“In dwelling, live close to the ground.” Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching
A lot of Japanese furniture is still made in the traditional style, meaning at floor level. Couches, chairs, tables, desks- nothing is more than a foot off the ground. While Westerns tend to groan at the thought of how laborious it must be to move to and from the floor all day, the Japanese insist it is one of the reasons they have the world’s longest life expectancy. Japan’s countryside is full of sturdy old men and women who look to be at least 70 years old- if not 80 or 90- and give no signs of kicking the bucket anytime soon. Their secret to long life? Squat toilets and low furniture. The Japanese develop strong core and leg muscles during a lifetime of getting up and down. The elderly rarely break hips, meaning they can remain mobile and active later in life.
No central heating? No problem! A kotatsu is a table with a heater under it and a blanket all around it. During the winter months, all activities are centered around this unique piece of furniture. Since mandarin oranges are in season from November to February, winter is spent sitting at the kotatsu eating oranges. It has become such a part of Japanese culture that even the New Year’s cards I bought last year showed a bunch of cartoon animals partaking in this modern tradition.