Twelve years ago today I spent my first New Year holiday in Japan at Reiko’s parents’ house and aside from a year or two when it wasn’t possible for health reasons, this has been an annual tradition that’s lasted longer than others in my life. Today the boy, Nozomi, Reiko, and I made the hour-long drive to her family home in Gifu prefecture. As expected, the puppy was nervous the whole drive, the boy slept for 99% of the trip, and Reiko never stopped talking. Some patterns are just meant to repeat, it seems.
Winter in this part of the country is seldom warm. Just outside the thin walls of this home the air is 1°C. With the wind chill it’s closer to -5°C. A decade in Japan has forced my body to give up its ability to deal with cold in exchange for greater endurance during the summer heat. Despite these seemingly decent temperatures, I’m shivering under an electric blanket.
17 year-old me would laugh and go to sleep wearing nothing more than a pair of underwear just because he could. Mind you, 17 year-old me was a naive fool, too.
A lot has certainly changed in the dozen years since the first time I experienced winter in Japan and a lot has stayed the same. One of the many things that I’m thankful for is the pervasiveness of electric blankets. It seems there are several in every household, and these really should be given to everyone who lives outside the tropics simply because it’s the humane thing to do. Electric blankets are like a warm hug all over your body from a favourite person. They’re incredibly inviting. Who can resist?
Just like 12 years ago, I’ll be staying the next three days in this home and spending time with Reiko’s family. When it comes time for sleep, though, I’ll be huddled up under an electric blanket and fending off the familiar cold that permeates traditional Japanese homes in the winter. Fortunately everyone else here, including Nozomi, can do the same.