Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Undercover Work

Cover up. It's getting cold outside. Winter is coming. I know this for a fact because the old men who, on lazy Sunday mornings, typically mosey down to the corner convenience store for a nicotine fix in their slippers and linen pajamas have now switched to flannels. I think it's going to be a particularly frosty one this year because some of the old guys are already wearing vests over their jammies. 

Wile I've lived in rafter-snapping climates where the temperature can dip down to ten or more degrees below zero on the Fahrenheit scale, I've never experienced the kind of numbing temperatures that winter brings to Yokohama. It's the kind of cold where sheets of ice begin to form on the inside of the windows yet it's mild enough outside for camellias to bloom. I would say the "colder inside than it is outside" phenomenon is one of those mysteries of the orient but I can't. The fact is I once met a native of Japan's frozen northern metropolis of Sapporo who after moving to Yokohama was just as puzzled by the frigid feeling you get indoors that begins seeping into every bone of your body somewhere around the end of the baseball season.

I think part of the answer to the riddle can be found in the empty space between the exterior and interior walls, the space that would normally be filled with insulation in some parts of the world. The other part of the answer can be found in the central heating system. There isn't any. Then of course the rotation of the Earth around its axis and whether or not your house sits on the sunny side of the street factors in too I imagine.

One thing I know for certain is that as the mercury is dropping the strength of the bed's magnetic pull on our bodies seems to be rising. Inside my house, we can't see our breath hang in the air above the comforter just yet but it's only November and already we have to dig down deep to find the courage to rise up from beneath our warm covers on these near-arctic mornings. I'm not complaining. I'm glad to have a roof over my head. I'm just having trouble adapting to the change in habitat, unlike my son, Jiro, who may have discovered the perfect winter survival mechanism.

Each night before hopping into bed, he lays out his school uniform within arm-reach of his futon. When it's time to rise the next morning, instead of getting dressed in the glacial environment of his room, he simply pokes his arm through a tiny opening in the warm woolen cocoon engulfing his body. Next he sequesters his pants, shirt, jacket, etc. through the arm hole and then changes safely within the warm cavern he has constructed during the night before emerging fully dressed and ready for anything. It's a metamorphosis that adds whole new layers of meaning to the idea of covering up for winter.

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