires are an added cost, they will save you money down the road when you don't have to pay insurance premiums or repair costs.
5) Apply plastic insulation
This may sound ridiculous or tacky, but what’s more ridiculous is paying out the nose for heating or freezing your buns off instead of adding more insulation. Using plastic sheets (could be trash bags, plastic wrap, or plastic packing material), apply a layer of insulation over all of your windows and doors. There’s not much you can do about adding insulation to the walls, but you can preserve that precious heat in these other areas simply by employing this cheap and easy option.
Do you have any other tips for living in Snow Country? Feel free to add suggestions or ask questions using the comments section below!
Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.
Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).