Winter in Japan, Alternatively Titled “You’re Going to Catch a Cold No Matter What”

As the hordes of old people in their puffy Michelin Man jackets would tell you, the dead of winter has come to central Japan.  Surgical masks are flying off the shelf like magic.  The ubiquitous vending machines all seem to have at least one row devoted to “hot”, well, more like lukewarm, beverages.  There are more sniffles on the train than a whole movie theater of middle school girls watching The Notebook for the first time.  Yes, it’s that time of year.  Cold weather has arrived and with it cold season.

While there are definite benefits to living in the biggest city in the world, nothing can make you rue the day you moved to Tokyo more than the day some old drunk dude coughs right into your mouth on the train home.  I’m sure you’ve heard about how crowded Japanese cities can be and no where is this more obvious than the country’s highly regarded public transit system, clean, on time (when there hasn’t been a suicide by train), and chockfull of sick people just waiting to get you sick.

Make no mistake, Japan might be sanitary on a surface level but it has a dark, dirty, stanky underbelly that’ll drag you down and knock you out with nary a second to spare.  I was naive, too, when I first moved here but three bouts of the flu in two years and countless head colds later I am now a hardened veteran of the Japanese winter.

So Stephen, you ask, how does one avoid getting knocked down for the count by a winter cold in Japan? Continue reading