Heating is different depending on culture and area. In Japan, we heat the room or space we are in, rather than heat the whole home, which is common in North America.
It takes some getting used to, but in the end you will save a lot of money and frustration, and be warm to boot!
Although seemingly barbarian to some, buying fossil fuel, bringing it home, then burning it in your home, kerosene heaters pack the heat! The heaters themselves run from 6,000 – 15,000 Yen, and vary in function, such as timers, automatic temperature control, and adjustable fan speeds. Most come with emergency stops that kill the heat in case of an earthquake or if they somehow get knocked over. In fact, they turn themselves off even if you carelessly bump them with the vacuum cleaner. Kerosene can be bought at any gasoline stand for about 80 – 120 Yen per litre, or a little more for delivered kerosene. For this premium, the lovely kerosene people will bring your fuel right to your door. Another bonus is knowing exactly how much you are spending on heating, as you have to pay to refill your kerosene take each time. No surprise bills!
More environmentally friendly, so to speak, electric heaters are another close heating option. These are great especially if you live in an apartment or condominium. No hauling kerosene up to your room! They also work great in smaller spaces that just require quick and directed heat, such as outside the shower or toilet rooms. The downside is that you really have no idea how much it is costing you until the power bill comes in. As well, if you live in an older place, be aware of how many things you have plugged in at one time, as a combination of heater and microwave could trip your fuses. They usually do not come with an automatic off switch in case of being knocked over, so be careful not to leave them on close to flammable things after one too many.
Like their heater cousins, they require kerosene to run, and consume considerably more at that. However, they are the quickest, highest heating option to be found. You can find these in use in companies and at elementary school classrooms all over the country. The cost anywhere from about 7,000 – 30,000 Yen depending on the model. Most come with a flat top that you can use to boil water, cook a stew, or boil eggs on. Because they are stoves, not heaters, be sure to put them in a place far away from rowdy pets and children, or buy one of the protective cages that go around them. For the most part they do not come with safety auto-off switches, so again, use them when you are lucid. Also, it is advised to crack open a window a little bit when using them to avoid the nasty fumes.
The quintessential Japanese heating tool. Watch a few TV shows, or animations, and you will see these bad boys in full swing. Prices vary vastly, with the cheaper options being 10,000 yen including base mat and blanket to much more if you want one that functions as a western style dining room table that you can sit upright at. Japanese people like to sit under them and shoot the breeze, eat mikan, and drink some sake all while sitting under these toasty tables. Just be sure not to fall asleep under them, or you may fall victim to ‘Kotatsu Sickness,’ when your covered up body and exposed head are vastly different temperatures and can cause everything from nausea to colds.
If all else fails, just bundle up and dress appropriately. Layering is key, even inside!