How Japan Makes the Cold Fun

Fall in Japan brings changes to living indoors and outdoors, inside and out. Some changes are obvious: cooler weather, fall colors and bundling up as you head out. Other changes are less obvious. Because Japan gets cool but not cold (it rarely goes below freezing near Tokyo), the homes around here don’t have central heating. That means you warm things up by turning on the air conditioner, taking a hot bath, or by bundling up.

This year we decided to take a traditional Japanese approach to dealing with the cold indoors — a self-heating Kotatsu table. At first, we weren’t quite sure how the kids would respond to this surprise, but it only took the first cool day to know for sure.

Kotatsu is great indoors, but outdoors things really get beautiful in the fall. Over the past few years my friends and I have begun a tradition of sorts — hiking a new place in Japan and enjoying the fall scenery. This year we went to a record-breaking place in Japan, and the result was a long but very satisfying excursion to one of Japan’s tallest peaks. It just so happened to take us through Japan’s highest bus stop along the way.

But probably the outdoor highlight of living in Japan during the fall are the Fall colors. It’s not just me that feels that way, the Japanese have a word devoted to Fall colors: 紅葉 (kouyou). Parks hold special festivals. Mountain highways pack out with scenic-loving travelers. Hot drinks and soups become all the rage. And this year we really were able to get in on the action.

Yes, Fall is a beautiful time in Japan. And the end of Fall brings about one of the most fun times of the year — Christmas and New Years. Yes, it’s just around the corner, and this year our Paz Church is planning our biggest Christmas Party ever! There will be three separate events on Sunday, December 25. So plan to join us online or in-person. It’s going to be awesome!

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