These days it is starting very cold outside. However, inside buildings, houses and apartments it is usually nice and warm. I did experience some culture shock when I first came to Japan.
I visited Japan for the first time in the winter time of 2004, just in time for the New Year. It was cold. I was staying with my friends family at their home in Sagamihara (Kanagawa prefecture). In the evening, the living room was nice and warm, hot actually, and I was comfortable. But then, I had to go to the bathroom… I went to the door and slid it open. A blast of freezing cold air from the hallway hit my face! I hurried down the frigid hallway and entered the toilet as quick as I could. But I realized my problems were actually just starting! The toilet was freezing too! I have to semi-undress in this freezing room?! I couldn’t believe it! At least the toilet seat was warm.
This experience was so new for me because, in America most homes use central air conditioning. This is a single air conditioner / heater system that heats or cools the entire house including the hallways, bathrooms and even unused rooms. Most people just set a temperature for the house, and the air conditioner keeps the house comfortable. I have heard Hokkaido is actually similar to this style, using heated flooring, although I’ve never been to Hokkaido to see for myself.
Now that I understand the way homes are warmed and cooled in Japan, I realize that the American style is very wasteful. But, when I am nice and warm while I walk through the hallway in the middle of the night, it sure feels good.
These are pictures of my parents central air conditioner and a vent that it distributes air from.