Warm Up to a Japanese Kotatsu in Winter
While a kotatsu is a winter staple in Japan, it may be completely foreign to our friends from abroad. The kotatsu is a heater indispensable to Japanese households from days of old. But not only in Japanese homes: traditional inns and restaurants, as well as some modes of travel, also offer this comfort of home, so by all means, give it a try.
What’s a Kotatsu?A kotatsu is a low blanketed table with a heater fixed to the underside. Sit on the floor with your legs tucked in and you’ll feel so snug, you won’t want to move.
Kotatsu Must-HavesThe winter thing to do is to snuggle up to a kotatsu with a mound of mandarin oranges at the height of their season. Mandarins are said to stave off colds and hydrate the body, the perfect cold-weather go-to.
Different prefectures, however, have their own customs. In Fukui Prefecture, for instance, the kotatsu snack of choice happens to be not mandarins but mizu yokan, a confection of red bean jelly.
Then there are people who associate cats with kotatsu. Our warm-blooded feline friends seem to love curling up within the radius of a kotatsu.
Types of KotatsuThe traditional kotatsu is a low table with a large rectangular or square top. Today, we see modern variations that boast stylish and practical appeal. On the market are one-person kotatsu, bed-type kotatsu, and kotatsu tall enough to pull up a chair to.
The Sunken KotatsuA great innovation if you can’t sit for long, Japanese style! The kotatsu table rests above an opening in the floor where the tatami mat has been removed. Relax while dangling your feet as though sitting in a chair.
Matsue Horikawa Pleasure BoatSightseeing boats navigate the moats of Matsue, a castle town in Shimane Prefecture. See the castle from diverse perspectives and sail past the former residence of famous foreign-born writer Lafcadio Hearn, all the while in the warm comfort of a kotatsu, from November 11 to April 10.
Mogami River Boat RideCruise down the river while taking in the view of the majestic Mogami Valley. The kotatsu boats will be in service from December 2019 to March 2020. Sit around a warm kotatsu while gazing at the passing winter landscape, reminiscent of a Japanese ink brush painting.
Note: The kotatsu boat is in service 3 times daily at 10:50 am, 12:50 pm and 2:50 pm.
Kotatsu Spots in Tokyo
Cafe Stay HappyA laid back, resort feel of a cafe where you will “Stay Happy” and warm from November to March in their colorful and inviting kotatsu. Organic vegetables and non-additive ingredients are standard in their menus and their beer and coffee hail from all over the world. Their desserts, too, are highly popular.
Nearest Station: Shimokitazawa
Ryogoku Terrace CafeLocated on the banks of the Sumida River, next door to the Kyu Yasuda Garden, where “Food and Health,” or healthy eating, is its theme. Its outside terrace setting gives way to kotatsu tables from October 21 to March (tbd), providing a whole new meaning to terrace dining.
“Kotatsu Cat” Treats
Cat DonutsThe neko donut, or cat-shaped donut, is a favorite at Blue Sky Coffee, a takeout shop on the grounds of the Inokashira Park. The donut, shaped like a curled-up cat, is crispy on the outside while soft and chewy on the inside. The donut comes in a bag with a drawing of a kotatsu on the outside. The curled-up neko donut inside makes for a humorous visual pun.
“Kotatsu Cat” Shrimp CrackersKeishindo, famous makers of shrimp crackers, offers a winter gift set called “Fuyu Akari,” or winter brightness. Among the assortments is a package of “kotatsu neko” shrimp crackers that look like a sleeping cat, playfully enclosed in a kotatsu illustrated wrapper film. A perfect gift for the cat lover!
※The information herein is as of November 2019.