“Bedtime,” a voice calls out. I remove my “wataire hanten” cotton-padded quilted jacket and crawl into my futon, the coldness of which makes me wince and curl up.

I remember such winter nights from my early childhood.

On especially cold nights, a traditional Japanese foot warmer called “mametan anka” was placed at the foot of the bed. It was a small, insulated box with a metallic casing secured by a latch. Its heat source was a single charcoal briquette (mametan) placed within that was heated until it was red hot.

I remember its gentle warmth with great nostalgia.

The foot warmer must have been already quaint back then. Thus, I could only stare in surprise to see them piled high at a home center in Tokyo the other day. They were expensive, too.

“They have been in demand like never before in recent years, and they keep selling out quickly,” said a manufacturer I interviewed over the phone. I could hear amazement in the manufacturer's voice.

The unexpected popularity of the anka apparently has to do with the government’s power-saving request due to be issued in December. It will be the first such request for winter in seven years, and the reason is the possibility of a power shortage.

Even without the government asking us to conserve energy, the shockingly steep heating costs invariably make people feel nostalgic for the old-fashioned foot warmer.

The nation’s six major utilities are planning rate hikes for next spring--a one-time increase by a whopping 30 to 40 percent. All the sacrifices we have been making so far to save energy will have been in vain.

There is every reason now to reconsider our ways of life. Compared with my early childhood in the 1970s, household energy consumption today has nearly doubled.

There are plenty of things we can start to do right now, such as turning off redundant lighting and wearing layers of clothing.

I recall the night skies in the immediate aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011.

A poem by Kodo Nakayama goes to the effect: “A quiet celebration with offerings of chestnuts and persimmons/ The autumn harvest moon lights up the darkness/ On a night of power-saving.”

In a town where neon lights were out and escalators had been shut down, I vowed never to return to a life of wasteful power consumption. I must not forget that.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 30

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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VOX POPULI: Quaint foot warmer returns as winter power shortage possible

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30.11.2022

“Bedtime,” a voice calls out. I remove my “wataire hanten” cotton-padded quilted jacket and crawl into my futon, the coldness of which makes me wince and curl up.

I remember such winter nights from my early childhood.

On especially cold nights, a traditional Japanese foot warmer called “mametan anka” was placed at the foot of the bed. It was a small, insulated box with a metallic casing secured by a latch. Its heat source was a single charcoal briquette (mametan) placed within that was heated until it was red hot.

I remember its gentle warmth with great nostalgia.

The foot warmer must have been already quaint back then. Thus, I could only........

© The Asahi Shimbun


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