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Four Ways to Insulate Your Japanese Apartment and Save Money

Winter in Japan means cold toes and high energy bills. Follow these simple tips to insulate your apartment and keep your toes and wallet happy.

By 3 min read

Most Japanese apartments have paper-thin walls, which do little to retain heat, and parts of Japan get pretty cold in winter. Even through March, the temperature is quite low, especially at night. If you don’t want chilly toes, you’ll usually have to rack up high energy bills thanks to your electric heater or kotatsu running 24/7. 

Thankfully, you can insulate your apartment with some minor purchases to make your home warmer and your electricity bill lower.

1. Thick curtains

An easy find at most home centers In Japan.

The first thing you should buy is thick curtains. Curtains can be as cheap as ¥1000, but in general, a nice, thick set of curtains will usually start at around ¥4,000. Curtains designed specifically for retaining heat will be more expensive.

A good curtain set will also serve a dual purpose in keeping the 5 a.m. sun from waking you up. There are some that are even made to be noise-proof.

In Japanese: カーテン (pronounced "kaaten")
Cost: About ¥3000 – ¥20,000

2. Aluminum Insulating Sheets

Actually not that far off the mark.

Aluminum insulating sheets are typically used on windows, but many families in Japan will place them underneath carpets. It’s a great way to retain heat through your floor and also hiding the gaudy aluminum.

You can find a ton of uses through Amazon, and there are more than a few aluminum sheet blankets out there.

 Besides turning your home into a take-out burrito, the downside is that aluminum sheets on the window block out the sun. If you like natural light coming in through, or if you want to get really cheap, some websites suggest using bubble wrap (called プチプチ or puchipuchi in Japanese).

In Japanese: アルミ断熱シート (arumi dannetsu shiito)
Cost: about ¥1,000 – ¥5,000

3. Carpet

It’s the little things in life.

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. 

The more you are willing to spend, the better the carpet will feel and retain heat. While carpets on Amazon or Donki can go for cheap, picking up one from Ikea or Nitori can be expensive.

If you’d like to get extra toasty, you can buy a hot carpet or ホットカーペット(hotto kaapetto). Like electric blankets, hot carpets heat up electrically and keep your bottom warm when you sit on them. 

However, hot carpets use electricity so if you’re trying to save money, just stick with the carpet and aluminum insulating sheet.

Cost: From ¥2000
In Japanese: カーペット ("kaapetto")

4. Noren

Traditional noren in Japan.

Noren (traditional Japanese fabric dividers) may be most familiar to you as door tapestries seen at restaurants and bars in Japan. Noren don’t have to be purely decorative. Still, they offer a Japanese aesthetic to your home.

If you hang a noren at the junction between rooms, such as the bedroom and kitchen in a 1K apartment, you can trap the heat inside a room and save on heating. 

The only down-side to this is that when you use the restroom or get a snack from the fridge, that kitchen/bathroom area is freezing cold. To hang a noren, you’ll probably need to buy a support rod, called 突っ張り棒 (tsuppari bou) in Japanese. Those can be purchased at 100-yen stores.

In Japanese: 暖簾 (のれん)
Cost: about ¥2000 
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!

  • ✨マシュマロキャシー✨ says:

    “I hang an owl-themed noren between my bedroom and the kitchen/bathroom area.”
    Me: *Looks up at my owl-themed noren between my bedroom and kitchen/bathroom area*
    It’s from Nitori isn’t it? xD

  • Dale Goodwin says:

    I am a little amused by the fact that nobody suggested wearing multiple layers of clothing. Also, I would strongly recommend getting the landlord’s permission before anybody tries to “insulate” their apartment. Keeping doors closed around the apartment and smart use of space heaters and hot carpets does work wonders.

  • dbwhite says:

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

  • Anthony Joh says:

    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.

    • Janelle S says:

      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).

    • LynnAllmon says:

      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.

      • Anthony Joh says:

        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.

    • Shynell DeVaux says:

      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..

      • LynnAllmon says:

        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!

      • Anthony Joh says:

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

  • AH says:

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

  • bb says:

    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.

  • HereInHokkaido says:

    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.

    • LynnAllmon says:

      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.

  • Larissa Bhöñam Polletté says:

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

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