Lately it's been cold here in Tagawa. Not so cold that it's hazardous to step outside or anything like that, but just relentlessly unpleasant. The temperature hovers around freezing, and if we're lucky it's ten degrees warmer inside.
I believe I've voiced complaints in years prior about the Japanese lack of effective heating in homes, schools and offices, but every year it's such an all-pervading onslaught of discomfort that being cold becomes the only thing I can think about. Every night I fill a 2 liter bottle with boiling water and place it in my bed where my feet are supposed to go, and every night I squirm around for at least half an hour trying to get my feet warm. Every day at work I hover over a kerosene stove cursing Japan and the weather gods in an effort to warm up freezing fingers. Students pop their heads into the staffroom and exclaim "It's warm!" because the hallways are even colder. Teachers come and go, every other phrase uttered: "It's cold!"
What bothers me about this isn't the cold itself. It's the fact that even though insulation and double-paned windows and central heating are a very tangible reality that has been adopted by countries with much smaller economies, the vast majority of Japan just won't do it. Instead they've come up with temporary solutions like kotatsu, a heated table you sit underneath, and kerosene heaters that require you to crack open a window. Sitting under a kotatsu is great and all but wouldn't it be nicer if you didn't need one at all?
I suppose this rage has been inspired by my recent trip to Germany. Germany, like Japan, suffered great losses during the Second World War, and was at least partially rebuilt with American funding. They're both well off financially but Japan is slightly richer. The cost of living seems comparable, and the people in both nations are infamously rigid and workaholic. Both have cold snowy winters and warm summers. They're not so different. So why is it that the Germans get to be warm indoors all winter long while the Japanese refuse to adopt modern comforts?