Living in Japan has its share of surprises. After 20 years, though, one of the less pleasant of them just got a bit more comfortable.
With the exception of the northern island of Hokkaido, which has bitter cold winters, no private homes in Japan have central heating.
To anyone from North America, Europe, China, South Korea, etc., this is almost incomprehensible.
The way I explain it to friends from the USA is that houses in Japan are like non-winterized houses along the New Jersey shore.
Rooms are heated by space heaters using gas or electricty or kerosene, and until recently insulation was not the norm.
"Primitive" or "indoor camping" or words not fit for a family blog are among the descriptions we have heard.
At any rate, after years of whining, we had the walls insulated and, thanks to a Kyoto city subsidy, splurged on a pellet stove.
And it is wonderful!
To help with the upkeep of the forests that surround the city, Kyoto gives a 30% subsidy on a purchase and installation of a new pellet stove.
Thus, instead of refilling the kerosene heater three times a week outside in the freezing rain or snow, I fill the stove tank with a 10 kg bag of pellets every morning in the living room. Instead of buying oil from Iran or Bahrain or wherever it comes from, we buy local wood pellets. Instead of eating away at the ozone layer in a smelly poorly heated room, we are toasty with our environmentally-happy stove.
The only downsides are that you have to clean out the ash from the day before - it takes five minutes and goes into the mulch pile - and the heater takes about 15 minutes to get the room warm.
Running costs are much lower than gas heat, and marginally less than kerosene.
An organization devoted to all things wood and forests and pellets is located just north of Kyoto City Hall. Kyoto Machiya Pellet is on Teramachi two blocks north of Oike, which is where City Hall is located.
They sell pellets, other wooden items, and are a resource center for those interested in buying pellet or wood-burning stoves.
Tags Japan Touring Kyoto Cycle Japanese