"It used to be so cold in Kyoto, in the winter, that my hands would be black after playing outside for a few hours," said a local.

"Global Warming would be a good thing for your house," said a visitor from Tokyo who was staying in our home.

Kyoto lies low in a basin, surrounded by mountains and it endures chilly winters, sweltering summers and the occasional typhoon. Cold air sweeps down the Kamo river from the northern mountains and twists its way up the narrow streets and alleyways. The traditional homes of Kyoto are notorious for being cold places. Kyoto residents were also once reknowned for being "kechi" (stingy) with home heating. The situation has improved these days but the older houses of Kyoto were designed (pre-air conditioning) to be airy and thus comfortable only in summer. In the winter it was, and still is in many homes, a case of putting up with the draughts.

The locals also talk of the "Imadegawa line". They believe that it always a few degrees colder north of Imadegawa Street. This neighbourhood lies a few blocks south in the "warm" zone. But this winter has seen more snow regularly than in previous years and a light dusting of powder has been a common morning sight on the roofs of the machiya and temples in this area.