autumn in osaka

It’s autumn in Osaka, which means that the temperature is beginning to fall, especially at night. Which means that it’s time for the kerosene heaters. Strangely, Japanese houses (until about the 1990s, apparently) have little or no insulation which means that when the temperature drops outside it drops inside too. Equally strangely, Japanese houses seem to have no efficiently centralized sources of heating. This probably is partly due to earthquakes (you don’t want a house full of broken gas lines), and partly due to the fact that it’s only cold for about three or four months of the year. You can, of course, heat your house with electric heaters, or the “forced water” system indigenous to my apartment, but then you’re going to be paying a really intense heating bill. The solution is room by room kerosene heaters. I have one in the living room, one in my bedroom, and one in the guest bedroom. They warm the small rooms up quite nicely, though the big room might need another if the temperature drops too much. The heaters have button starters and shut off automatically if they tip over (for earthquakes, don’t you know?), but they still smell like kerosene and it still feels like camping. You also have to open the window a crack from time to time to make sure that you don’t die from fumes. You may think that I’ve gone crazy and can’t possibly know what I’m talking about, but this is really an institutionalized practice. There are even two competing kerosene companies that come around several times a week in trucks so you can load up your kerosene tanks. The truck that I’ve been buying kerosene from is painted a bright blue, but both trucks that come by play an incredibly annoying (because incredibly catchy) jingle that involves high female voices singing “La la la la la la, la la la la la la, la la la la la la” at different registers.
However, outside of the rigors of heating there are the beauties of fall — especially the momiji, the maple trees, that are all turning red now. When the sun strikes the trees with the right light they become yellow, orange, and red flames. The colors of these trees often seem like those pigments that painters use that seem to emanate from the canvas rather than simply reflecting light. Below is a series of pictures taken on a recent hike in the Takarazuka mountains. Lots of hikers are coming out on the weekends now, just like in cherry-blossom season, to see the maples change colors. The forest is just starting to turn and walking through the trees is like walking through Technicolor celluloid — light projected through layers.



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