I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but Joe's certainly heard me complain enough about it: Japan doesn't use central heating or insulation. Windows are single pane. Needless to say, though Hiroshima does not morph into the arctic tundra each winter, it is still damn cold.
Lucky for me, the main teachers' office does have a few electric heaters, though by themselves they're not powerful enough to keep everyone out of hats and gloves while they work. To provide proper warmth, they bring out a kerosene stove. As you can see in the picture above, I am lucky enough this year to be seated at the desk directly next to the stove, so I have had the next best thing to a fireplace just a few feet away. Every time I'd leave my desk to go freeze my ass off in the bathroom or break room, I'd come back in and warm up again in front of the stove. In case you're wondering, they place a kettle of water on top to steam off so the air doesn't get too dry.
The stove basically serves as the school's water cooler. Everyone comes and wastes a few minutes getting toasty by the stove. So if I'm not busy there's usually someone hovering near my desk to chat with.
Once in a while it's a little stinky, but there seems to be enough people coming and going from the office that I suppose we get enough ventilation. I haven't asphyxiated yet, anyway.
Despite the electric heaters up by the ceiling and this kerosene stove, the area beneath my desk still manages to feel like a refrigerator. I combat that with a mini electric heater under my desk. Between all these heat sources and my blanket, I manage to stay warm in the office during the winter. The classroom, well — that's another story. More than half my classes are in a room with a stove as the only heat source, and they are very chilly over the winter. That same room also lacks an air conditioner, so it absolutely roasts in the summer time, too. American kids don't know how good they have it what with their central heating and air conditioning and all.
Anyway, the whole point of all this is to say that today they turned off the stove. Or rather, they never turned it on. It was a gloomy rainy day today but the temperature's been slowly rising, so I guess they figured the stove's not needed anymore. So today I mourn the loss of my beloved stove. On the bright side, it's just another reminder that the cherry blossoms will be here in a couple weeks.