For centuries, Japanese houses have been build mainly with wood and paper. The result were small, pretty homes though isolation to keep the warmth inside was nearly nonexistent. What did the Japanese people do stay warm during cold winter days? The answer is Kotatsu (炬燵), a traditional Japanese table heater.
A Kotatsu is basically a low, wooden table frame covered by a futon or heavy blanket and table board on top. Underneath that contraption is a heat source – a charcoal brazier in earlier days, most Kotatsu these days have an electric heat source which often already built into the table.
Although Kotatsu with charcoal heaters are still used nowadays, it is quite hard to find them because refilling the charcoal is very tedious.
In a Japanese household, a Kotatsu is not only a heat source in winter but also a place to socialize, eat together, watch TV or even sleep under.
Due to the fact that the number of new appartements and mansions with proper isolation and heat units has increased in recent years, the traditional Kotatsu is slowly disappearing from Japanese homes. If you have the chance to try and use a Kotatsu table, you should definitely do it. It’s incredibly relaxing and a true Japanese winter experience.
Pro tip: eating oranges while sitting under the Kotatsu is said to be really good for your health and fighting winter diseases.