The Japanese Winter Secret, Kotatsu: 4 Never Before Seen Innovations!

  • Japanese people have a secret to keeping warm during the very cold winter days. They have a heat source underneath some tables which are often built-in. It is called, a kotatsu.

    The idea is to keep your legs warm under a low-lying table while your upper body remains frozen. However, some people even sleep under it or better yet, burrow under it! The Japanese way is to sandwich a blanket between you and the kotatsu, which makes it so cozy and addicting, you won’t be able to escape this heaven on earth!


    In the earlier days, kotatsu was called “hori-gotatsu” which has been derived from kanji: “hori” meaning ditch, digging, “ko” meaning torch or fire and “tatsu” meaning foot warmer. The origin started in the Murumachi era when people were trying to find easier ways of cooking food and heating the houses. The oldest Japanese cooking hearth was known as “irori”. This served two purposes: to cook food and to heat the homes. It took the shape of a square with a stone-lined pit in the floor with an adjustable pothook known as “jizaikagi.”

    During these days, the cooking function and the heating function were still separated. Then, a wooden platform was placed on top which was called “oki gotatsu (置き炬燵)”. It then became a seating platform. However, during the Edo Period, a slight change occurred. The floor around the irori was dug-out into the ground making it square. The wooden platform was then placed around it and a blanket was placed on the seating platform. At this time, one could sit with legs underneath to keep warm.


    Nowadays, there are two types of kotatsu still being used in Japan. It depends on the person which type he or she prefers.

    Charcoal Kotatsu

    Charcoal Kotatsu is the traditional type. The floor has to have a pit for the charcoal heater to be placed into, which is usually 40 centimeters in depth. It can also be attached to the table frame.

    Electric Kotatsu

    It was only in the middle of the 20th century when electricity was used as a heating source of kotatsu. An electric heater was attached underneath the table. The kotatsu is placed on a thin futon while a thicker futon is placed on top of it. It is covered in order to trap heat inside the comforter.

    Kotatsu as a Modern Innovation: 4 Interesting Variations

    Human trap

    Once you dive into this super comfy contraption, you might find it hard to get out! So toasty, so cozy, as you fall drowsily into the squishy sofa and burrow deeper into the comforting blanket, you might find yourself in the same position as a fly caught in a trap. But that’s totally fine because this human trap is just bliss!

    A wearable kotatsu?!

    You might feel a little silly wearing a hoodie that is completely attached to the kotatsu, but hey, if you’ve experienced the cold in Japan, you will definitely forget your embarrassment and embrace your new (inanimate) best friend! Have a little party with your other hoodied friends (once you convince them of the temptation that is this wearable kotatsu!)

    Kotatsu that includes a chair!

    Once you try this chair and kotatsu combo, you will suddenly find yourself unable to leave the floor. Whoever created this deserves a big, fat prize.

    It’s stretchable?

    This type of kotatsu has another blanket layer attached to it, making the comfy blankie portion doubly long and able to cover your entire back even if you decide to stretch out by sleeping on your stomach.

    Although the prices for some of these fabulous kotatsu may be over the rainbow for some, it seems to be a good and popular investment! No one will ever be dissatisfied! Warm, cozy, and long-lasting! What’s more to be said? Enjoy the cold winter with your newfound kotatsu!