Sniffling and shivering into a setsuden winter

November 22nd, 2011 by Felicity Hughes

As we inch toward December, a chill is most definitely in the air, as are the inevitable cold viruses that accompany the onset of winter. At Shinjuku Station, it feels like you can hardly walk a minute without getting sneezed or coughed on by a passing comuter. According to a recent survey by cold medicine makers Contac, those living in areas powered by Tepco are particularly worried about catching a cold as a winter of setsuden (power conservation) looms.

Kaze Miru Plus tracks the cold virus in your area

The survey of office workers living alone in the Tokyo area showed that 89.1 percent were proactively taking steps to prevent getting a setsuden cold. Some felt that these might not be enough: 34.1 percent were worried that if they practiced power-saving with their heating appliances it would be harder to keep in peak physical condition. It appears that women had more of a tendency to worry about this issue: 41.1 percent of females compared to 27.2 percent of males.

As well as wrapping up warmly like the government advises, alternative sources of heating are popular. Yomiuri Online reports that a store selling kerosene heaters in Iwate had sold 200 heaters in a week and had 30 reservations from customers. These heaters are being actively marketed as being good for setsuden winter. If you’re not too keen on getting gassed in the night by one of these, a new electric heater called the “Beam Heater” claims to kick out 800 watts of heat while only running on 400 watts of electricity.

Another way to prevent getting a cold — at least in Japan — is to use a cold mask. Cold masks have become increasingly funky in recent years and we noted a nice product just out for kids that includes masks and cool packs adorned with decorations of Tomi cars and trucks. You might even manage to snag a mask for free. According to Eiga News, individually wrapped masks were available at five Tokyo stations, including Ikebukuro and Omotesando, as part of a clever advertisement for the movie “Contagion.” Once removed, the faces of the stars of the movie are revealed.

If the doomsday scenario of a super bug spreading throughout the world has you reaching nervously for the hand sanitizer, then you might want to sign up for Esu Esu Pharmaceutical’s Kaze Miru Plus, a Twitter-based application that tracks and forecasts cold and flu symptoms throughout Japan. By bringing together data from tweets and weather forecasts, Kaze Miru makes a cold forecast for your area. Today in Tokyo, 1,447 tweeted headaches, 970 a cough and 639 a runny nose. As the mercury drops those numbers are bound to rise drastically over the next few months. Be careful out there, folks.

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