How to DIY Insulate your Japanese Apartment

The days are growing colder now in Tokyo, and probably so is the inside of your apartment. Japanese homes are notoriously badly insulated, and it is pretty hard to stay unaffected by the sudden drop in temperature. A couple of years ago, I used to live in an older, wooden apartment where sometimes in winter it actually got colder inside than it was outside; sometimes creeping down to 5 degrees Celsius in the dead of winter if I didn't keep the heater on at all times. There are some tips and tricks that I have learned along the way however, and hopefully they will help make your Tokyo home a little more toasty as well. Not only for your sanity, but for the electric bill as well.

Let's start with enemy number one when it comes to keeping your place habitable for winter: The Windows.

Photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash

One of the best solutions for this is Bubble Wrap. Yes you read it right, bubble wrap. When I first saw it I had a hard time believing it too, but it really does help. Since it is very rare to find any houses south of Hokkaido that have windows with double glazing, that lovely big window in your bedroom will basically turn into a portal to Hoth come December. Some houses in Japan have nifty storm shutters that can be pulled over the windows for some extra help with the cold, but that also means losing all daylight, making your probably already tiny Tokyo home feel like even more of a shoebox. The solution for this is putting bubble wrap as a sort of extra insulation on top of the windows. It can be easily bought from Amazon (if you don't just have some laying around), and then it’s just a matter of cutting it to the size you need if it’s too big. Then stick it on using the condensation of the window or by dampening the window with a spray bottle or wet rag. 

Photo by Evert Haasdjk on Flickr

Another thing to help combat the cold leaking in through your windows can be to invest in a really good pair of curtains. Getting light blocking curtains might be a good idea in general for a better night's sleep, but more importantly it can also help with keeping some of the cold air from making its way into your room via the windows. The second curtain-related I have tip is getting a set of floor length vinyl or plastic curtains to put behind your regular ones as an extra layer of protection. I would also recommend putting something like a smaller cotton curtain in front of your front door somehow (I use one of those nifty twisty rod thingies), because that is also a place that tends to let cool air get into your home pretty easily.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Even if this is your first experience with fall and winter in Japan, by now you have probably felt the horror that is those icy floors in the morning. There is a very simple solution to this, and it's just getting a nice and fluffy carpet. This is especially true for the bathroom that somehow turns into the coldest place on earth in winter. You might think that just popping on a pair of slippers can help solve this problem just as easily, but it won't help with keeping your apartment warmer, just your toes. The carpet will act as extra insulation, preventing the icy floors from cooling down your entire place. If you are feeling a little bit extra, there are some heated carpets on the market, but that's mostly if you have a table or a desk where you would normally sit directly on the floor and not a chair, and not for actually warming up your room.

If you are living in an older house, the walls might be getting really cold as well; kind of turning your home into a refrigerator. A solution to this problem can be hanging some cute or interesting fabric on the walls, and something like a fabric wall mural--though a little bit more expensive--can also be a great personal touch to your apartment besides acting as insulation.