In Skyfall, the latest 007 film, there is a scene where James Bond is barricading a Scottish mansion from the imminent attack of the revenge-seeking villain. He put up shutters, black-out curtains and booby trap the whole house. Last weekend I was doing the same thing to my apartment, protecting myself against the biggest villain of Fukui: winter.
My first line of defence is BUBBLE WRAP. You may laugh, but it keeps the freezing cold windows directly from the warmer air in my apartment thus keeping me that extra degree warmer! I bought some aluminium wrap too and taped it to most of my windows with wide pieces of sellotape and carpet tape. I now can’t see what’s outside from my bedroom but that’s not a problem. I already know if it’s raining due to the corrugated iron roof directly above my ceiling which gives a perfect indication of the weather. It’s like camping in an iron tent!
My second line of defence is CARPET. The cold can invade from all three directions of my apartment; the walls, ceilings and floor. They are all useless insulators of heat so I have tried to help the floor from sapping the little heat my apartment holds. I’ve placed aluminium sheets underneath the rug and carpet I have to give these most-used areas a double layer of insulation.
My third line of defence is HEATING. I dusted off the kerosene heater my predecessor left me and looked at it with suspicion. ”Will your fumes kill me? Will you go off with a bang when I turned you on? Are you a friend or a foe?”. After a little research and encouragement from other users that the fumes would not kill me if I opened the window every hour, I gave it to it. I filled up the container with touyu from a nearby petrol station and suctioned it into the heater’s internal container. I hauled it in to my kitchen and plugged it in. I pressed the ‘On’ button and stood back, half expecting it to blow up. It looked at me and I at it. After 20 seconds of this staring game it gave in and stated up with a puff of smoke. Still standing across the other side of the room, I waited. Within a minute it was radiating a warm, addictive, if slightly fumey, heat. ‘‘We’ll get through the winter together.’’ I thought.
My fourth line of defence is FUR. Not the real kind, but the Japanese kind. The cheap, thick, acrylic material that people wear, sleep on and cuddle up to here in Fukui. My obsession started with a kotastu table blanket that I bought from the home store Nitori. It quadrupled in size as I opened the vacuum packed bag and I was left with this bear of a blanket in my arms. It has turned into another close friend and I keep him on my duvet in my bed. Then, I found another blanket which I use for my kotatsu that keeps my friend and I legs’ toasty as we watch films together. But it doesn’t stop at this, I have at least two other blankets, a few pairs of socks and a hoddie made of the same material. I’m a true convert!
Closely related, my fifth line of defence is CLOTHING. Long thermal underwear, the Heat-tech kind from UNIQLO, is my base layer, followed by a few more layers and topped off by a fleecy jacket that my loving parents sent me from England. Cottons don’t work here due to the 80% humidity but anything artificial seems to do the job. Such as down jackets that are very popular in Japan but I’m waiting until I find one which doesn’t make me look like an inflatable snowman before I buy it! Also, I now have an indoor hat. It is got a Mickey Mouse print on it and couldn’t get more Japanese. Fingerless gloves may be my next investment as my fingers are losing dexterity as I write this.
My last line of defence is my beloved BATH. If I am really losing the battle to keep warm, I pull out my last gun; a hot bath. Due to my petite height, I have no problem with the Japanese sit-up baths which are half the length of a western bath. For me this just justifies that I can run it deeper because of that reason. At least I’m putting some of the ridiculously high amount of rainfall in Fukui to good use.
So does all this protection and makeshift insulation work? The heater, blankets and bath yes. I’ll just have to believe that the bubble wrap is doing its job!
A final anecdote; this morning I had a dream the helicopter from Skyfall had finally found my apartment block and had dropped on bomb on it! I woke up to another clash of thunder which went off right above my apartment! ”It’s ok”, I thought, my apartment may not be bullet proof but I can withstand three months of stormy, cold and generally miserable Fukui weather. Now let’s turn that heater on!