Friday, 7 February 2014

Ode to a kotatsu

Japanese houses are rarely insulated and retain almost no heat. So despite the swanky-sounding name, a Japanese 'manshon' is, in winter, pretty much a glorified refrigerator. Ours is currently covered (windows and doors at least) in many layers of bubble wrap - the hyaku en (60p) per roll answer to double glazing which is effective but does get a few funny looks from the post/ pizza man. 

So this week we got a kotatsu, in a bid to keep warm through the storms and snow that will apparently arrive tomorrow. This is a kotatsu (not ours) on traditional tatami flooring:

The best bit about kotatsus, and what's not clear from the picture, is that inside the table there is an electric heating element. So a kotatsu is a heated table with removable blankets both in the middle and underneath, which has apparently - thank you wiki - been around in Japan in one form or another since the 14th century. The idea is to sit around on floor cushions (zabuten) with your legs under the blanket, and keep warm without wasting money heating your whole apartment/ house, whilst still being able to do things like work, eat, watch films etc, thanks to the table-top. 

This is the current state of ours:

The book on the right is Peter Rabbit, or ピーターラビット (Piitaa Rabitto), as having finished A Very Hungry Caterpillar I have decided to make the leap from 3- (??) to 6-year-old Japanese child. Either that or I'll transform into a cat, having now started to take naps under the kotatsu in typical Japanese cat-style.

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