Intimate Encounters: Filipina Women and the Remaking of Rural Japan

By Lieba Faier | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
The Pressures of Home

The winters in Central Kiso are long and cold. People born and raised in the region will tell you they come from a “samui tokoro” (a cold place). They may even recite a line from the Kisobushi (The Kiso Melody), a folk song about the Kiso region that is familiar throughout Japan: Natsu demo samui. “Even summer is cold.” Some liked to say that the region was colder than even Hokkaido, where at least houses are well heated. Only the newest and most expensive homes in Central Kiso had insulated walls or central heating. Most people I knew warmed their houses the cheapest way, with kerosene stoves. Some, myself included, also taped plastic bubble-wrap to the windows to keep out the chill and stave off pipe damage. Yet despite these efforts, and in large part because of my reluctance to purchase a second kerosene stove, the small house I rented on the Kiso River was almost unbearably cold throughout the winter. For several weeks straight in January and February, the thermometer in my kitchen dropped below -4°C each morning, and I soon found that I had to put fruit and vegetables in the refrigerator to keep them from freezing solid overnight. Like most people in the area, I set up my kotatsu (a low covered and heated table) in late October, and I spent the bulk of my day sitting with my legs under it for the next five months.

One Thursday afternoon in late November, after our Japanese class, Cora, Ana, and I huddled in the six-mat tatami room I was heating and using as my bedroom, living room, and office through the winter. The women had

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