It's been a quiet weekend here at Green House A, but I've still been doing my best to keep busy. Winter is coming, as the already stale Internet meme has it, and with fall (NHK official as of Friday!) already starting to bring in some chilly mornings, I'm becoming quite uncomfortably conscious of the fact that my house has no insulation to speak of, like many Japanese domiciles. A quick trip out to the "recycle shop" (=used goods store, this one dubiously named "HARD-OFF") netted me one of the key ingredients in my winter plan: a good-as-new kotatsu. It only looks like a dorm room coffee table-- descended from earlier styles of cover/enclosure designed to fit over the open, in-floor charcoal hearths of old Japanese homes, the modern kotatsu is designed to hold a specialized quilt, or kotatsu-futon (available separately in decorator colors) under the upper table surface, creating an insulated space underneath the table that a hidden electric heater and fan brings to toasty heat, creating a central location for cats to snooze and families and friends to huddle together-- a reified cultural vision of Togetherness that the Armchair Cultural Critic in me wants very badly to blame for the otherwise inexplicable lack of central heat in many Japanese homes. What kind of family are you if you don't spend the whole day sitting around the same small table, eating New Years' mandarin oranges and bumping each other under the blankets with your ice-cold toes, after all?