It's high time for Kotatsu table!

18 Nov


*Disclaimer: the photos in this post are quoted from DINOS, or one of the most well-known Japanese mail order companies.

“Tatami room + Kotatsu + mandarin orange = winter!”
This is the basic image for most of Japanese people to have more or less as an image of winter. These days this image maybe waned off because young Japanese people tend to avoid Tatami room and is replaced by wood flooring room as well as Kotastu is replaced by floor heating system.

When I moved to my apartment where I live now, I could select either way;
-Remain Tatami room,
-Change Tatami room to wood flooring room.

But I had the above image, as a Japanese it’s a bliss to put my whole body but face into the Kotatsu to warm myself in the winter, because that’s how I spent winter in my life before I moved to this apartment. Thus my choice was of course “remain Tatami room” and I brought my Kotatsu table set from my room. (Many people nowadays enjoy Kotatsu in a wood flooring room. Considering lying down, however, I prefer Tatami mat to wood flooring because it’s soft. Carpet is also soft but it’s a bit dusty and I don’t think it’s hygienic to breathe 20cm above the carpet when I’m lying down in the Kotatsu.)

If you are familiar with Japanese anime or manga titled “Sazae-san” or “Chibi Maruko-chan” I guess these are describing good old days of Japan and then, Kotatsu must be there around October or November up to March. It’s a sort of symbol of peaceful Japanese family sitting in a circle to chat while eating mandarin oranges.

You’ll get what I mean from this episode from Sazae-san.

It was my first experience to live in an apartment made of concrete with much insulation, I couldn’t imagine how warm inside the house in the winter. I was brought up in a wooden house without enough insulation, it was only 2 or 3 degrees centigrade inside the house in the morning of winter season. (The house is next prefecture to Tokyo, and so it’s still warmer compared with some other parts of Japan, though.)

After I spent some winter seasons in this apartment, I found I didn’t need Kotatsu any more, because even in February, without heating there’s over 16C or something. With floor heating system, it’s sometimes getting too hot in a daytime. So it was about 5 years ago I said good-bye to my Kotatsu set and the very Japanese way of enjoying winter with it. But I can see now is the time to start up Kotatsu for warmer and more comfortable winter at most of other houses in Japan. πŸ™‚

There is a saying in Japanese, Zukan Sokunetsu (頭寒袳熱) meaning, head cold, legs warm. When you study or work in a cold climate, warm air from air conditioner is not good. It just warms the air around your head or face and that just makes you sleepy. That’s why Kotatsu is for us. Warming your legs while keeping the air around your head or face cool, you can improve efficiency, and you don’t really feel cold while your legs are warmed. If you feel your upper body cold, you can just wear more.

There is a western type of Kotatsu, too. But I definitely like Japanese one!!


31 Responses to “It's high time for Kotatsu table!”

  1. Amanda ζ„›ζΊ€ε¦₯ November 18, 2009 at 1:26 pm #

    That has got to be one of the best inventions ever.

    • kirin November 19, 2009 at 2:41 am #

      Have you tried it yet? ^ ^

  2. Sparklewolfie November 18, 2009 at 4:06 pm #

    That is so cool! I would like something like that to keep me warm here… it is very cold where I live in the winter!!

    • kirin November 19, 2009 at 2:40 am #

      You don't have Kotatsu in the U.S? I was wondering how it is accepted by western culture. Maybe western style is OK for American people? :p

      • sparklewolfie November 19, 2009 at 3:26 am #

        No we don't… at least not that I have seen! I actually have not seen this thing before you posted it πŸ˜€ I do not know if Western culture has this…

      • kirin November 19, 2009 at 12:20 pm #

        Maybe you don't have it in the U.S. Even if Japanese zen style is accepted, Kotatsu is not accepted yet. :p

  3. cinnamon_girl November 18, 2009 at 4:37 pm #

    Kotatsu, wooden house, Chibi Maruko-chan ❀
    I could try kotatsu, when I visited Japan in april. It was soooooo nice!
    I 100% agree with that Japanese saying. My mother also frequently says, that I should open the window often when I'm studying (in winter or on colder days), it helps to focus my mind.

    • kirin November 19, 2009 at 2:38 am #

      Hi cinnamon girl,
      Wow, you've already tried it out! Then you know what I mean. ^_^ As you say, in some cold areas people keep using Kotatsu until April or something.

  4. Marie November 18, 2009 at 7:27 pm #

    Ohhhhwww! I want one!

  5. jessy November 18, 2009 at 8:36 pm #

    where does the heat come from?
    i have heard of kotatsu before. and they always show in manga,
    but it still confusing.
    is there a box or something under the table? that makes it warM?

  6. Walter November 18, 2009 at 10:01 pm #

    Hello Kirin. Thanks for posting this. Of course I know kotatsu very well from anime and manga, but the first one looks very comfy. In the manga it looks like a thick blanket covering the legs.
    It's electric heaters these days, no ? I wonde how you could keep it hot in the old days ( wood stove ? charcoal ? )
    2- 3 degrees in the morning sounds very cold. I haven't had it that cold in the morning since my army days.
    At worst it drops to 10 degrees in the bedroom, which is why it's so hard to get out from underneath the eiderdown blanket in the morning , haha !
    And I have never seen the European style one !
    Mandarines are traditional in winter time here too πŸ™‚ I love eating them, even if they are rather sweet.
    The French have a liqueur made with them : Mandarine Napoleon, but I find it too sweet tasting. I Like the ones flavored with oranges better, like Cointreau or Grand Marnier. They're excellent as an after dinner apéritf to warm you up in winter πŸ™‚
    If I ever visit Japan in winter ;we can sit at your kotatsu in a nice cold room and I'll treat you to a nice Grand Marnier.

    • kirin November 19, 2009 at 2:35 am #

      Yes, it's electric heater that's inside Kotatsu. (sorry I forgot to explain that part.)
      In our ancient days, we used Irori to warm the house. (
      But I've never had this experience. We can still experience Irori if we visit some old houses in rural areas in Japan today, I guess.

      Paraffin oil stove, Kotatsu, air conditioner, floor heating system…I think Japanese people use either one of these in the winter today. We don't have a fireplace like the U.S or Europe, and there's basically no chimney for Japanese houses.

      Japanese styled Kotatsu maybe too small for European men, and you may feel your legs cramped in a narrow space inside Kotatsu. ^ ^; But I do want you to try it when you have a chance in the future!

  7. mintz November 19, 2009 at 8:32 pm #

    Awww…. I'm kinda envious. I don't get to experience such stuff here because I'm in a tropical island. >_< I've seen Kotatsu in dramas and animes too πŸ˜€ I think it's a representative of the Japanese culture. Something uniquely Japan. Japanese should embrace it!!

    • kirin November 22, 2009 at 1:17 pm #

      Several years ago I envied tropical climate and I wanted to move to somewhere without cold winter. But now, I think I like Japan having 4 seasons. We can enjoy different foods and fashion at every season. πŸ™‚

  8. If it comes in pink November 19, 2009 at 8:56 pm #

    Oh gosh, I've never seen tables like that, but they are cool!

  9. Cat November 20, 2009 at 7:28 pm #

    Hi Kirin!
    I have never had the chance to try using a kotatsu. From your time living in Australia you would know that we don't have them here at all! But it seems like such a lovely, comforting thing to have in Winter time.

    • kirin November 22, 2009 at 2:25 pm #

      Hi Cat,
      Since Japanese zen style got popular in the world, I thought such Japanese items became available. ^ ^ ;

  10. Cath November 21, 2009 at 1:16 pm #

    The kotatsu looks like mandarin orange too! Haha… It's so cute.
    But I think the western styled one looks really silly. -___-! Anyway, I find it hard to sit on the floor for long period of time. Is there any unspoken rules when we sit in the tatami room? (I think we're not suppose to step on the seams right?)

    • kirin November 22, 2009 at 2:40 pm #

      Usually when we use Kotatsu, we put a cotton mat on the Tatami mats which is larger than the table size or diameter of the table or even more than Kotatsu blanket. Some people put zabuton (Japanese style cushion, flatter and harder than western cushion) over the cotton mat and sit on it. So we don't have to worry about the seams of Tatami. πŸ˜‰

  11. Hellolynn November 23, 2009 at 10:30 am #

    same as mintz…tis is certainly something we miss out living in tropical country 😦 i can sense dat bliss and happiness when the whole family is gathered around kotatsu enjoying a hot pot of shabu shabu in winter >_<

    • kirin November 23, 2009 at 2:12 pm #

      Come travel in Japan during winter season and have that experience, as well as Onsen or hot spring! It's a bliss!! πŸ˜‰

  12. Tinny August 11, 2010 at 6:47 pm #

    Oh, I have wanted a kotatsu for years and years… I first saw one in the anime Azumanga Daioh, and ever since I have wondered why we haven't invented something similar here in Scandinavia!

    We have very cold winters here often, and that's why we have strict regulations on how much insulation houses must have. Many houses have heated floors too, but the most common way of heating is electric radiators or radiators that have heated water circulating in them. These are usually enough, but a kotatsu seems so nice and cosy… I would fall asleep in it every night, I bet! πŸ˜€

    • kirin August 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

      Aha! ^ ^ you're from Scandinavia…that must be so freezing in winter…I wonder if there's no Kotatsu importer there. You can buy a set of Kotatsu and transformer in Japan and send it by sea to your home. I wonder if it really works but you'll become popular among local people who will ask you to let them explore Kotatsu in your house! ^ ^

      • Keekii August 16, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

        I'm from Scandinavia too (Denmark), and my house gets so cold in the winter that I would love to own Kotatsu! But I have wooden floors, not tatami, but I think it could work with a soft blanket underneath.. regretfully, I haven't seen anything like it here as well, and I think importing one would cost me a fortune T-T *sob*

      • kirin August 18, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

        You know what? Our life has become westernized and so we have less tatami rooms today. Most of us put a mat for kotatsu underneath, and we place the kotatsu on the wood flooring or carpet flooring room. πŸ™‚
        If I ever have a chance to live in one of the Scandinavian countries, I'd bring Japanese kotatsu and let Scandinavian people experience it. ^ ^;

  13. water damage alhambra January 6, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    Your great blog is obviously worth a read if anyone results in it. Im lucky used to do because now Ive got a huge new view of the following. I didnt realise that issue was so important so universal. You definitely place it in perspective for people, thanks for the terrific info.

  14. Kate May 1, 2012 at 3:38 am #

    Where can I get this one?

    • kirin May 2, 2012 at 11:37 am #

      In Japan. But overseas, I'm not sure. I don't know either if you can simply import it and use it in your country. Maybe you need an electric transformer and a plug to match your country's outlet.


  1. Tweets that mention Kotatsu is a symbol for Japanese winter season. | Tokyo Kawaii, etc. -- - November 19, 2009

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BlogLinkJapan and Kirin, Rodrigo Trevisan. Rodrigo Trevisan said: Interesting! RT @junkeet: Have you tried Kotatsu (Japanese furniture) in winter season? […]

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