Positives about winter in Japan

I feel the cold. A combination of being pretty skinny and having awful circulation means that a chill wind goes right through me, and no matter now many layers I have on winter has the potential to make me miserable. January and February have been a slog – a friend started a petition on change.org to God asking him to get rid of these months and I thought it was more sensible than many of the petitions on there to be honest.

I was shivering and complaining about the cold, as usual, yesterday when a friend laughed at me and asked how I ever survived in the UK. Yes it’s true that it’s colder in the UK right now, but unlike back home, in Tokyo buildings with central heating and good insulation are a rarity. I’ve been told this is because of earthquakes – houses fall down periodically so it doesn’t make sense to go through the extra effort of insulating them properly or giving them central heating. In my darkly cynical moments I have my doubts about this and am tempted to believe that in actual fact the Japanese believe that the suffering builds moral fibre. Or perhaps it’s something about Japan’s respect for nature and the seasons, an attitude which does have it’s merits…

But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. One week today it will be March.
Still, as I’m trying this whole optimism thing this year, as an exercise in positive thinking I thought I would try and find some positives about winter in Tokyo. There must be some right?

1) It’s sunny: This is the big one. January is Tokyo’s sunniest month of the year, and boy does that help me out. When it’s winter in the UK it’s freezing AND cloudy to the point you feel like you never get any light and just want to sleep all of the time. Whereas in Tokyo, if I actually manage to wrench myself from my bed, motivate myself to take off the 100 layers I wear to bed, put on the 101 layers I wear during the day and actually get outside the beautiful blue sky has me feeling pretty chirpy.

2) It’s dry: I understand for some people this is very unpleasant. If you have dry skin usually this time of the year can be very tough but I have an oily/combination skin type so this is mostly manageable for me with some lip balm and a good moisturizer. And the dryness of the air has some significant advantages. Firstly, you can dry your washing really well. It might be cold out, but the air is so dry that even if there’s only a sliver of sun (which there usually is, see 1) your clothes will dryin no time. Back home, I tried my best but seeing as my poverty stricken student self didn’t have a tumble dryer, I kind of resigned myself to half my clothes having a vague smell of damp. And not just clothes -almost every student house in Leeds where I went to University perpetually smelt of damp from the walls throughout the winter.

3) Snow onsens: I fulfilled a lifetime dream and went to one. Outdoor hot springs where you can soak in wonderfully warm water while watching the snow fall in the mountains. It was amazing, blog post to follow. The snow sculptures in Hokkaido look spectacular as well, maybe I’ll make it there next year.

3) Seasonal winter snacks and general cuteness: Something I love about Japanese culture is their sensitivity to the seasons. Whether they’re traditions dating back 100s of years or unashamedly commercial (but irresistibly cute), the Japanese do seasonal things well.  Even if the season is winter. In Halloween we had spooky themed drinks and snacks in every convenience store, and winter has seen snow themed treats and cute characters with scarves and hats. I’m particularly enjoying the delicious winter warmers in almost every coffee shop.

…all this aside I can’t deny I’m really looking forward to spring. Hoping to see some cherry blossoms!

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