Japan’s Kotatsu is the Coziest Way to Stay Warm in Winter

Ahh, winter — when humanity wages war against the plummeting temperatures.

In the battle against the bitter cold, some batten down the hatches by turning up the heat, while others arm themselves with an extra blanket.

And then there’s Japan, who came up with the most ingenious invention in the history of winter warfare: the kotatsu.

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via Flickr / Marieve 瑞香 Inoue (CC BY 2.0)

The kotatsu, the coziest of contraptions, is composed of a table frame underneath a futon which then has a tabletop placed over it. A heater is affixed to the underbelly of the tabletop, hidden from view by the cascading fabric.

via Wikimedia Commons / Hustvedt (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Its use dates back to the 14th century, when the charcoal-powered cooking hearth, or irori, was modified to include a seating area.

The hearth’s primary function gradually shifted from cooking to seating, and a wooden platform with a quilt placed over it was later introduced. This proto-kotatsu was known as a hori-gotatsu, translating to “ditch, fire, foot-warmer”. It is sometimes still used today.

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via Wikimedia Commons / Sjschen (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Although its design would change in a variety of ways over the next few centuries, its most dramatic improvement wouldn’t occur until the mid-20th century, when electricity replaced coal as its fuel source.

via Flickr / nan_says (CC BY 2.0)

The result? A nice, toasty slice of heaven that offers a much-needed respite from the harsh cold.

via Flickr / Marieve 瑞香 Inoue (CC BY 2.0)

No one can resist the snuggly allure of the kotatsu — especially cats!

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via Flickr / Marieve 瑞香 Inoue (CC BY 2.0)

More like nekotatsu, amirite?

Check out this video below for more on Kotatsu culture:

How’s that for staying warm?

Did you grow up with a kotatsu? Or do you stave off the freezing cold another way? Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image via Flickr / tarte777 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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