How to Use a Japanese Air Conditioner

  • HOW TO
  • Half of the year air conditioning is needed in Japan: in winter you need to heat up the room, in summer you need to cool it. You might even use it during the end of spring when the 6-week lasting rainy season visits the land of the rising sun.

    There are alternatives to air conditioning: in summer you can use electric fans and in winter you can use oil heaters, gas heating or tools like hot carpets. But when temperatures get extreme, there is often little to no choice.

    Now comes the tricky part: most of the time, air conditioners and their remote control do not have English labelling and you need to “read” the Japanese characters printed on the surface of the remote. For those, who are not as fluent, here is a simple guide to the meanings and functions of Japanese air conditioners:


    Additional to basic functions like cooling and heating, most air conditioners can switch to “dry mode”, which would come in handy on a humid rainy season day. It also has a soft cooling effect, which is an alternative if you feel that the cooler is too strong, but the room still feels too warm.
    There air conditioners often have a “timer setting”, when you would like it to turn off after a couple of hours. Finally comes the “fan function”, that is more of circulating the wind rather then strong cooling.

    Most of the remote controllers look more or less like this one:

    Change Functions

    Here are Chinese characters (kanji 漢字) for each function:

    運転切換(unten kirikae) : CHANGE FUNCTION
    自動(jidō) : AUTOMATIC
    冷房(reibō) : COOLER
    ドライ(Dorai) or 除湿(joshitsu) : DRY FUNCTION
    送風(sōfu) : FAN
    暖房(danbō) : HEATER

    Wind strength / direction

    Air conditioners work through air being blown out of the machine. Either it is cool air or hot air, you can set the strength of the coming out air and also the direction into where it is blown.

    風量切換(fūryō kirikae) : CHANGE WIND AMOUNT
    風向(fūkō) : WIND DIRECTION

    自動(jidō) : AUTOMATIC
    強風(kyōfū) : STRONG AIR
    弱風(jakufū) : WEAK AIR
    微風(bifū) : LIGHT AIR
    静音(seion) : QUIET MODE


    Then, there are a couple of other buttons, related to temperature, the timer and of course: the ON/OFF button!

    温度(ondo) : TEMPERATURE
    運転/停止(unten/teishi) : ON/OFF
    タイマー(taimā) : TIMER
    切(kiri) : (TIMER) OFF
    入(iri) : (TIMER) ON
    とりけし(torikeshi) : CANCEL

    Last but not least: each air conditioning is different and each brand has their own names, button position, but additional buttons might appear, on the other hand, old models might not have all functions mentioned here. Best is to study the remote in detail and get to know the basic functions most important for you!

    As a basic rule: for environmental friendly use, it is recommended to set the air conditioning to 28℃ in summer (cooling function) and to 20℃ (heating function) in winter. If you still feel hot in summer, try to cool yourself in another way, or if you still feel cold in winter, try to wear warmer clothes and/or drink hot drinks to warm yourself up.