FW-101 -- Keeping Warm Despite a Warm Winter

* * * * * * * * F R U G A L W A T C H * * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of how to be frugal in the world's most
expensive country to live (unless you read this!), written
and compiled by Wendy J. Imura.

February 13th, 2007 Issue No. 101

***** Keeping Warm Despite a Warm Winter ****
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***** Keeping Warm Despite a Warm Winter ****

Dear Frugalites,

So, the new Japanese phrase for the day is: 'dantou,'
the kanji for which literally mean 'warm winter.'
That, according to the weather experts, is apparently what
we are enjoying in 2007.
You've probably seen the shocking pictures on the evening news:
cherry blossom buds poking through in a balmy Washington DC
in early January, the first snowless winter in the European
Alps in 1000 years, and Japan's own amateur skiing
championships delayed for lack of snow. To be sure, Osaka
has enjoyed a nice, warm-ish winter this year - most days
are around 10-12C.

That said, it's still a cold time of year - so, in my annual
'keep warm frugally' issue, I thought I'd introduce a few
tried-n-true but not well know to the foreign community aids
for warmth. Long-termers might not find anything new on
the list, but newbies to Japan should get their shopping
lists ready. In fact, late January and early February
are an *excellent* time to purchase winter items -
retailers want winter merchandise off their shelves yesterday,
and will often heavily discount products.
Stock up for next year!

1) Fuzzy acrylic/lambswool bed pads
These are called a variety of things in Japanese, from either
'fuyu you shiki paddo' (winter-use bed/futon pads) to
'muuton shiitsu'.
Basically, these are quilted bed pads with a fuzzy,
soft texture much like the 'moufu' blankets one sees here so
frequently. They will typically have an elastic tie or band
on each corner to attach it to your bed or futon.
Be careful *not* to purchase the cotton variety itended for
summer use - these are not as warm, and are design to
absorb moisture.

I highly recommend purchase of these bed pads!
Basically, you attach the pad to your mattress or futon on
top of the sheets, fuzzy side up.
You then sleep *on top* of the fuzzy part. For particularly
cold nights, you can use an electric blanket *under* the
pad to added warmth. While it might be tempting to scrimp
on size, please buy one the same size as or larger than
your futon - you'll find yourself fighting with your
sleeping partner over the space if its not!

These are frugal because they save on bedroom heading
costs and (if aired and washed properly) can last for very
long time.

2) Warm underwear
For years, I was astonished by the substantial underpinnings
unveiled by Japanese women of all ages in onsen dressing
rooms. Then, after a few winters of shivering through frigid
waits on the train platform despite a warm coat, gloves,
hat, and boots - I realized they had a point.

Ladies: those flimsy underthings from from Victoria's Secret
(or Marks and Spencer, take your pick) are just not gonna
cut it in this climate.
Have problem with cold hands and feet? Keeping your body's 'core
temperature' warm with an extra layer closest to the skin
will most definately help. Affectionately called 'baba shotsu'
or 'baba shaatsu' after the older women who love them, these
warm boy shorts, camisole bras, or thin undershirts are a
lifesaver in winter. I guarantee that even the most fashionable
of office ladies you see is probably secretly sporting
foundation garments that would make your grandmother jealous.
So take a lesson from them, and visit the women's underwear
counter of your nearest GMS or department store to check
out the offerings.

Men: I haven't been shopping for men's underwear recently,
but I can say that sales of similar items for men (longish
boxer/brief underwear and undershirts) appear to be on the
rise. While you probably don't have to go the momohiki (long
underwear) route as my father-in-law does, adding an extra
layer or too might help you venture out from under the
kotatsu a little more often.

Why are these frugal? Keeping your body warm by adding extra
clothes can help you lower your heating costs (by reducing
the amount of time in use or lowering the thermostat temp),
and keep you healthy.

3) 'Sukima Seals'
Having problems with corner drafts coming in from your
windows and doors? Do you see phantom breezes *inside* your
house? Is it sometimes warmer outside than inside? Maybe
these 'sukima seals' (gap fillers for windows and doors)
will help.

These are essentially small (6mm or 9mm) width strips of
bristly mats backed by a sticker sheet. (See a picture at
the link above). You simply peel off the back of the sticker
tape, attach it firmly to the surface (i.e. crack under a
door) you want to muffle, and stick it on. If the bristles
are too long, you can trim them with scissors. The website
advertises that the seals can cut temperature loss through
window and door gaps by 2 degress Celcius - I have yet to try
them, but this could be a useful product for older homes.
Cost is Y940 plus shipping for two 2 meter rolls - though
it might be available at home centers for less.

Hope you enjoyed this year's Keeping Warm edition!
Have a fun, and frugal, winter!

Frugally yours,
Wendy J. Imura

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Written by: Wendy J. Imura (frugalwatch@japaninc.com)
Edited by: JI

Copyright 2007 Japan Inc. Communications