Save Money By Insulating Your Japanese Apartment

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Huge snow storms whipped through a large part of Japan this past weekend, bringing freezing temperatures and tons of snow to Tokyo. With the chilly weather comes cold toes and high energy bills.

Much to the dismay of recent and not-so-recent transplants to Japan, most Japanese apartments have paper-thin walls, which do little to keep in the heat. On the plus side, if your neighbor has excellent taste in music, you don’t even have to buy a CD or go on iTunes to hear some good tunes.

With some minor purchases, you can insulate your apartment yourself and still be able to jam to your neighbor’s favorite songs. The initial up-front cost of buying some small insulating items should make your place warmer and make your electricity bill lower in the long run.

Thick Curtain
Cost: About 3000 yen
In Japanese: カーテン (pronounced “kaaten”)
The first thing I’d suggest is a thick curtain. You can get a curtain set for about 1000 yen, but in general, a nice, thick set of curtains will usually cost at least 3500 yen. Some furnished apartments already come with a decent curtain. A good curtain set will also serve a dual purpose in keeping the 5 a.m. sun from waking you up.

Aluminum Insulating Sheets
Cost: From 1000 yen
In Japanese: アルミ断熱シート (“arumi dannetsu shiito”)
Aluminum insulating sheets are most commonly used on windows or underneath carpets. Aluminum sheets on the window obviously block out the sun. If you like natural light coming in through your windows, some websites suggest using large-bubbled bubble wrap (called プチプチ (“puchipuchi”) in Japanese).

Carpet
Cost: From 2000 yen
In Japanese カーペット (“kaapetto”)
Combined with an aluminum insulating sheet, a carpet can be a good source of insulation in your apartment. The carpet on your feet feels a lot warmer than wood flooring and can trap some of the heat inside your room. If you’d like to get extra toasty, you can buy a hot carpet (ホットカーペット, “hotto kaapetto”). Many of my friends swear by hot carpets. Much like electric blankets, hot carpets heat up electrically and keep your bottom warm when you sit on them.

Noren (Door hanging)
Cost: About 2000 yen
In Japanese: 暖簾 (usually spelled のれん, “noren”)
Noren may be most familiar to you as the door tapestries seen at restaurants in Japan. Noren don’t have to be purely decorative, though. If you hang a noren at the junction between rooms, you can trap the heat inside a main room and save on heating. In my one room apartment, I hang an owl-themed noren between my bedroom and the kitchen/bathroom area. The only down-side to this is that when I go to use the restroom or get a snack from the fridge, that kitchen/bathroom area is at Antarctic temperatures. Looks like the noren was doing its job. To hang a noren, you’ll probably need to buy an support rod (突っ張り棒, “tsuppari bou”), which can be purchased at a 100 yen store.

By insulating your apartment in Japan and using your A/C sparingly, you can do yourself, the environment, and your wallet a favor.

Do you have any insulating tips of your own? Post them in the comments below.

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BASIC GUIDE TO USING A JAPANESE AIR CONDITIONER

Freezing winters. Smoking hot summers. Japan is a land of weather extremes. Mastering the functions of your a/c remote is key to staying comfortable in Japan.

  • Larissa Bhöñam Polletté

    What about this idea… Would be useful in Japan? :D
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brHqBcZqNzE

    • Dare9179

      I believe so.

  • HereInHokkaido

    I think it is good for you to have air humidifier because humidity at 40% & 60% at the same temperature have some kind of different cold feeling. try it & you’ll know.

    • http://wandertokyo.com/ LynnAllmon

      I’ve been seriously considering getting a humidifier with my next paycheck. I think you’re right about higher humidity seems to help with the cold, plus it’d probably get rid of my usual sore throat in the morning.

  • bb

    I would say that a small room with a proper door can do miracles in the winter in Japan.
    I was amazed at how primitive the methods of heating are here, even if the temperatures are pretty low.
    Setting the AC to 25 degrees in a small room can provide some comfort, but still in the morning the temperature drops to something like 12 degrees.

    • http://www.gaijinpot.com/ Anthony Joh

      My room is the same. I turn off the heat when I go to sleep and in the morning the temperature is in the teens.

  • AH

    I brought some Aluminum Insulating Sheets from the 100yen store yesterday. Worked a treat!

  • http://www.gaijinpot.com/ Anthony Joh

    For me the best thing I’ve bought for keeping warm in the winter is thick curtains. I use them to cover the windows and another set to act as a divider between rooms. I can’t believe what a huge difference they made.

    • Shynell DeVaux

      is there a way to put up curtains as a room divider without drilling into the walls? i’m not allowed to damage the walls here..

      • http://www.gaijinpot.com/ Anthony Joh

        Did you know that toothpaste is pretty good at filling/hiding small holes that appear in your walls. ;)

      • http://wandertokyo.com/ LynnAllmon

        I’m a little late — apologies!

        If you don’t want to damage walls/ceiling, I’d suggest one of these two choices:

        1. Get a super-long 突っ張り棒 (support rod) that stays in place by tension and hang a long curtain that way.

        2. Get a room divider (partition/folding screen) that sits on the floor. In Japanese, this type seems to be called variously パーティション (partition) in katakana, スクリーン (screen), 屏風 (byoubu, traditional folding screen), or 間仕切り (majikiri, room divider).

        Good luck!

    • http://wandertokyo.com/ LynnAllmon

      I need to buy some thick curtains too. When I decided to move to Tokyo, I grabbed the cheapest curtains at Don Quixote before moving because I didn’t want to be caught even one night without them. The irony is, I couldn’t figure out how to install the curtains until my third night in Tokyo.

      The moral: It’s cold, the early morning sun and city lights are annoying, and don’t buy cheap curtains.

      • http://www.gaijinpot.com/ Anthony Joh

        I bought mine from ニトリ and they weren’t cheap. I remember hesitating to spend that much on curtains but after I put them up in my apartment they were sooooo worth it.

    • Janelle S

      My husband and I were apartment hunting last week and found the frozen floors so painful to walk around on. We were surprised by how few places seemed to have heat (at least where we were, in one of the smaller cities down south).

      • http://www.gaijinpot.com/ Anthony Joh

        No heat in the house but you can buy heated toilets! ;)

  • dbwhite

    When I lived in Japan I put on that 3m window film. Really helped keep the cold from seeping through my windows.

    • http://wandertokyo.com/ Lynn

      Great idea! I remember seeing it in the stores, but wasn’t quite sure what it was. Gotta try that next winter.

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