“Kotatsu” is a table with a heater installed underneath and covered with a futon blanket, which warms up your feet when you put them in it. You should try this at places like Japanese inns called Ryokan and Minshuku and Izakaya restaurants.
What is a “Kotatsu” like?
Kotatsu is a source of heat attached to a low table covered with a futon blanket. It is a heater with a long history which started in the 14th century. Japan has a custom from old times of sitting directly on the floor without a chair. When you use a Kotatsu, you sit directly on the floor and put your feet in the futon blanket. The most popular type when Kotatsu was first introduced was “Hori-Gotatsu” where you sat down and put your feet down into the floor that was hollowed out. The source of heat was a charcoal fire placed on the bottom of the floor. But around the 18th century, “Oki-Gotatsu”, a type that you put on the floor, was introduced. You put a Yagura (a small opening with a frame around it) on the floor and it warms you up from the top. It was in the 1960s when the current popular “Electric Kotatsu” was first introduced.
Enjoy the company of your family and friends around a Kotatsu!
Kotatsu creates a family circle because people naturally gather around it as it warms up your body by simply putting your feet in it in a cold winter. The scene with mandarin oranges piled up on top of a Kotatsu is very common in Japan. Satsuma mandarin which grows well in Japan is perfect to eat at a Kotatsu as you can peel it off easily by hand. You can also use a Kotatsu as a table to enjoy a pot dish or drinking with a meal. You’ll find it very hard to get out of a Kotatsu once you get in because it is very comfortable.
You should try Kotatsu, too!
There are different places to experience a Kotatsu. For example, “Kamakura Guesthouse (photo above)” has a Kotatsu and a fireside (called Irori. A fireplace where you light fire to use as a heater or a stove to cook). It is so comfortable that some people say they want to take it home. Izakaya restaurant “Bane BAGUS Akasaka-Mitsuke” in Minato ward, Tokyo, places tatami mats with 7 Oki-Gotatsu tables in the terrace (reservation available) around mid-October. This is a perfect place to enjoy a relaxing time with your good friends.
At “Tenro-in Bookstore”, a book café in Ikebukuro area in Toshima ward, Tokyo, you can enjoy reading books while drinking coffee at a Kotatsu. It is not turned on during seasons other than winter, but it is available to use even during the off season which allows you to enjoy the Kotatsu atmosphere all year round. Ikebukuro is a downtown area with a terminal station and you can also find an old shrine nearby. This is a perfect place to take a break during shopping or strolling around.
Many Japanese inns prepare Kotatsu in their guest rooms in winter, so when making a reservation it would be a good idea to check and to choose a room with a Kotatsu if possible. It is guaranteed that once you put your feet in it, you won’t be able to get out of it! Kotatsu is another of Japan’s hidden highlights waiting for travelers to find.
Kamakura Guesthouse (Kanagawa Prefecture)
Directions: 15 min by bus from Kamakura Station or Fujisawa Station or Ofuna Station, get off at “Kajiwara-guchi”, 1 min walk Get off at “Shonan Fujisawa” Station of Shonan Monorail, 9 min walk
Address: 2F, 3-24-16 Minami-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Directions: 10 min walk from “Ikebukuro Station” of Yamanote Line, Saikyo Line, Shonan-Shinjuku Line, Tobu Railway, Tojo Main Line, Seibu Railway, Ikebukuro Line, Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, Yurakucho Line and Fukutoshin Line