Oct 192011
 

It is getting cold, a few days ago I saw the first hoarfrost sparkling in the early morning light. Also inside my house and Dojo it is a bit chilly now.

Here in Germany, we spend a big amount of energy and money to heat our complete flats and houses up to comfortable 20 degrees in winter time. And during the past decade or so, technology was developed to isolate walls, roof and windows, reduce ventilation, ideally achieving a high-tech zero energy house. My 300 years old mill is quite the opposite. It’s simply cold inside, when it is cold outside, and heating up the whole place is far too expensive, not talking about the waste of energy.

kotatsu

My kotatsu in a temple at Koja-san.

During my winter-stays in Japan I learnt about another low-energy housing idea: instead of isolating and heating the whole house, just heat up the place where you sit: a table, covered by a warm quilt, and a low energy heating device underneath, a simple and cheap solution. The upper body and head stay fresh in the cool air, while legs and belly are comfortably warm … and it requires just about as little energy as boiling some water for tea. In Japan, this is called kotatsu, still common and much appreciated as the families’ gathering place, even nowadays and in rather new houses.

I like the simplicity of the idea!

P.S.: “And what during Zazen?” I have been asked. Well, it is always above zero in my Dojo, opposite to some Japanese temples during winter Rohatsu Sesshin. Also, Zazen helps to produce lots of heat … and no worry, for seminars I switch on central heating!

P.P.S.: I usually don’t think it is necessary to stick a “Warning! Don’t …” – label to each and every idea. Since more than one of my readers were concerned about risk of fire: in Japan, electric kotatsu are ready-to-buy and safe units. Any DIY solution has to be planned with necessary care against over-heating, of course. Also lighting incense bares the risk of setting fire in the Dojo …

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