Coldness builds character


Winter in School

Anyone who has spent time in Japan during winter can attest to just how cold it can be. Hailing from Colorado where cold is a welcomed sight to ski bums and sno shoers, I can handle pretty much any ammount of cold you throw at me. However, there is one place that I never expected the cold to hit me and it hit me hard when i first came to Japan…. School.

In American schools there is central heating and you would be hard pressed to find a modern school that uses abnything else. It is rare to find condensation on the windows of modern schools, too. But Japan is very different, and you may be surprised to hear how.

Japan famously makes their students clean their classrooms everyday to build responsibility and character in the students. However there is much more that Japanese schools do to help build student’s character. In the winter, (in most schools) the classrooms are heated individually and controlled via the teachers office control panel. At this time the rest of the schools are not heated in order to save on kerosene, which the stoves are run on.

Heating an entire school in this way makes sense, but it also keeps the rest of the school which makes the building very cold. When I asked the pricnipal that I work for why Japanese schools don’t use centralized heating, he gave me two reasons. One was that because Japan is a very moist country it is very difficult to build basements to house the equipment nescessary for central heating. The second reason was that working in the cold builds character and helps students appreciate the heat they have in their classrooms.

This was surprising to me, even after 8 years in Japan. By making students walk from class to class in the freezing temperature it halps them appreciate the classrooms. This also helps students build relationships because to stay warm students stay in the classrooms and interact with the other students there building relationships. This also teaches them to be tough because students clean the school even when it is freezing and some schools even have all the students shovel snow in the morning and during cleaning time.

All of this hard work goes into building the character and appreciation of the finer things in life. While this is a little much from a western point of view this is part of the culture of Japan. After 8 years in Japan as a teacher I am still learning to appreciate all the small things that Japanese people do, though I don’t clean with the students in the snow I an appreciate their character.


What do you think of this point of view? Did you clean your classrooms when you were in school? What was one strange thing that your schools made you do growing up? I would love to hear, please comment below.



  1. Thank you for sharing the reasons why Japanese schools don’t have central heating.
    When I was in school in Malaysia, we took turn to clean the classrooms. There’s a duty rooster, so we clean only when it’s our turn.
    The schools have general workers to clean and maintain the common ground, though.
    Malaysia is a tropical country, the classrooms have ceiling fans only, not air-conditioners. I remember my daughter’s Japanese classmates being envious when she told them her classroom has fans. Being in the Japanese school classroom in the summer months (July, September) can be challenging too. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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