Kotatsu: Giving Warmth in Every Home

Have you visited Japan before? Besides the Japanese cuisine and beautiful tourist spots, what else did you observe?

Yes, Japanese homes are a bit cold.  Whether you’re staying in a western or traditional Japanese home, you can’t find any heating system. Hence, houses don’t have excellent insolation against the cold season. 

You might wonder – why Japan, being an advanced country, is not capable of heating homes? 

Here are a few reasons for that: 

  • Homes are built to be comfortable during summer. 
  • Winters in Japan are mild and short. 
  • Japanese people prefer electric carpets, heated toilet seats, and of course, the kotatsu table

Kotatsu reflects the heart of a Japanese home during the cold months. For most Japanese people, the kotatsu is an essential element of their culture. Families gather together and watch television, engage in long talks, and play games under the warm table. 

But what is the kotatsu table? 

The kotatsu refers to a low, wooden table which a futon covers. Underneath the table, you would see a heat source (in the past a charcoal brazier but electric today) that’s built in with the table. Most Japanese homes use kotatsu because of the warm and comfort it offers. 

Three Parts of Kotatsu

The authentic kotatsu table has three main parts – the desk, heater, and the futon (heavy blanket). These parts allow the people to feel cozy, warm and comfortable. 

The futon set has a mattress (spreading futon) and duvet (covering futon). The futon is often aired, folded, and stored in a big closet. The heavy blanket or futon’s purpose is keeping the area warm and cozy. Besides providing insolation, you can use the table to keep your food warm or even make the place comfortable for your pets. 

Table Size 

In the past, kotatsu only has a standard size.  

Why? 

People only use the table to get warm, play games, and do other activities. But today, people can choose from different kotatsu heights and sizes. If you plan to buy the table, consider the other purposes of using it. 

You can use the table as a regular desk while removing the futon. The table’s height is low – it measures 16 inches (40 centimeters). You buy the kotatsu table with no a heater, but you can get it separately. 

Kotatsu Heater

Back then, Japanese homeowners use stoves and furnaces with coal to heat the underside of the table. Today, an electric heater is the primary source of heat for the kotatsu. The heater should have the right cover and height so that it couldn’t burn your legs.  Like the futon, people can buy the heater separately. 

In using the heater, homeowners can save money. Kotatsu is an inexpensive way of adding warmth and coziness to the family.  Heaters often have 230V or 120V configuration. Hence, don’t worry about the voltage because you buy the heater anytime in stores. 

Kotatsu Futon

The futon could have a cotton or not. Your futon choice depends on the area or places your staying in. (Some parts of Japan aren’t icy.)  But it’s always wise to buy multiple futons because you can use the other when the current futon is dirty. 

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the futon is removable. You can machine wash it. Follow the steps in cleaning the futon. (You can read the instructions in the futon set.) Futon comes from different materials, so you need to be careful in cleaning it. 

Buying futon for kotatsu 

As a wise buyer, you should know the futon’s purpose before buying it. Why? You can decide which futon size you should buy. Japanese families use the blanket for different reasons, such as sitting, sleeping, etc. 

Did you know that are also handmade futons sold in Japan? Yes, expect to have an extra budget because these futons are quite expensive. 

The reason: 

Handmade futon has classic styling and artwork that it’s rare to find in other futons.  Handmade futons are limited in the United States, but don’t worry! You can buy the futon or blanket of your choice online. 

History of the Kotatsu Table 

The Kotatsu idea came from the charcoal powdered hearth that’s present in each Japanese household during the 14th century. At that time, people refer to this as Irori – the first place where people prepare, heat, and cook their meals. 

In the Edo Era, a wooden table frame and blanket were added to the irori.  People call this as horigotatsu. The bedding and wooden frame’s purpose is to design a separate area for individuals using the cooking area. 

Kotatsu tables nowadays are movable. Electricity is now the heating source instead of charcoal. You can find the heater underneath the table. (Now, the table isn’t only made of wood but also other materials.) People often sit on the floor or use a cushion since the kotatsu is a low table.  

Take Note: your lower body should rest under the futon so that you stay warm.  If you want to keep warm during winter, the kotatsu is an ideal choice to keep cozy. You can find the frame table in parts of the house where a Japanese family holds an activity. 

Uses of Kotatsu 

Unlike Western homes, Japanese homes don’t have central heating systems. People often rely on space heating – this is where kotatsu takes over. Since heating systems in Japan is expensive, people use an excellent alternative – the kotatsu. 

The futon in the kotatsu table frame traps the warm air inside the house. Hence, families often do their household activities near the kotatsu. During the summer, family members remove the blanket and use the kotatsu as a typical home table. 

Most foreigners might wonder: is it possible to sleep under the kotatsu? 

Yes, but your whole body wouldn’t be entirely covered if the blanket is short. You can use the kotatsu on afternoon naps but not advisable for overnight sleeping. 

Why? 

Here are essential reasons for that: 

  • Your whole body isn’t covered, which results in uneven heating. 
  • You might touch the heating elements of the table, resulting in burns. 

Traditionally, parents tell their children not to sleep under the kotatsu because they would catch a cold. But pets such as cats often take naps under the table frame. (Your pets are small enough to fit under the table.)  

In Western countries, cats usually sleep on the floor heating vents. You wouldn’t see a cute pet sleep under the vents in Japan. (Japanese homes don’t have floor heating vents.) 

The kotatsu is the center of domestic life in Japan during winter. During this season, families gather together and spend time near the kotatsu table. They keep their lower bodies warm while enjoying conversations, watching TV, and more. 

Buying A Kotatsu Set 

Are you inspired to buy a kotatsu after seeing this in a Japanese home? Then, why not choose a kotatsu set of your preference?  Kotatsu has various sizes, shapes, and futon types, so you have diverse options. The question is this: what kotatsu set should you buy? 

I feel it. Due to the various choices, buying a kotatsu might be overwhelming. No problem. Here are essential points to remember in buying a kotatsu: 

Table’s Height 

Kotatsu has a standard size that people (Japanese or foreigners) buy. The table size is designed for the usual preference of the users, such as staying warm, etc. But other homeowners prefer to use the customized kotatsu. 

Why? 

The customized table is perfect for other purposes the homeowner wants. Customized kotatsu sounds cool but is ready with an extra budget because this is expensive. 

Buyers should purchase a kotatsu set that they like. Don’t waste money on a customized table frame that you would only use for a single purpose. 

The “Sitting” Issue 

The Kotatsu table is short because of the Japanese’s culture of sitting on the floor. For foreigners, it’s quite uncomfortable to sit on the floor with legs crossed. You might like it or not, but you need to take a few adjustments if you don’t want sitting on the floor for hours. 

Homeowners who have kotatsu use an extra cushion or pillow to add comfort. Yes, the sitting issue might bother you for a while. But the good thing is you would love sitting on the floor eventually. Embrace the Japanese culture even if you’re not in Japan by sitting on the floor with your friends and family. 

Kotatsu Accessories 

The Kotatsu set offers convenience for people who like to warm up and feel cozy during wintertime. Hence, buyers can use the zaisu – a floor chair that acts as a backrest for you while you and your family sit on the floor. 

Zaisu is suitable for children and adults. The floor chair is soft but durable so that you can use it in each family gathering. In utilizing the zaisu, family bonding time is fun and memorable. The family can play games or watch TV without getting their back hurt. 

Besides the zaisu, the futon is another essential kotatsu accessory. Futons come from various materials that make this perfect for Kotatsu.  Futons also have unique designs and artwork that would attract consumers. 

But, make sure that you have sufficient budget to buy a customized futon. Since these are handmade, these accessories are a little expensive. Most families who have kids at home change the futon regularly. Futons get dirty at once if the kids become messy. Don’t worry because futons are machine washed so you can clean these any time. 

During hot and humid days, you can remove the futon and turn the table into a regular desk. 

Voltage 

People should know the difference between voltage in Japan with other countries. For example, a kotatsu in japan has a 120V. Different kotatsu sets range from 230V to 240V. Foreign consumers should make sure to check the voltage before they buy the item. 

If a customer doesn’t approve of the voltage rate, he or she won’t buy the item. People who would order the kotatsu online should check the voltage to avoid problems. 

A kotatsu isn’t only good for you but also for your loving pets. Cats and dogs would love to sleep under the table and stay warm.  You and your pets can enjoy a great bonding time even during the cold winter. Let kotatsu give you the comfort and satisfaction you want. 

Keep in mind the essentials mentioned above for you to enjoy a great family gathering. Remember: kotatsu changes your life with its fantastic function. 

Kotatsu Benefits

Japanese people love kotatsu for many reasons. You would also like using the reliable frame table once you experience the following advantages:

  • Kotatsu decreases your electricity bill by 90%. 
  • The kotatsu warms a small part of the house at once. 
  • Kotatsu warms your body butt often, only half part of your body gets heat. (You can experience this if the blanket covers half part of your body only.) 
  • If you’re looking for a cozy and comfortable area to sit, the kotatsu offers you that place. 
  • The family sits together in a single place because of the Kotatsu. 
  • The kotatsu only utilizes 600W of power. 

People who have a table frame, such as the kotatsu, feel convenient and satisfied. Say goodbye to the cold that impedes a happy family gathering. With kotatsu, the whole family enjoys eating, watching a TV show, or engaging in a lively conversation. 

Kotatsu doesn’t only offer you comfort but also a chance to make your home cozy all the time.  You don’t need a heater system to get warm and enjoy the things you do at home. 

But is the kotatsu the warmest material for a desk? 

Yes, the heater and heavy blanket that comes with the kotatsu provides the warmth you need for the winter. If you’re looking for a warm place to sit, the kotatsu gives that to you! 

Are there other alternatives for Kotatsu? 

Well, other heater alternatives you can find in the market. An example of this is the bathroom heater because of its small size. 

Give kotatsu a try now and feel the comfort within your home. Turn a cold winter to a happy one using the kotatsu set. Let warmth and coziness relax your body!