Tuesday, February 04, 2003
One standby item I dig out faithfully every winter that unfortunate folks abroad in the West know little or nothing of, much to their necessarily unspoken disappointment (rife indeed are the disappointments we know not of) is my good old haramaki.
Yes, when the days grow short and the temperature falls, when the skin gets bumpy and the snuggle factor begins to rise, when the spirit with spring in its heart but winter in its teeth calls for some sort of cuddle, that's when I feel sorry for all those shivery folks in the developed world who have to crank up the central heating merely because they don't have a haramaki handy.
I truly hope that doesn't include such a thinking person as yourself. And when you think about it, what better place to maki (wrap) than the hara (roughly: abdomen)? The ancient orientals knew all about these things. Long before infrared was made visible, they knew that major quantities of body heat were lost from the uncovered, or even conventionally clothed, hara.
A brief look at your handy anatomical model will confirm this. Note where the ribs end, and where the major organs are as a result exposed and essentially unprotected, sheltered from the world only by a smattering of muscle and a layer of skin. Shivering liver!! Icy bladder!! Snowy pancreas!! Chattering kidneys!! Frozen colon!!
And if you look closely at any of those ancient twelve-foot tall Japanese temple guardians, you'll see that the very center of their dynamic energy, the root of their ki, is the hara, firmly outthrust, and centered with a navel that looks like the satellite image of a typhoon (how well they understood the unity of energy in those days!).
Needless to say, the haramaki soon becomes an essential element of one's winter clothing here in the historically energy-conscious orient, where central heating is not yet the norm and you can go into any general store and get yourself a haramaki of cotton, wool or silk, even a self-heating haramaki, if you're of that persuasion.
In the deeps of winter I sometimes think that perhaps Japan should organize some kind of relief effort and send haramaki out into the developed world to relieve the tremendous suffering caused by crushing monthly energy bills to heat an entire house when you only need to heat the occupant, but then I realize that the Japanese themselves are slowly but surely slipping out of life itself and into the intensive care of central heating, and I think maybe I should stock up on haramaki while they're still available.
On the other hand, though, with the big oil price rises looming incrementally the further we get down the centrally heated billion-lane expressway that is tomorrow, I think the haramaki could one day be, worldwide, the ideal form of central heating.
Posted by Robert Brady on Tuesday, February 04, 2003