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Most westerners living in Japan begin to notice things are a bit different as soon as they move into their apartments. One of the big and most obvious differences (especially when the temperatures go subzero) is that there is no central heating system in your average Japanese house. One of the main smells of winter in the countryside is the smell of kerosene gas heaters that keep the villages warm. The other tool to help across Japan in the winter is the Kotatsu. Don’t know what the Kotatsu is?
Let tour leader Andrew enlighten you about its magic.
Before I can espouse why kotatsu are the greatest thing ever, I have to explain to you exactly what they are. Kotatsu are so simple, yet deviously awesome that it is amazing to me that the west has no equivalent.
They are tables with a heater underneath them, making them useful all year round, regardless of temperature. In the summer, you can pack up the futon that goes in-between the legs and the table top, effectively making it just a normal table; and in the winter, you put the futon in place, and plug in the heater part and turn that on to full and don’t get out till winter is over.
There are many different types of kotatsu’s available, from small ones low down on the floor, the large ones that you can fit your legs under, to dining room table size ones.No matter the size or shape, they all have one thing in common, a glorious warm heater underneath.
In the past, the futon covering the kotatsu had a risk of catching fire if left on for too long, but those days of worrying are over. Nowadays, all kotatsu are made so that, no matter what conditions occur, a fire will not break out.
The heating unit itself is adjustable, it can be used to just barely heat your legs, or turn it into a full on furnace eliminating all the cold in the room, without the need of a A/C unit. Naps under the futon covered kotatsu are some of the best things to do in winter. You snuggle under the covers and watch television, till you pass out in the warmth and comfort that is the kotatsu.
Kotatsu are sold all over japan, at a bunch of different types of retailers. In my opinion, for those wanting to buy one, the best place to get them is Nissen or Nitori. There price varies depending on the model and make, but the usual cost can go anywhere from around ￥9,000~￥30,000. Another important thing to consider when buying kotatsu is that, they are only sold in the winter, so if you want to buy one in the summer you probably wont find one.
True Japanese technology.