New Year Holidays in Japan : Kotatsu
In Japan, except northern cold areas like Hokkaido, houses are usually built to suit Japanese hot humid summer.
This means many Japanese houses are drafty, and in other words, it can be freezing even indoor in winter.
Most of those houses are without a central heating system, so people keep warm with individual heating devices like air conditioner, heater and … of course KOTATSU!!!
What is kotatsu?
It’s a devil’s trap.
Easily and quickly, it makes people useless.
Once you get in there, you wouldn’t like to get out and you may even wish if you could send somebody else to go to toilet to do your business unless your whole house is warmed with a central heating system or something.
You may feel like being in heaven when you fall in a sleep in kotatsu, but probably you will find yourself catching a cold upon waking up.
When the kotatsu-trapped people put away kotatsu in spring, they likely to see scattered things around it within their reach.
However, this will not happen to lazy people like me because they don’t bother to buy kotatsu.
Kotatsu is probably the most popular Japanese traditional heating device.
It quite often appears as a typical winter feature in Japanese manga, anime, films, etc.
Not really “New Year Holidays” stuff, but when I imagine peaceful, happy Japanese new year holidays, kotatsu is always there.
In the old times, people used “irori” to warm themselves.
The house at that time was much more drafty, so people couldn’t get enough heat even if they stayed around “irori” (cooking hearth).
In the Muromachi period (1336 – 1573), people started to put a paper-made cloth called “kami-ko” to “irori” when charcoal fire is dying (this state is called “oki” in Japanese), set up a wooden platform over it, then cover it with “futon” (quilt).
In the Edo period, charcoals were put in an earthen pot so that people could carry it around to keep warm anywhere.
This type of kotatsu was called “oki-gotatsu”.
You can see a photo here (Japanese page). (Sekigahara Town History & Forklore Museum)
Originally, charcoals were used as fuel, and then briquette coals (“ren-tan”, lit. kneaded coal).
“Mame-tan” (lit. bean coal), which is quite similar to “ren-tan” but smaller, was developed for domestic use.
In 1924, electric kotatsu went on sale, but not commonly used (because of its price I guess).
Then Toshiba started to sell an electric one in 1957 and this made a big success.
Two hundred thousand items were sold in the first year.
This was developed by the same person who was in charge of the development of the electric rice cooker.
Coal-burning kotatsu is still available, and if you use it, be careful for CO poisoning.
Kotatsu is the combination of a few things.
You need to look inside to tell what type the kotatsu is.
[Heater underneath the table top]
This type has been common since the launching of Toshiba’s product in 1957.
Before that, heater was just put on the floor.
The kotatsu my family used when I was a child, heater was simply fixed to the table top like a hump.
Legs of the table were removable, so it wouldn’t occupy too much room in the storage.
Now, there is a thinner heater, so you can use it as a furniture in warm seasons because the table top is flat and its appearance is just like an ordinary table.
[Heater in a hole in the floor]
This type is called “hori-gotatsu” (lit. digged kotatsu).
It’s more comfortable to sit down than the other two, but not very suitable to lie down.
Maybe this one is not exactly kotatsu.
Just put a table with futon on an electric carpet.
This would be warmer than just sitting on the carpet, but it probably costs you more than kotatsu with a heater.
The perfect traditional Japanese kotatsu
Thinking of kotatsu, there are several supplementary items.
It will be more comfortable with “zabuton” (lit. quilt for sitting. Japanese cushion) or “zaisu” (lit. chair for sitting. Legless chair).
Latest posts by kara (see all)
- Basic Japanese : “Sumimasen” – “Thank you” in Japanese - June 24, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Arigatou” – “Thank you” in Japanese - May 29, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Go-chisou sama” – Phrase after meal - May 27, 2015
In our previous post about the Japanese traditional card game karuta, we listed some of popular karuta variations. In this post, we will post more of these karuta variations and karuta in popular culture. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text 2 – […]
This will be the last part of the Shogi series. In case you missed the first posts about shogi, here they are: History and Origin, Shogi Pieces, Board and Gameplay. In this post, we will learn more about the shogi rules and strategies. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by […]
Coming of Age Day Today is Seijin no Hi (成人の日) or Coming of Age Day in Japan. It is a national holiday held every second Monday of January. It is held in order to congratulate all those who have newly entered adulthood or those who turned 20 years old in the past year and encourage […]
Japanese companies usually hold 歓迎会(kangeikai or welcome party) to welcome new employees and 送別会( Soubetsukai or farewell party) for those leaving. In some cases, the welcome and farewell parties are combined into one — 歓送迎会(kansougeikai). These are usually dinner parties held in nice restaurants.The party is usually started with speeches by the company president or any […]
Dog in Japan One of the very popular animals in Japanese old tales. As long as I remember, usually drawn as a white medium-size Japanese dog in a book, with a curled tail and erect, triangular ears like a Kishu dog. The dogs are always loyal, take the good men’s side. I can’t remember any […]
People make art almost everywhere: canvasses, walls, streets, and rice fields. Wait, rice fields? Yes, you read it right. Rice paddy art or known as Tanbo art (田んぼアート) in Japan is the best thing to happen to rice fields before the rice are harvested and served on our plates. Inakadate, Aomori Inakadate is a village […]
Onomatopoeias are always present in any language in the world. The hiss of the snake, the clanking of the bells, the drizzling of the rain – the words in italics are just some of the onomatopoeias that can be found in an English dictionary. The Japanese language too is full of onomatopoeias. Some of them […]
Today, March 3, is Hinamatsuri (雛祭り) in Japan. Though hina (雛) literally means a young bird or a chick, the day is also called Doll’s Day or Girl’s Day. On this day, families with girls wish their daughters a successful and happy life. Families with young daughters mark this day by setting up a display […]
If you ever seen a scene in a Japanese movie or TV show where people are doing some morning exercise, have you noticed that they are using similar exercise music or similar exercise routine? The exercise routine is actually called the Rajio Taisō (ラジオ体操 ) or Radio Calisthenics. It is an exercise routine done to the tune by a piano. It has an upbeat melody and makes the routine fun and enjoyable (or so I think).
After visiting the port of Miyanoura on the west coast of the island of Naoshima. We decided to visit the port of Honmura located on the islands east coast. Home to the Art House Project. To get around the island tourist could take various forms of transportation such as the bus or rental bikes. Rental […]