Winter is cold in my country, sometimes down to below zero before dawn. Cold draft penetrates in the room from every gap of shojis (paper screen sliding doors), walls, pillars, tatamis, etc.
In old days, people were to choose a house for summer, or for winter. Summer is subtropical. Winter is below zero. A house cannot be built to be suitable for both.
Better to build house for Summer.
Tsurezuregusa (徒然草 or Essays in Idleness, 14th century)
As old houses are built for summer with high ceiling and draft piercing from outside, it is inevitably cold in winter.
Early morning, we are awakened by the light of dawn striking through Shoji. As it is so cold, we can’t fall asleep again. It’s also too cold to get out of warm futon. Our futon is still being warmed by Yutampo, a hot water bag in which we poured boiling water the night before.
My wife wakes up to switch on our old-fashioned oil stove.
During breakfast, trees and leaves in the garden are silhouetted in the shoji screen by the morning sunlight. The silhouette changes its shape as the sun rises. This is a good sign for another clear day!
The morning sunlight from window holes is shining here and there in the house. A tiny space with warmness, with different shapes.
Winter garden in Japan is mostly deserted with few exceptions.
Winter, loneliness grows in a mountain village,
Kept out of limelight, withered plants
(百人一首 or the Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets, No 28. by Minamoto no Muneyuki, 10th century)
Few exceptions in such a deserted winter garden are flowers, announcing forthcoming spring…