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Is kerosene space/room heaters still common in Japan?

Is kerosene space/room heaters still common in Japan?

Old Nov 18, 19, 10:37 pm
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Is kerosene space/room heaters still common in Japan?

I an my wife went on two days trip to Nikko. For one night we stayed at local family run hotel. I selected the property based on high score of reviews.

While to property is not definitely new, what really surprised me is that in our room there was a kerosene space heater which after turning on produced such an awful smell that we had to open room windows to 8C temp outside to let the smell get out. We had to climb under thick blanket because it was freezing in the room to the rest of the evening and night.

While this experience added to my due diligence list one more question to ask/research, more broader question is - are such space heaters still common in Japan? Why they are not phased out?
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Old Nov 18, 19, 11:52 pm
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Originally Posted by invisible View Post
I an my wife went on two days trip to Nikko. For one night we stayed at local family run hotel. I selected the property based on high score of reviews.

While to property is not definitely new, what really surprised me is that in our room there was a kerosene space heater which after turning on produced such an awful smell that we had to open room windows to 8C temp outside to let the smell get out. We had to climb under thick blanket because it was freezing in the room to the rest of the evening and night.

While this experience added to my due diligence list one more question to ask/research, more broader question is - are such space heaters still common in Japan? Why they are not phased out?
I had to look up the word kerosene in Japanese, and now I know what it is... in Japanese, it's "touyu." So you're probably talking about what we call "sekiyu stove" or gasoline stove.

I think those are rather uncommon in big cities, certainly in Tokyo. But if you go out to the countryside or colder places, I think it might still be fairly common in Jpn. My parents live in suburb of Tokyo and still have one, although I don't know when they used it last... they use combo of A/C and kotatsu for heat (no central heat so the entire house is freezing at night), which I think might be the most common combo of heat for most homes in Kanto suburbs. I used to go to the next-door gas station in Kofu to fill up a plastic bin with touyu for the stove, as did a lot of neighbors, and this was ~10yrs ago. I don't remember the smell bothering me, although I did wonder about its safety. Gasoline stoves heat pretty well and are immune to power outage.
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Old Nov 19, 19, 1:39 am
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I actually have recent experience of living with a fuel heater in central Tokyo (Yoyogi). My husband’s grandmother didn’t like Air Conditioning and never used it, so in the winter months the sources of heat were hot water bottles (for the bed), the heated toilet seat, the kotatsu and the fuel burner. Like many Japanese people I grew very fond of the fuel burner.
To understand this perhaps you have to think of it as a progression of the irori (the fire pit that used to be the hearth of the home, now only used in very few houses). The fuel burner is a complementary source of heat to the kotatsu - one sits at the kotatsu with a kettle on top of the heater and access to hot tea throughout the day. My grandmother-in-law would also prepare foods on hers (like hot mochi or yaki-onigiri or toasted dried squid).
I only got a few winters with this arrangement but I treasure them and am not at all surprised that the tradition continues.
My grandmother-in-law’s son lives in Zama in Kanagawa in a relatively modern apartment block. He and his wife are a bit, let’s say “alternative” - part of a Buddhist/Christian sect that values organic foods and natural medicines (hard to explain quickly) but they don’t like A/C or central heating either (quite a lot of people in Japan believe it makes you ill more - and not just in Japan) so they too use the fuel burners.
Not my father-in-law. Centre of Tokyo (Minami Azabu), smart, recently refurbished/rebuilt apartment (something commonly done every 30 years or so) and he uses the A/C to heat the house in the winter. I do spot burners from time to time in some of the older houses in his area, I also know that some of the neighbours in his apartment complex use them. I believe it’s the kettle heating capacity as well as being a source of warmth that helps their existence persist so.
Unless the winters in the flatter parts of Honshu, Japan become harsher and longer, I don’t see fuel burners being relegated to history in my lifetime.
But yes, straight from the bath (with your skin red and glowing) and into bed is the traditional way to spend the end of the evening. There is nostalgia for this, believe it or not (brings some peace to tired parents! Those kids aren’t going anywhere!!!)
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Last edited by LapLap; Nov 19, 19 at 1:44 am
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Old Nov 19, 19, 6:30 am
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To better demonstrate, here is the photo.


Kerosene heater
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Old Nov 19, 19, 6:46 am
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Still very common. But the one above appears to be a bit old and those older models do have a smell, especially when first turned on or off. After that they burn quite clean. Newer ones (last 5 years or so) are ultra clean and virtually no smell. They are our main heat in the house during winter. A very nice warmth as compared to the air conditioner/heater unit high on the wall and cheaper.
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Old Nov 19, 19, 7:04 am
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Understood. Why gas/electric/oil/ceramic space heaters are not popular?
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Old Nov 19, 19, 7:32 am
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Originally Posted by invisible View Post
Understood. Why gas/electric/oil/ceramic space heaters are not popular?
Gas and electricity are expensive. I've never seen an electric one that can warm a room well in winter. Touyu fan heater is comfy and not so expensive. Downside is that you've got to refill the tank (always at night it seems, outside in the cold), unless you have a built-in one connected to an outdoor large tank.
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Old Nov 19, 19, 9:35 am
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Yes, when I lived in Japan, I was nervous about using a kerosene heater, so I bought an electric one for my 6-mat+plus tiny kitchen+toilet and sink apartment. The next month's electric bill was a shock. After that, I stuck to sitting at the kotatsu in the evenings (I was at the university during the weekdays and out exploring Tokyo and environs on the weekends), walking to the public bath just before bedtime, and ironing my bedding before crawling in for the night. I also kept my bathrobe under the covers with me so that it was warm when I woke up. After selecting my clothes for the day, I put them under the kotatsu to warm up while I stood at the gas range boiling water for coffee and making oatmeal (I was happy to find oatmeal in Tokyo). By the time breakfast was over, my clothes were warm, and I was ready to face the world.

I had been dreading winter in Japan, knowing that few dwellings had central heating, but dealing with it was much easier than I had anticipated. The summers on the other hand...
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Old Nov 19, 19, 10:39 am
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Originally Posted by ksandness View Post
After selecting my clothes for the day, I put them under the kotatsu to warm up while I stood at the gas range boiling water for coffee and making oatmeal (I was happy to find oatmeal in Tokyo). By the time breakfast was over, my clothes were warm, and I was ready to face the world.
And you were SO close to the secret of staying warm whilst breakfast was prepared! (As demonstrated by the attached pics)
Slipping your feet into the kotatsu has an additional benefit for many as furry pets tend to like to spend the night down there and they feel lovely against bare feet in the morning!
And itís this scenario which demonstrates that heated toilet seats are a necessity not a luxury.
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Old Nov 19, 19, 10:50 am
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Originally Posted by nishimark View Post
Gas and electricity are expensive. I've never seen an electric one that can warm a room well in winter.
Room size gets smaller in colder regions, too. I've also wondered about home insulation in the colder areas of Japan. Some new homes feature central heat and most suburban windows seem to be double paned?
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Old Nov 19, 19, 10:56 am
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Originally Posted by LapLap View Post
And itís this scenario which demonstrates that heated toilet seats are a necessity not a luxury.
You can imagine my surprise when I read toilet bowl water can freeze in parts of Canada during the winter. Heated seat, warm water cleanse, with fuzzy seat cushion is definitely appropriate for some areas. Maybe warm water in the toilet sink tap, too.
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Old Nov 19, 19, 11:24 am
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Originally Posted by freecia View Post
Room size gets smaller in colder regions, too. I've also wondered about home insulation in the colder areas of Japan. Some new homes feature central heat and most suburban windows seem to be double paned?
Apparently the folks of Hokkaido are Japanís biggest ice cream consumers, particularly in the winter. Enjoying ice cream in January is only something one does in a warm and cozy home. My husbandís cousin is a flight controller at Sapporo, her house is centrally heated and fully insulated.
Nostalgia only takes one so far!
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Old Nov 19, 19, 1:59 pm
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The culture of building a house that helps humans endure the summer months at the expense of a bit of discomfort in the winter is easy for me to understand. Using independent fuel burners (in this case butane gas) and kotatsu (“camilla” tables and “brasero” heaters) are part of winter life in many parts of Spain.
What I have never seen in Spain is this contraption which combines both. Next time I have to spend the end of the year in Alicante I’m adopting it. Genius!
https://www.amazon.co.jp/IBF-省エネ温風パイ.../dp/B0012P3BMQ

EDIT TO ADD - MrLapLap just arrived back from a trip. He says this pipe method is used widely to funnel hot, dry air under and into futons. In the summer, futons are periodically placed under bright sunlight to dry out, disinfect and suppress mite and fungus growth. In the winter and in the rainy season this isn’t always possible and piped air from a fuel heater does a good approximation of sunshine’s job. (Those without fuel heaters can buy a dedicated electric futon dryer.)
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Last edited by LapLap; Nov 19, 19 at 4:25 pm
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Old Nov 19, 19, 6:22 pm
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Sapporo newly built apartments for rent shows similar wall unit heaters
https://www.goodrooms.jp/hokkaido/sh...f=cg_side_menu

I'd probably want to use the surrounding area around the heater as a drying rack/cupboard (assuming not on moisture sensitive tatami or hardwood floors) but I guess apartment dwellers without balconies/inclement weather use the bathroom dehumidifier function. I think some electric futon dryers also have an attachment for shoes?
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Old Nov 19, 19, 6:25 pm
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In northern Japan where winters are long and cold, kerosene heaters are definitely more common than other kinds in buildings and houses more than 5-10 years old. Recently, new apartments and houses seem to be changing to electric heating. Two of the advantages of the portable kerosene heaters are that they are much cheaper to run than electric and usually they are portable, so you can hide them away in the summer months.

It sounds like you got a bit unlucky with your hotel. That heater looks a little old. Maybe it hasn't been cleaned properly or the exhaust is not as good as it should be. It could also be because winter has only just started and it hasn't been used recently. Sometimes it takes a few cycles to burn out all the old kerosene. Most kerosene heaters should burn clean with very little or no smell.
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