Alaska-jin here. I'd just like to chime in on some of the rhetoric going on with some actual information on what's going on. The public schools in Japan have been sold on the idea of having well ventilated air in school, whether hot or cold. The standing reason is twofold; dry stagnant air causes your health to suffer (40-60% humidity is the sweet spot) and air conditioning is viewed as an unnecessary expense.
I find the cold in Japan actually worse than Alaska (funny, I know) simply because there is no way to get out of it ( adding to the popularity of o-furo). Although the temperature is warmer than Alaska, that temperature is everywhere; the house, the stations, the schools, the trains (that insist on leaving the doors open at stops), the public restrooms- plus there is no heated water or towels in most of these places (leaving you cold and wet).
As an Alaskan, I know that cold weather can make you sick by running down your immune system. It's a similar drain as having dry or overly humid air (dry air causing you to dehydrate and humid air causing you to become susceptible to viruses, molds and bacteria). I believe it to be a catch 22. I've noticed no more sickness in Japanese schools as there are back in the States. Either you are cold, the viruses are diminished and your health runs down; or you are warm with an enclosed air supply and the close proximity of 30+ body-carried germs gets you. The crux of the matter is the level of comfort. Japanese public schools are not willing to pay for that comfort (unless a child dies, then you should see 'em run that e-a-kon). I find it quite interesting that, although public schooling is not-for-profit, the school is definitely run so.
Additionally, you have the Japanese ' a nail up gets hammered down' mentality. I've been told not to eat my orange peel as the children mimic me (because gaikokkujin are cool) although I've done that all my life. I have to drink cold milk even though I hate straight milk and know that drinking cold liquid in low temperatures is downright foolish.
I've found that basically schools need to be shamed into changing (as that child dying of heat stroke in Aichi prefecture last year caused).
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