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.
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).
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.