Winter is coming… Never before has the motto of House Stark rung truer and felt more relevant to me. This is me, praying for a mild winter.
So what about this fear of winter? At least the picture above doesn’t look that bad, right? Well, let me tell you! For starters, how cold does the winter in Minamioguni even get? From my research, the average temperature in January and February is around 1,6°C but with fairly regular cold spikes of about -10°C. Many might think that this sounds quite pleasant and my apparent worry is overblown. But that is where you need to think again. In Japan, the humidity is very high, in other words, there is a lot of moisture in the air. This makes it feel really freakin cold. And many Japanese homes, of course not all of them, use more or less no insulation resulting in little to no difference between the inside and outside temperature.
As you can see in the pictures above this results in the inside of the apartment, windows, doors, walls, etc becoming really wet and moist. Literally dripping with water. This can often lead to frost inside of the apartment and mold growth which is why proper measures need to be taken!
And actually, there is one more scary thing. Even scarier than mold in your closet! If you are not careful the water pipes can apparently freeze and rupture during cold spikes… But before we go into that! Let’s see what you can do about the humidity and frost/mold-problems.
First, you need to go shopping!
Above we have the following:
1. The blue packages are different versions of dehumidification agents. Since I had no idea what the best one was, the logical choice was to buy everything they had. Now I’m a proud owner of dehumidification agents for putting in your closet, hanging with your shirts and placing randomly around your apartment. These will absorb the moisture in the air and help prevent frost and mold inside the apartment. Thankfully they are relatively cheap!
2. In the red paper bag, we have newspapers that a nice colleague of mine gave to me. To be honest, this one still confuses me to most. As I understand it you should put it inside closets and preferably cover the entire floor with it to absorb moisture and prevent cold air from rising up through the tatami-mats/flooring. For now, I will settle for spreading it out in the closets.
3. The long and narrow ones with orange labels are actually bubble wrap for windows. Wait, what? Is at least what I thought. But yes, you are actually encouraged to but bubble wrap on your windows to keep the cold at bay. The process looks something like this!
First, you spray the window with lots of water!
Then you take the sheet of bubble wrap that you have cut into the proper shape and press it to the window where it will use the water as an adhesive and stick.
Here you can see the difference, left side with bubble wrap and right side without.
Another thing that can happen with the high humidity and frost inside the apartment is that the floor gets really wet and ruins mats, mattresses or other fabrics that are in direct contact with the floor. That is why it’s important to place these aluminum sheets both to prevent the heat from escaping but also to avoid your precious fabrics from getting damp and smelly.
To be honest this part was mostly about me wanting to show off my awesome kotatsu! The best invention Japan has ever made and alone reason enough to live in Japan. For the ones who haven’t seen a kotatsu before it’s a table with an electric heater attached to the inside of the table top and a cozy blanket that keeps the heat from escaping. The kotatsu is definitely worthy of an honorary mention as the single most important item needed to survive the Japanese winter.
So let’s move on to the main event! The scary risk that your water pipes might rupture leaving you without any water in the middle of winter and a big juicy reparation bill to pay. During the cold spikes of around -10°C there is a risk that the water left in your pipes will freeze, expand and thus rupture the pipes themselves. To prevent this there are 3 important things you should do and I will present them down below!
You should always leave your water on! This is the most basic way to prevent the water from freezing in the pipes. And when I say always, I mean always! Yes, when you sleep. Yes, when you go to work. At least when the temperature goes down below 0 this is a must. But when it gets really cold I have heard that even if you do this the water might freeze as it is running.
Number 2! Protect your water pipes!
Here you have an array of tools to wrap and protect the water pipes on the outside of your building.
First I wrap the pipes in heating tape, It’s called tape but has no adhesive, thus the normal tape. And for the record, I have no idea whatsoever what I’m doing here so I assume that a professional eye might find my attempts at using these materials entertaining at the least.
Lastly, I used an aluminum pipe cover and cut out pieces of a fitting size to cover the heating tape. It might not be beautiful, it might not help at all, but at least it’s something! Let’s pray that this prevents my pipes from exploding during the cold winter nights!
Finally, there is one more thing you need to do. But only when going away for a longer period of time.
Turn off the water completely! Shut it down! And the important thing to remember is that after you turn off the water, you need to open the taps to make sure that there is no water still remaining in the pipes. If you don’t do this your endeavors can be a waste since the remaining water might freeze and ruin your pipes anyway.
So there you have it! These are my winter preparations. And as I said earlier, It’s my first time spending winter during these circumstances and I have no idea if I’m doing it right or not. But what I have presented here is the information I have managed to collect and put into action. If I have misunderstood something completely, feel free to point out. Especially if it can increase my survival rate this winter!
I’ll send you off with this totally unrelated picture I took the other day, only because I like it so much.
Other than that, I want to wish you all a happy new year!! See you next year and let’s make it a good one! Love and peace! ❤