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The Best Ways to Stay Warm in the Cold

Many people find Japanese winters to be cold. In Kobe City especially, a cold, dry wind known as the “Rokko oroshi” (“wind blown down from Mt. Rokko”) blows through and chills the city. To help get you through the chilly Japanese (and Kobe) winters, this writer has put together some personal recommendations to fight the cold!

Space heater (Recommendation level: ★)
There are many different types of space heaters (“stoves” in Japanese), but here we’ll mostly be looking at oil heaters. Because the heat from an oil stove comes from a flame, it’s warmer than other appliances like wall-mounted heaters. You can also use it to cook by placing food or a kettle on the hot stove top. This writer has fond memories of using an oil heater to bake sweet potatoes when I was a child. Oil stoves may not be allowed in some residences, so be sure to check your contract or terms and conditions before purchasing one. Ventilation is also necessary, so make sure you air out the room frequently.
Heater (Recommendation level: ★★)
An (electric) heating unit is the most common method of protection against the cold used in Japan nowadays. These machines are extremely convenient, putting out warm air to heat the room when plugged in. You’ll need to be careful of how dry the air in your room becomes when using one, but this type of heater can be easily used by anyone. Many homes are equipped with these heaters, so it may be a good idea to check and see if there’s one in your room before moving in.
Kotatsu (Recommendation level: ★★★)
A kotatsu is a table equipped with a heater and a futon (a large, thick blanket). In Japan, it’s a winter tradition to sit at a kotatsu and enjoy some mandarin oranges. Kotatsus date back to Japan’s Muromachi period (1336-1573), but today’s kotatsu use infrared rays as a heat source, and are common to see. Kotatsu in particular have a low risk of causing carbon monoxide poisoning, fire, and burns. You can use a kotatsu to do your assignments, or just to snuggle up and eat or watch TV. Your winter life might just need a kotatsu!
Onsen & Sento (Public baths) (Recommendation level: ★★★)
Kobe City is home to one of the best onsen (natural hot spring) areas in Japan: Arima Onsen. In addition to Arima Onsen, there are also many sento (public bathhouses) in Kobe City that use natural hot spring water. Taking a bath at home is fine, but I recommend going to stretch out in a large bath in a hot spring or public bathhouse sometimes, too. When you bathe in an onsen, don’t forget to rinse your body with “kakeyu” before getting into the bathtub.

・Kobe Notebook: “A Side of Kobe You Didn’t Know 4: The Wonders of Arima
These are some of the most common ways to protect yourself from the cold in Japan. When you come to Kobe in the winter, be sure to head to some onsen and sento!