I do not know exactly what the temperature is in my house at the moment – like most of the buildings here, it has no central heat or air and thus no thermostat. But basic biology and my own factory-installed thermometer tell me it is freaking freezing. This concerns me. It’s only November 19, high noon, and it’s 42 degrees Fahrenheit (or 5.55 C, whatever that means) out there in the sunshine. Is this normal? I have no idea. What I do know is that tomorrow night they’re calling for snow, and the two kerosene-filled space heaters in the house are wholly insufficient to warming anything but a small, enclosed room – and even then only for as long as they’re burning a highly combustible and stinky liquid explosive just feet away from me. The rest of the house is like a meat locker. I spent last night in fetal position under two blankets, curled around my pillow, occasionally waking to find a portion of my hand had strayed out into the open and turned into a fleshy block of hand-shaped ice.
How can this be? I’m living in one of the most technologically advanced societies on earth. People watch television on their cellphones here. Japan’s public transportation system shames the rest of the industrialized world, and just last month they put a probe into orbit around the moon. I strongly suspect Fukui might be the mechanical pencil capital of the world. But they can’t figure out central heating? If you follow the line of latitude that Fukui lies upon all the way around the globe to the east coast of North America, you find yourself at Cape Hatteras. Is it snowing in Cape Hatteras tomorrow night? I seriously doubt it. Do they have central heat and air? You better believe it. They’re not Ice Age cave dwellers in Cape Hatteras.
If I needed any reminding that I’m not living in Tokyo – and trust me, I didn’t – this would be it. Send blankets and frostbite kits.