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
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.
2. Aluminum Insulating Sheets
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.
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).
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.
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.
Do you have any insulating tips of your own? Post them in the comments below!