A nihongo|kotatsu|炬燵 is a low, wooden table frame covered by a
futon, or heavy blanket, upon which a table top sits. Underneath is a heatsource, often built into the table itself. Kotatsu are used almost exclusively in Japan, although equivalents can be found in other cultures, notably the Korsi used in Iran.
There are two kinds of kotatsu used in Japan today, differing in the configuration and the type of heating:
*Electric: The modern style of kotatsu consists of a table with an
electricheater attached to the underside of the table. The kotatsu is usually 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. The pit is cut into the floor and is about 40 centimeters deep. A
charcoalor electric heater is placed somewhere in the pit's floor, walls, or, as in the modern-style kotatsu, attached to the table-frame.
Generally, a blanket is draped over the frame under the table-top. A person then sits on the floor with their legs (or most of their body if napping) under the table with the blanket draped over the lower body. Though this only heats up the lower body, it can keep one quite comfortable even in an unheated/under-heated room. In the summer, the blanket may be removed and the kotatsu can be used as a normal table.
Most Japanese housing is un- or under-insulated, and they rely primarily on space heating. Heat is expensive because of the lack of insulation, and the draftiness of housing. A kotatsu is a relatively inexpensive way to stay warm in the winter, as the futons trap the warm air.
The kotatsu was designed for people wearing Japanese style clothes, where the heat would enter through the bottom of the robes and exit around the neck, thus heating the entire body.
Korsi are a traditional part of Iranian culture. Korsi are similar to kotatsu although differ in that a futon is replaced by a blanket, and a special woven rug called the ru-korsi is usually thrown over the blankets, to protect them from food stains. It used to be quite popular for entire families to gather together under the Korsi during the
In popular culture
Nobel Prizewinning Author Yasunari Kawabatahas many references to kotatsu in his novel " Snow Country". They appear throughout the novel illustrating their common use in Japanese culture and housing.
*In an episode of the
animeseries " Samurai Pizza Cats", the felineheroes are subdued using "weapons" that are known to be effective ways of distracting cats: a jiggling feather, some tinned fish, a ball of yarn and a kotatsu. Due the kotatsu not being known as a well known cat napping spot outside of Japan, in the western version the villain holding the fourth weapon uttered the line, "and the coup de grâce... a radio playing Barry Manilow, glued to the bottom of a card table!"
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