Beatrice Oct 19, 2009
In the culture of Japan you’ll find an interesting piece of furniture that many a manga have built warm or humorous scenes around. The kotatsu is a table that is about the height of an English coffee table, and is meant to be sat around on the floor. The table has a blanket draped around all four sides and underneath it is an electric heating element. Since Japanese houses tend to be less insulated, often the kotatsu is used as a main heat source during cold winter months.
I first saw a kotatsu in an anime, but throughout my reading journeys, I’ve come across many manga that also have memorable events around a kotatsu. For example, in Nodame Cantabile, there’s an entire chapter where the students do not want to leave the warmth of the kotatsu to throw away trash or even get food. The kotatsu is brought into Chiaki’s western style apartment by Nodame. After spending several days enthralled by the warmth of the kotatsu, Chiaki realizes his normally neat apartment has become completely trashed. That’s when he takes the kotatsu out to the curb, in hopes of getting rid of it and Nodame from his apartment. Humorously, Nodame finds the kotatsu on the way home from class and brings it back up to the apartment claiming that now Chiaki can have his own kotatsu too!
How about building a kotatsu by hand? Heroine Sunako Nakahara from The Wallflower takes it upon herself to build a kotatsu for the mansion when Kyouhei comments that it would be nice to eat naba around a kotatsu with family. Her skills lead to a giant kotatsu that she tries to carry home herself. Ironically, Kyouhei finds the giant kotatsu on his way home from the market and underneath is Sunako, crushed in the snow. He carries the kotatsu to the mansion. Shortly after that the rest of the guys at the mansion find them collapsed out on the front lawn. After warming up they all eat naba around the kotatsu together.
Would you like some fan service with your kotatsu? In Love Hina, Keitaro has to suddenly hide when he’s studying with Naru in her girls-only dorm room. He ducks under the kotatsu only to end up in an akward situation. Dizzy from the heat and unable to see without his glasses, Naru gets an embarrassing surprise from Keitaro!
Even with all the anime and manga inspired sentiments, kotatsu are rare outside of Japan. When you find one online, there’s the added cost of international shipping. However, thanks to the simple design, they are not that difficult to build. If you want to experience the warmth of a Japanese kotatsu this coming winter season, you just need the right materials and a little bit of elbow grease.
Have any fond memories of a kotatsu moment? Tell us in the comments!