It is is a low, wooden table frame covered by a futon or heavy blanket, upon which a table top sits.
Underneath is a heat source, often built into the table itself.Kotatsu are used almost exclusively in Japan! Convenient to keep you warm during cold winter.
You can find two kinds of kotatsu used in Japan today, differing in the configuration and the type of heating:
- Electric: The modern style of kotatsu (oki-gotatsu (置き炬燵)) consists of a table with an eletric heater attached to the underside of the table. The kotatsu usually is set on a thin futon, like a throw rug. A second, thicker futon is placed over the kotatsu table, above which the tabletop is placed. The electric heater attached to the underside of the table heats the space under the comforter.
- Charcoal: The more traditional type is a table placed over a recessed floor (hori-gotatsu (掘り炬燵)). The pit is cut into the floor and is about 40 centimeters deep. A charcoal heater is placed somewhere in the pit’s floor, walls, or, as in the modern-style kotatsu, attached to the table-frame. There are pit-type kotatsu with an electric heater too.
Traditionally, children are told that they will catch a cold if they sleep under a kotatsu. Pets such as cats frequently sleep under kotatsu, however, and are small enough to fit completely underneath—comparable to cats who sleep on floor heating vents in western countries (Japanese homes do not generally have floor heating vents).
During the winter months in Japan, the kotatsu often is the center of domestic life. In the evening family members gather around the kotatsu to enjoy food, television, games, and conversation while keeping the lower half of their bodies warm. It has been said that, “once under the kotatsu, all of your worries slip away as a familiar warmth takes over and you become completely relaxed.”
And you? Would you try Kotatsu?