5 things I could easily live without, in winter in western Japan (in no particular order):
- The snow. Pretty to look at, and welcome to fall up on the mountains, but I hate to have to venture out in it, especially by car. Luckily we don't get too many very snowy days here, and I'm hoping that I can get through the last 2 weeks of the semester without a snowy university day. Fingers crossed for no-snow-Fridays please!
- The indoor cold. I don't really mind that it's cold outside; it is winter, after all. But indoors should be warm, cosy and centrally-heated in my opinion (open fires optional). Our heating comes from individual air-conditioning units in all the main rooms,which do a barely adequate job of warming things up, and absolutely no heating at all in the halls/toilets/staircase. We also have a heated carpet in the living room, and I am wearing 2 pairs of socks and tights under my jeans.
- The dry atmosphere. Although I'm quite keen on the lack of rain (see below), the low humidity, combined with the air-conditioning, plays havoc with my skin. Every year, my hands become dry and chapped, cracked and bleeding. There's also loads of static electricity, so my hair stands on end and my clothes crackle. Overall, not a good look. Here's the thing I can't understand though: snowy days are among the driest. Isn't snow made of, you know, water?
- Washing rice with cold water. Not much fun. Don't tell any Japanese people, but I let the water run to lukewarm first. And you know what? No-one has ever said to me, 'This rice tastes a bit funny. Did you wash it in warm water??'
- Over-heating in public places. Despite it being quite chilly in my house, in shops or restaurants it tends to be horribly over-heated. I usually leave my coat/scarf/gloves in the car if I can. The thing is, if it were naturally that temperature, they would put the air-conditioning on to cool it down....
That pretty much all came down to 'the weather', didn't it? So, on the other hand, here are 5 things I love about winter here:
- Bright, sunny days. Compared to mid-winter in the UK (still dark at 8am!), the days here are long and, thanks to the lack of rain, we get a lot of cloud-free, blue-sky days.
- Winter clothes. Despite my grumbling above, I would be quite happy if I could wear thick tights, boots and scarves all year round. I wear skirts much more in the winter than I do in the summer; my pasty white legs are much more presentable when encased in tights.
- Hot springs. Around here we have a lot of natural hot springs where you can take a bath, many with an outdoor section. Relaxing in a pool of hot water in the open air (falling snow a bonus) is wonderful. Nowadays, with the 2 little monkeys about, I don't go as often as I'd like to, but our bath at home is pretty cool too (if not outdoors). One push of a button and it fills to a preset amount at a preset temperature.
- Nabe. A lovely steaming pot of ingredients, cooked at the table and constituting a complete meal. Tasty, warming, healthy, easy, flexible and social - we have it about once a week in winter. (Picture found here)