'Warm Share' initiative rewards eco-friendly residents

By Philip Kendall

As much as Japanese people love to go on about how “Japan has four distinct seasons, you know!” (yes, so does the UK…), the gap between summer and winter – that fantastic period when you’re neither dripping with sweat nor trying to get the feeling back in your fingers - is mercilessly short, and we already seem to be at the end of it.

Japanese buildings are usually made from lightweight materials and, outside of places like Hokkaido in the north, have very little insulation, which means they start getting cold as early as late October. By the time January arrives, you’re wearing a wooly hat in bed and putting off getting up as long as possible since it means surrendering your body to the icy air in the kitchen while frantically boiling the kettle to make a cup of anything hot.

While most of us try to be sparing in our use of our heating (except my neighbor who runs her air conditioner 24/7 so that it constantly sounds like there’s a car idling outside), more often than not we burn more gas and electricity than we really need to, locked away in our private little sanctuaries.

With this in mind, a number of businesses, shops and community centers in Japan have launched a new campaign for winter, known as Warm Share, which encourages people to switch off their heating at home and head out to a heated public area where, as the name implies, they share the warmth with everyone else.

It’s good for the environment, it’s good for your wallet, it gets you out of the house.

But perhaps the coolest thing about Warm Share is the fact that many locations offer discount coupons and completely free hot drinks to visitors who simply utter the magic words: “I switched off my heating and came here instead.”

The thinking behind the idea is not unlike that of car pooling. In much the same way that people sit in traffic in cars built for four or more but carrying just one (and all the while complaining about the price of fuel and that the roads are so busy), many of us are spending hours in our homes trying to stay warm but are equally irked by the price of our gas and electricity bills. If we all pull together and share the same spaces as much as possible, though, as well as benefiting from lower heating bills, we help the environment out at the same time.

Website provides everything from information about how to get involved in the scheme to a map that pinpoints businesses, shops and community centers taking part, all divided by theme including places to eat, drink, study, read, enjoy music and art and even relax in a hot spa.

Of course, many of us prefer the comfort and privacy of our own homes and are unlikely to actively seek out a public spot to relax in. But for those who do venture out to a Warm Share location, merely uttering the phrase “I switched off my heating and came here!” gets them anything from discounts to completely free hot drink right the way through until March next year.

Residents in the town of Ichikawamisato, Yamanashi prefecture, for example, are already being rewarded for getting out of their homes with a discount ticket to enter their local hot spring. Both locals and visitors to the town alike receive almost 50% off admission and are free to stay as long as they please, toasty and warm.

Since beginning the scheme, the local spa is reported to have seen as many as 5,000 more visitors than normal, with many seizing the opportunity to cut back on their heating bill and take a warm, relaxing dip at the same time.

One visitor to the spa told reporters that he was thrilled to be able to spend the day relaxing, enjoying great food and keeping warm. “My heating’s off and I’m relaxing in the spa today,” he remarked, “for just 300 yen I spent the entire day toasty warm and I had a great time.”

Of course, there’s no reason for us all head to public places just to get warm and save on our heating bill. Winter in Japan is the ideal time to get together with friends and family for things like nabe or pizza making parties. Cooking and drinking together, playing a few videogames, watching a movie; these things all cost far less money than us each hanging around trying to heat our individual homes, and are far more fun.

No doubt thanks to it being a veritable hive of energy, Tokyo is currently by far the biggest Warm Sharer, but there are locations in numerous areas in Japan outside of the big cities taking part, with more than 3,000 locations signed up to date, which is pretty fantastic if you ask us. As great as it is to have our comfy homes and technology like smart phones, computers and TVs, isn’t it altogether nicer to be that little bit more sociable from time to time?

And even if we don’t especially want to socialize, where’s the harm in finding a nice, warm spot in a public place, surfing the Internet and getting a free cup of coffee while someone else foots the heating bill?

Read more stories on RocketNews24. -- Chinese Theme Park Offers Big Discounts for Tiny Skirts -- World Famous Author Haruki Murakami’s Passionate Essay on the Dispute Over the Senkaku Islands -- Free Admission – Twelve of Tokyo’s Best Kept Secrets

Source: J-Cast

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It’s good for the environment, it’s good for your wallet, it gets you out of the house.

Nonsense. Let's see why:

It's good for the environment.

How do people get to these places? Cars? Public transportation? What about the energy that's used to create the products that they'll buy? It's not obvious nor self-evident that one is greater than the other.

It's good for your wallet.

I seriously doubt that transportation costs, and the cost of whatever product you are buying is going to be cheaper than a couple hours of heating would cost in your home.

it gets you out of the house.

Yes, but why is this considered an automatic positive? What if people like their house? What if people don't want some eco-fascist using some con to make them feel guilty if they want to turn on their heater?

4 ( +6 / -2 )

That's an awesome idea. As someone who prefers temperatures cooler rather than warmer, I always wondered why the "saving electricity" initiative suspiciously only happens in the summer, but in the winter everyone cranks it up. Our apartment doesn't even have a heater, so we use portable heaters, but even that I try to use only when I'm really cold and a sweater doesn't help.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's a good idea I suppose, but the map only shows places in Tokyo and Kashiwa - not interested.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I like the idea but won't need to coz we very very rarely use the heaters in the house. We just wear wamer, thicker clothes and have been doing so for years now.

1 ( +1 / -0 )


0 ( +0 / -0 )

Rather than spend money on some product, there is a building in most cities called 'a library' where, for free, you can read, write, watch movies, and even sleep. And it's good for your wallet, it gets you out of the house, and, perhaps, it is good for the environment.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

haha borscht well said.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

gaijinfoDec. 01, 2012 - 08:04AM JST

It’s good for the environment, it’s good for your wallet, it gets you out of the house.

Nonsense. Let's see why:

I agree, although my reasons are difficult. Let's say you head out to a cafe for 3 hours. Not only will you probably spend at least a thousand yen on other drinks/snacks, but most importantly when you get home you'll turn your heater onto high power for a while... why? Because your apartment is FREEZING (literally!).

As anyone who's got an ounce of common sense will tell you, it takes a lot more energy to heat an apartment from zero degrees to 18 degrees than it does to maintain 18 degrees. That's why most of us keep our heaters on low settings most of the day, not blasting high heat all the time. Air conditioners do this automatically, they heat or cool the room to the desired temperature, and then switch to a lower power to maintain.

What difference does this make in terms of power usage? Well when you turn you AC on it burns about 800 watts for the first quarter of an hour, then about 600 watts for the next 30 minutes or so, and then once the desired temperature has been reached it drops to about 80 watts maintaining the temperature and stays there. A few minutes with a calculator shows that the first hour of operation chews about 520 watts on average (the precise amount will vary by make and model, these figures are based on my home AC). That's the equivalent of leaving your AC on "maintenance" for 6 and a half hours.

... so yeah, I don't buy this idea. I'd like to see some hard data proving that this scheme actually works, otherwise it just seems to me to be a way for local cafes and businesses to drum up business.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I agree with Frungy...and even if it did help saving energy I wouldn't be able to do it as I keep birds in my home which require warm temperatures. I keep my heat on 24/7 for this reason and I have noticed since doing this my house is more comfortable and my bill isn't much different than normal.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How until people who aren't deemed "eco-friendly" get punished.

For example, after having a barbecue in the backyard, your neighbors start giving you dirty looks and tell their kids to avoid yours.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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