Start the year out cozy! I think it’s a pretty good new year’s resolution to not be cold and miserable. What do you think? That means it’s Kotatsu time!!!
Why Do You Need a Kotatsu?
It’s not just because kotatsus make you warm. It’s because a kotatsu is a significant energy savings compared to using the aircon, space heaters or kerosene stoves to heat a space.
Japanese houses are drafty and poorly insulated, making it even more of a waste to try and keep a room warm. By sitting with your body under a kotatsu, the heat is focused where it makes the most difference (on YOU!) Not only does this save money, but is a more eco-friendly approach.
What Makes a Good Kotatsu?
A good kotatsu effectively warms you up and distributes the warm air below the covers as efficiently as possible. Have you ever been under a kotatsu where your knees are burning and your feet are like ice? I have. Choose a kotatsu that heats effectively.
Some kotatsu tables have non-slip tops or other design features that hold the top in place. These features might be especially important if you have kids or know yourself to be clumsy. 😉
A kotatsu is a substantial piece of furniture. If possible, it would be nice to remove the blanket and continue to use it year-round. That means finding a design that will work well even when the legs are exposed. You will want a durable top that won’t discolor from age and heat exposure. And depending on the setting, you may want to find an adjustable-height table to use it for a different purpose in the warmer seasons.
The kotatsu blanket is usually sold separately. There are many colors, patterns and textures to explore. As the blankets tend to be a lower investment, this may be the smartest place to follow trends.
How to Choose a Kotatsu
Here are some important questions to ask yourself that will guide your kotatsu purchase.
Do You Prefer to Sit on the Floor or in a Chair?
This will influence the leg height and the table top size. A larger table top size is needed for sitting on the floor because legs will need more space.
Are you the kind of person whose legs fall asleep easily? Do you have a hard time sitting down and standing up? Do you have arthritis that makes it painful to sit on the floor? High table kotatsus and adjustable height kotatsus are available for those who prefer sitting in chairs.
How Many People Do You Wish to Seat at the Kotatsu?
One or two people fit well at a table top that is 75~80cm x 50~60cm.
Three or four people fit well at a table top that is 100~150cm x 80~90cm.
You will want to accommodate your family and guests, but don’t forget to stand back and visualize the table in your preferred location. You may want to up-size so that the table visually matches the scale of the room and adjacent furniture.
Will You Use It Year-Round?
Some Kotatsu tables are available with folding legs. These can be stored and moved more easily.
If you plan to use the kotatsu as a dining or coffee table year-round, special attention should be paid to the design of the legs. It’s also convenient to select a model with cord storage.
About Under-Table Heaters
There are three main kinds of kotatsu heaters with different characteristics.
A carbon flat heater is slim; sometimes around only 2cm thick. For anyone who has lived with a kotatsu before, you will understand that it is necessary to move around a bit under the kotatsu to find the most comfortable position and prevent your legs and feet from falling asleep. But that can mean bumping your knees into the heater. It is desirable to have as much space as possible, but the downside of a carbon flat heater is that they aren’t as strong as other heater types.
Quartz tube heaters are the standard kotatsu heater type. They warm effectively and efficiently. These parts are fairly standardized, so a replacement heater or cord can be found easily. The only downside is the thickness, which is usually at least 7cm deep.
No matter the kind of heater, take care to not push the blanket directly below or in contact with the heater. This is a fire hazard.
Best Kotatsus You Can Buy Online in Japan
- Made in Japan
- 105 x 65cm
- Oak veneer top
I chose this kotatsu table as the #1 design choice for a few key reasons. First of all, it has a real wood veneer top and solid wood legs.
This table doesn’t look like a kotatsu, making it convenient for year-round use. The simple design is modern enough to be timeless, special enough to elevate a room, and natural enough to age well.
The best design choice will depend on your room and your preferences. But as a stand-alone object, this table was a clear winner.
Best Budget Kotatsu
- 105 x 75cm top
- Reversible top
- 300W heater
- Light and dark models
For under $100, this Yamazen kotatsu is a safe choice. Is it a substantial enough size to spread out your work, entertain, or look balanced next to a sofa. Despite the low price, this model still rates well for stability.
Best for Entertaining
- 600W Quartz Heater
- Real wood veneer
- Urethane coating
- Handheld temperature control
- Optional screws to stabilize top during summer use
Round tables like this are great for playing games. In Japan, the social leader or elder is expected to sit at the head of the table. A table like this is egalitarian ~ use this information at your own discretion. 😉
Best Low Kotatsu for Single Life [tie]
- 80 x 60cm
- Integrated USB & AC charging ports
- 300W quartz heater
The USB and AC plug-in are positioned smartly on the side edge of the table. This means that spills and dust won’t naturally collect in the openings.
Best Low Kotatsu for Single Life [tie]
- Fashionable midcentury bean shape
- 105 x 60cm top
The advantage of this kotatsu is in the ergonomic shape. A bean shape “hugs” us, resulting in slightly better elbow support when using a laptop or tablet.
Best Folding Kotatsu
- Nautral wood grain
- Midcentury boat table top shape
- 300W Quartz heater
- Bolts to hold the top in place during the warm season
The photos don’t do this product justice. Not only does it have folding capabilities, but the design is well executed. The rounded boat-shape top and tapered legs have a subtle midcentury feel without going overboard.
Best Dining Kotatsu
- White-wash finish
- Comfortable for two people
- Scandinavian design
I was drawn to this kotatsu from across the store. The chairs really make the set – they have a relaxed back angle with a generous seat size. Perfect for full-sized western people or those who like to sit cross-legged at the dining table.
Best Traditional Japanese Style Kotatsu
Akaya “Enki” KotatsuAKAYA Online Shop
- Made in Japan
- Zelkova wood
- 600W heater with hand controller
- Available in various sizes
If you are a traditional Japanese design purist, we’ve got you covered. As it turns out, you can indeed find an ornately carved low table with kotatsu functionality.
When I first moved to Japan, I had never experienced life with a kotatsu before. But now there is no going back. It’s fun to see just how many different kinds are available. I hope this article was valuable for you! If it was, please drop a comment! I’d love to hear from you! ~B