*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Japanese Crisis management: snowfall edition.

The 'Sky-Tree' has now had five incidents of snow falling and damaging other structures.  Since I also make fun of Vancouver I can point out that, surrounded by a warren of shitamachi shacks, someone might have thought about ice forming on a 634m tower in a maritime winter climate...

Almost a week later, yet there's still snow on the roofs.  Odd?  In Canada, where it is at least 10C colder, the snow would have melted off by now...  Oh... In Canada there is heat produced inside the homes...

Original Post:
Hey 'ware-ware Nihonjin', we live with a winter climate, in a city of thirty million, so we'd better make sure the highways that bring in product for our low-inventory 'just in time' system, and droids from Chibaragi, don't have to stay closed because they're all privitized and don't keep their own graders and sanders, nor seem to be able to figure out a way to lease them from anywhere.  So let's use the same technique we brought to 'taking a knife to a gunfight', attending to overheating nuclear reactors, our birth-rate, getting our economic asses kicked by China and S. Korea, and English education: everyone look elsewhere and hope the problem disappears by itself.
Tonight on the news, more than two days after the snowfall, the announcer-bot asked: "How much longer will the snow stay?"  Accompanied by shots of a warren street of uninsulated 'eco' Tokyo shacks middle-class homes, with a road of uncleared snow trammeled into boilerplate ice.  Honey, the answer is a week if you do nothing about it, or five minutes if you get your ass out there with a shovel and some sand or salt.  How long could it take to clear an alleyway Tokyo street in front of your three meter wide rabbit-hutch home?

I'll tell you how long far more snow would stay in the following cities:
- in Toronto, with a snowier winter - half a day
- in Montreal, with a far snowier winter and a poorer tax base - half a day

Oh, but that's Canada...  Yeah, so is Vancouver, and it gets little more snow than Tokyo, and is no colder in the winter (well, I am certain it is warmer inside the homes).  How long?  A half day.


  1. My home is actually colder inside than it is outside....the Japanese build nice coolers and ovens that magnify the outside temperatures...it's fucking amazing. I was freezing till I walked outside this morning. This island country is sometimes like a Darwinian experiment gone horribly wrong.

    1. Just on the weekend I was watching a new home show with my wife. The project?
      - a plot of land off of a staircase with no road access, to which the materials had to be carried by hand
      - and the miniature front-end loader had to ascend dangerously on sandbags
      - two separate three-story structures each with a one-room footprint, so as to maximize the heat loss/gain from exterior walls?
      - joined by a staircase between them, protected by single-pane glass
      - each time you go from one room to another you have to take stairs

      Fucking morons.

    2. I thought it's not permitted to build on plots with no road access - at least in Tokyo.

      I'm still stunned by the sheer crapalaciousnes of some of the new-build houses I've looked at here, even with road access.

    3. Man I'm laughing so I hard it's difficult to type

      Heat doesn't rise in Japan, it falls and it is diverted down stairways and magnified by glass. Don't believe me? Is it cold outside right now? Go ahead and touch your window...can you actually feel the cold through that single glass pane?.....You know what....skip the last part and trust me!!!

      Your not drinking the Kool Aide!!!!!

    4. Got an allergy to kool-aid.

      Octopus, I thought your blog had gone defunct. Glad to see it again. Didn't see which city that house is in, or didn't understand.

  2. Common sense; do Japanese have it? Don't answer that.
    I just spent my first week in the snow. My first week in my entire life in snowy Lake Tahoe, California. Even I knew to grab the shovel to bust up icy spots that I needed to walk through and shove snow out of my walk way. I was not prepared for walking in snow so I was wearing Vans. No traction so I had to make sure I walked right, stayed off the ice and out of the snow. Unless I wanted to eat shit or end up with soggy cold feet. I spied a shovel in the garage and used it to accommodate the surroundings to my poor choice of shoe. I wasn't about to spend a whole week of vacation waiting for the snow to just go away on it's own. I would be there until spring! *sigh* Ignoring something does NOT make it go away. That applies to more than just snowfall.

    1. "Common sense; do Japanese have it? Don't answer that."

      Sorry, can't stop myself. The short answer is: no.

      The longer answer is that 'common sense' is clearly something that is learned; perhaps I should say that it requires rigorous indoctrination to vaccinate a population against acquiring it, as heuristics are an innate human technique.

      Or maybe... like in the novel I just finished, they have had their 'fancy' surgically removed from their brains.

  3. Excuse me, WE Japanese have common sense, it's just a unique type of common sense that is too subtle for your gaijin brain to understand. The snow should gaman the fuck up and melt itself. Gambare, yuki-chan!

    Actually we will have a snow shovelling team as soon as we finish designing a cute mascot for it.

  4. > How long could it take to clear a Tokyo street in front of your home?

    I didn't time it, but something like 30 minutes. That was for 8 metres of road frontage on a 6 metre wide road with no houses on the opposite side, and included a patch in front of the elderly neighbour's house. Plus another 20 odd minutes communal effort, with the one half of the street who could be bothered, to clear some "unowned" bits of road.

    In Tokyo's defence, it doesn't snow anything like often enough for people or institutions to have established any routine to deal with it; and when it does snow, 99% of the time it melts away within a couple of hours.

    On the other hand, it snowed on Monday, it is now Thursday, and down the end of the road around the corner there is still a large patch of road covered in compacted snow which none of the three households who front onto that bit of road seem to feel in any way responsible for.

    1. And they are still riding their shit bicycles over boilerplate-ice. I guess that stops once all the cyclists have broken a bone.

  5. My favourite thing on the news was the high-heel wearing ice-skating ladies. Because when it snows, heels are an awesome choice of footwear. When it snowed for the first time here in 16 years, I had a wonderful time watching two security men stand at the junction, telling people to be careful because it was slippery (apparently, it hadn't dawned on anyone to put some kind of salt down) and then marvelling at the high school kids who chose to ignore the warnings, and going flying when it turned out to actually be slippery.

    1. Oh, the best line on those boots was from a friend of mine when we were both on JET a hundred years ago, commenting on the fact that J-girls cover their legs from the bottom-up rather than the top-down when it's cold, mistakenly thinking they won't still look long-waisted (short-legged). To a sixteen year old at his HS: "Yukiko, maybe if you covered your ass you wouldn't be sniffling all fucking winter."

      Good thing he became a lawyer, not a teacher back in Canada with that candour.

      I've been striding over the un-salted snow and ice in my Blundstones for the past week just fine and hearing a lot of "Sugoi!" from behind, as the locals shuffle along. Mind you, not like they wear sensible footwear or seem to be able to walk in the best weather. Walk like you mean to get somewhere!

  6. This all makes me strangely nostalgic...


    1. Nice. Yeah, considering the Brits at school thought the Japanese response was a joke, what the hell is a Canadian supposed to think?

  7. > Almost a week later, yet there's still snow on the roofs. Odd? In Canada,
    > where it is at least 10C colder, the snow would have melted off by now...
    > Oh... In Canada there is heat produced inside the homes...

    So in Canada you don't have roof insulation?!

    Call me crazy, but I'm happy there's still about 5cm of snow on the north-facing slope of my roof, because it means the heat inside the house is staying inside the house.

    1. It may be the only insulation you have.

      We do insulate our attics, smart guy, but we also have the ENTIRE contents above 20C.

      In Montreal, my apartment would get warmer, with less heat output, once we'd had our first two feet of snow.

    2. Just wondering, because I come from the UK which until the 1980's was somewhat challenged in the heating, insulation and double glazing department. I remember the houses on new-build estate I lived on as a child did come with central heating not insulation and double glazing. When it snowed it was easy to tell which houses hadn't yet added insulation because the snow never stuck to the outside walls where the radiators were and melted from the roofs much faster.

      Maybe you have a different kind of snow and / or heat in Canada?

      Anyway, for the record here I have insulation in all walls and floors, as well as double glazing in all windows, which I know is mighty unusual for Japan but means the snow is still on the roof and I am sitting here in a t-shirt writing this, and the heating isn't even on :)

    3. I can assure you houses have several times the insulation of Tokyo in Toronto (and NO windows are single-paned), but I can also assure you we are profligate with heat: Canadians have the largest carbon footprint on Earth (an American lifestyle in a Nordic climate). Many homes around Toronto are 23C in winter, 19C in summer, which is stupidly inverted. Many people do not even lower the temperature for sleeping in the winter to the optimal 17C (as opposed to the Japanese lowering it to off - the ambient temperature outside!).

      Good for you on having a livable house in this country! We have one livable room, albeit twelve whole mats.

  8. Damn! My comment ate itself.

    It said something about the kerosene that 'heats' most of the homes here. And also mentioned how the place I'd lived in up north had an entry way with a metal door that wicked all the heat in winter to the point where any frozen food that was placed inside would stay frozen. The refrigerator was the warmest space in the house.

    For a warm bath, at least an hour was required to get the water heated. Sometimes, to hurry things up, pots of water were heated on the stove. Hey, it worked.

    Also remember a Canadian lady who said she'd never worn out so many pairs of long underwear. Apparently, she said, in Canada, long underwear aren't something people need to wear indoors.

    1. I don't bother to put away leftovers in the kitchen...

      Long underwear in Canada? Hell no. Only if you'll be outside for longer than a half hour, and you'd only do that to ski, toboggan, or ice-fish - but only hosers do the last.

      (Strictly speaking, only the unemployed/working-class non-urban white-Anglophone subset of Canadians are 'hosers').

  9. But...but...Japanese snow is different!

    1. Yes, 'Japan has four seasons', and snow falls in winter. Japan is so unique!

  10. This blog post and its replies are full of people who understand how backward Japanese are in properly heating and cooling their living spaces. I just found a new blog to follow that shares my thoughts on the shortcomings of Japanese architecture.

    Until I lived here I never even knew kerosene stoves were used outside camp cooking. I still refuse to use those smelly fire hazards. I just go crazy taping up all the crevices I can find and bubble tape the windows to improve the heatsink single pane glass windows in this place that take up most of the wall. Ack! I also have a God forsaken metal door that negates all the insulation improvements I've made. I ended up unceremoniously covering it with a heavy blanket. It seemed to work although now its like walking into a circus tent whenever I come home...

    1. Ha. Just pretend you're living in a yurt!

      I don't know if you are new here or not, so I'll give you a few other tips in case:
      - the hot-carpets are great
      - a fan pointed to the ceiling on low brings what little heat there is back down
      - put kitchen/bathroom space-heaters on plug-in timers to wake up to reasonable temperatures

      Good luck!

  11. Check check and check. 5+ years strong now. Great tips all around. Thanks. :)