A time for change

One of those little traditions of Japan is that summer and winter time are mandated by calendar dates, rather than the weather. After the venal equinox Japan is officially in summer mode, after the autumnal one in winter mode. Shops change their layouts and stock, clerks change their warm woolen uniforms for light cotton ones, even time tables may change.

As I remarked before, these recent years the weather has become increasingly erratic, and though we had a few delightfully warm spring days this last week it is far from summer-y; evenings are still mighty cold and from one day to the next there will be frosty winds and rainstorms. I pity the poor shopkeepers having to wear their light uniforms in such weather conditions simply because the system demands it.

I had been looking forward to this equinox as that means our communal building will finally switch on its air-conditioner again. They don’t care if people are freezing or sweating in their workplace, before the equinox the central heating is on full blast, afterwards the air conditioner. It’s the way thing are done. These last few weeks our office has been slowly getting increasingly warm. By three in the afternoon, thanks to a mass of bodies working away at their keyboards and a bank of computers whirring away happily, conditions become uncomfortable. The windows are opened, the door to the fire escape propped open with an empty graphics card box, fans switched on. But it’s no use; the central heating and the sun shining on the flat roof all contribute to a musky, dizzying warmth that make me sleepy and gives me a massive headache by 5, still hours before I can leave for home.

But is our office in line with the times? Apparently not. After the midweek holiday to celebrate the coming of spring the central heating is happily continuing its onslaught. I wear a pull-over and thick coat to work but have to strip off as much as possible on the work-floor lest my clothes get drenched in sweat. These are hardly ideal working conditions, and things will deteriorate even more until the building’s supervisor finally decides it’s time to flip the switch, at which point we’ll have a few cold weeks until the weather catches up, which is infinitely preferable to the heat.

All my gripes with work are aggravated by the warmth. Lunchbox smells become worse and seem to linger around longer. Unwashed colleagues stink even worse than usual. The dusty environment gets even dustier as fans circulate the warm air, rather than cool the workers. Stacks of papers on messy desks get blown about and scattered periodically. Low motivation turns into downright apathy as everybody turns into a warm zombie by mid-afternoon, sit back, sigh heavily and complain loudly about how damn warm it is here. And my aforementioned headaches can’t be suppressed by coffee as any hot drink just makes things worse and even the bottled water which comes out of the vending machine ice cold turns into lukewarm spit after keeping it on your desk for a while. And due to the open windows and doors every police siren or ambulance, which seem to be in abundance around our office, starts everyone as they noisily screech past. The widespread hay fever that seems to blight Japan too doesn’t benefit from the open windows as colleagues sneeze with loud grunts every other minute.

I am praying for the air-conditioner by now, and I’m not even a religious person. I hope Monday will herald in summer time at our office, a few days late, as more weeks of this heat will surely drive me to insanity. Maybe I should have a quiet word with our building’s supervisor before I lash out and hurt somebody.


  1. I think you really need a thermostat there.
    Tell them it would be like overtime for the heating: taking a nap most over the day and turning on if someone expects it to work ;D

  2. Hello from Canada, Mr. Barnett.

    I've been reading your blog for some weeks now, and I really enjoy it. I used to work in Japan, about 10 years ago. Although not in game development, I was working in software development, so I think I can kind of relate.

    At first I was a little skeptical of your blog, which I was introduced to through Kotaku. I have a bit of a tendency to be a Japan apologist, so I found the negativity a bit hard to swallow. But your writing is very compelling, and I found myself enjoying your daily entries more and more.

    The Japan aspect of your blog is close to my heart because I am in the process of evaluating whether I want to move my family back to Japan. The gaming aspect is interesting because when I was a kid I always wanted to get work making games. That's why I got into computer science. I never did get into the games industry, and perhaps I made the right choice.

    Sorry for the long prologue, I thought you just might want to know about your readers. Anyway, I also wanted to say that your topic for this post was always one of my pet peeves. I come from a place with an unpredictable climate, so I'm used to dressing according to the weather. It always surprised me how Japanese people dressed according to the calendar instead of the weather.

    However, contrary to your post "An inconvenient inconvenience," I am one of those people who did find the distinct and evenly-spaced seasons in Japan to be wonderful. Of course, I come from a place with a winter that lasts 6 months. But I do really think that the seasons of Japan are more well-defined than anywhere else I know. So I guess the Japanese have a reason to act like they do with regards to the weather.

  3. What about energy efficiency ? What about Kjoto protocol ?
    You`re saying they`re literally throwing money out of the window just because of some _definitely_ stupid cultural habits ?
    Even if they wouldn`t care for the money (I`d rather give them to the board of directors than suffer deteriorating working condidtions), do they not care for the environment ?

    It reminds me of the Japan toilets - water allegedly still flows on toilets so that it kinda filters the sounds. I don`t know if that`s true, but if it is, USA just got pawned in its inefficiency related to using of water, because such stupidity couldn`t ever get adopted here in U.S.

    I still don`t get why do you have to be there ? Company sent you out or just came there for a change ?
    Judging from your other blog entries it seems that Japan is hardly a place where a sane person could ever function.

    BTW, I`ve had always lots of question about certain Japan cultural issues and your blog has answered them all. I now know it`s how I thought it to be, but just couldn`t believe in the amount of sheer stupidity.
    But it seems, that`s just the way it works there.

    BTW, why not advise the colleagues that don`t get a shower each morning and stink, to do that actually ? You can`t do anything about those that take the shower each morning and take clean clothes and by late afternoon they`re sweated (especially under the conditions that you describe), but if there are stinking animals without morning shower, I sure would let them know in some, initially, non-rude way.