Masochism, or sustainable living?

The author of a blog that I unfortunately can’t seem to locate once quipped that living in Japan is like taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.  I had to laugh because I once had a Skype conversation with the Mother Superior of a convent that went something like this:

Mother:  “Wow, so I’m seeing Japan!  Show me around your apartment!”

Me:  “Actually, you can see the whole thing right now.”

Mother:  “Really?  Where’s your bed?”

Me:  “It’s a futon, and I’m sitting on it right now.  There’s no room for any other furniture, really.”

Mother:  “What are you, training to be a nun or something?”

So yes, I live in a 100-square-foot apartment, and I don’t own a table.  But that’s not considered asceticism in Japan–just par for the course.  My coworkers actually think I’m a total pansy for not bicycling to work.  I mean, it’s only 7km.

Many people are surprised to find out how “low-tech” everyday life in Japan actually is.  The Japanese generally use heating and air conditioning very sparingly, which is all the more punishing since insulation never caught on here.  But I find there’s a certain willingness to suffer.

(Not on my part, I mean.  I crank the heat all the way up in the winter and I don’t care if it makes my gas bill $200.)

So I had to smile when I read paragraph 55 of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, Laudato Si:

People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more. A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning.

If I’d never lived in Japan, I probably would’ve scratched my head at the use of air conditioning as an example.  I mean, that’s just a necessity of life, right?  Surely no one would sit in a sweltering room next to a button that could relieve their suffering and just not press it, right?

Well, maybe they would.


2 comments on “Masochism, or sustainable living?

  1. Mchan says:

    A japanese friend in Tokyo has a 2 bedroom company flat and when I went there to stay we slept on the floor of the living room because no aircon is installed in the 2 rooms and in summer you could boil an egg in those rooms.


  2. You really feel the seasons here, don’t you?


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