In the Home


Brace yourself. Winter is coming.

  • Invest in some sturdy shovels from the hardware store. 
  • Be prepared to shovel snow regularly. If it’s left for too long it will turn to ice and be a nightmare to move. (This is why a sturdy shovel is necessary.)
  • Tape plastic or bubble wrap on the windows. If you have double-paned windows, and storm windows, this is not necessary. 
  • Look for places where TV and telephone cables come into the house; sometimes these are just holes punched in the wall. Pack paper or steel wool around the hole. 
  • Learn how to set your timer and ECO mode which will help save you money while keeping you nice and toasty on those hard to get out of bed mornings.
  • Learn how to drain your pipes.

Gas ストーブ (Heater) 

  • Be aware that the gas of a kerosene heater needs to be pumped outside. More than likely your heater will have a built-in line which will do this for you, but is not always the case. If your heater does not automatically do this, be sure to ventilate your house by opening a window or door every now and again. Built up gases can be fatal.
  • Check with your CO who checks the kerosene tank outside of your house regularly. If you run out, you will end up paying a lot of money to get air out of the lines and kerosene goodness flowing into your house once more. 
  • Investing in a humidifier is highly recommended as your kerosene heater will dry out the air in your house.
  • Again, check those out-pipes of your heater, especially in winter. As snow piles up it can be extremely dangerous. Firstly, it may block the escape port of the gas causing it to be pumped back inside. Secondly, snow can fall off your roof at any minute. So always be aware of your snow state before attempting to shovel risky areas.  
  • Consider leaving your heater on a low setting (around 10 degrees Celsius) if you leave the house during winter overnight or for longer. This helps prevent the pipes from freezing.


Hokkaido’s cold winters, combined with a lack of decent insulation, can wreak havoc on your pipes.

  • Learn how to drain the pipes before winter arrives.  
  • Don’t hesitate to take precautions during the day even if you are home during the evenings, by doing the whole draining process during the coldest weeks.
  •  Ask your supervisor or the person responsible for your accommodations to explain these procedures to you. Also find out who is liable for plumbing problems.
  • If your pipes do burst, call a plumber or your boss right away. If they are simply frozen, and the water doesn’t flow, you can try turning the heat on high for the night. Put a fan next to the main valve blowing away from the pipe. Hot air will be drawn from the ceiling across the pipes and onto the floor. 

If you are draining the water yourself, keep these things in mind:

  • There is at least one main valve, and sometimes more, in the house or apartment.
  • Switch it to “off” while the water is running .
  • Open all of the faucets that branch off that line.
  • Don’t forget the washing machine, toilet, sinks and bathtub. 
  • Some faucets will have a little knob that allows air into the pipe; some knobs are only loosened while others should be taken off completely.
  • Most people have hand-held showers. In this case, to drain the hose, put the head down on a lower level, like in the tub.

The water heater (boiler) requires special care: 

  • If possible, leave it on a warm setting at all times during the winter so the inside doesn’t freeze. 
  • The pipes to and from the heater need draining.
  • In some cases, the boiler can be turned off and on. There may be a little knob that needs to be pressed a few times each month to avoid clogging and water back up. 
  • When you return home, just reverse the above process but remember: before you turn on the main valve, remember to shut off all the valves and faucets you opened.


Most manual showers come with two dials – one for shower/bath, and one for temperature. The temperature one should have Celsius readings on it. There is usually a small red button around the 50 mark – you can push this to turn the dial past 50 degrees. Use it if you like your water extremely hot. 


If you have a futon, you should air it out occasionally. On a sunny day hang it outside and let it air out. Beat it to make it fluffy again. 


  • Vacuum it like a carpet, and wipe it down with a dry cloth. 
  • Wipe any spills immediately. 
  • If you find your tatami has visible mold, clean it with anti-bacterial spray and a dust cloth.  
  • Note that tatami is a delicate material, so stronger chemicals like mold-killer spray will damage the mats.

Conventional Oven

When you first set eyes on your new microwave covered in buttons and marked in Japanese, it can look daunting. But knowing some basic words will have you feeling comfortable in no time. 

Here are some useful word to help you work that ghastly conventional oven:

電子レンジ     microwave mode
解凍     defrost/thaw
肉     meat
あたため     warm up/heat
オーブンレンジ     oven mode
レンジ     stove/kitchen range
グリル     grill
強火     high heat/flame
中火     medium heat/flame
弱火     low heat
ケーキ     cake
10分     10 minutes
1分     one minute
10秒     10 seconds
とりけし / 取り消し     cancel