Kotatsu, heatable table

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Kotatsu, a warm table コタツ 炬燵 こたつ, おこた

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: All Winter
***** Category: Humanity


You can not live in Japan without a kotatsu in winter. It is fondly called "O-Kotta" and the best friend of all family members. You sit aound this table, munching mandarins and drinking tea for hours.

It is a table with low legs, standing on the tatami floor, with a warm quilt under it and a huge quilt and blanket over it. Inside is a heater, nowadays an electric infrared one, in olden times it was charcoal burning. You strech the legs inside to keep them warm and toasty, and the CATS just love it.
This year we opened the Kotatsu-Season in October and it well be so until May next year.

A person sitting in the kotatsu all winter is called
Kotatsu Benkei 炬燵弁慶, a kotatsu warrior
Yoshitsune and Benkei, the brave warriours

CLICK for more photos

Here is my cat Haiku kun sleeping happily with warm feet:
And slowly edgeing his way out to keep the nose cool.


. kotatsu neko 炬燵猫(こたつねこ)cat in the kotatsu  
animal kigo for all winter

. . . . .

CLICK for more photos

kirigotatsu 切炬燵(きりごたつ)heated table with opening in the floor for the feet

okigotatsu 置炬燵(おきごたつ) kotatsu table to put on the floor
This can be put anywhere in the room.

kotatsu yagura 炬燵櫓(こたつやぐら)wooden frame for the kotatsu
It holds the top plate and the blanket cover.
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

kotatsubuton 炬燵蒲団(こたつぶとん)futon quilt for the kotatsu
..... shikigotatsu 敷炬燵(しきごたつ) quilt "Spreading over the kotatsu table"
kotatsu ita 炬燵板(こたついた) board, plate for the kotatsu
can be square or rectangular
Tischplatte eines Kotatsu

denkigotatsu 電気炬燵(でんきごたつ)electrically heated kotatsu

kotatsu haru 炬燵張る(こたつはる)covering the kotatsu table
kotatsu hiraku 炬燵開く(こたつひらく)opening the kotatsu season

kotatsu kiru 燵切る to install a deep box for the legs under the table.

things to keep your home warm in winter



. Utagawa Kuniyoshi 歌川国芳 .
つじうらをきく Tsujiura no Kiku

Keeping warm in an Edo home
. hibachi 火鉢 brazier .



rainy morning -
the cats deep

in the kotatsu

........................... Regenmorgen -
........................... die Katzen tief
........................... im Kotatsu

..... Gabi Greve, 2004


Omou hito no soba e warikomu kotatsu kana

Trying to sit
right next to the person you love,
at the warm fireplace.


Comment by Gabi:
To sit near a person you love in a kotatsu is quite a different thing than sitting beside a fireplace. Nobody can see what you do with your legs in the dark under the blankets and we often call it "to play footsies".
But I agree, it is difficult to translate this word without giving a long explanation or show a picture, to explain what a kotatsu is.

Issa has now the following translation by David Lanoue, the Issa expert:

squeezing in next
to my lover...
quilt-covered brazier

Art and calligraphy from Sankanjin, a haiku book of 1814 that includes some of Issa's work.
Issa and two comrades warm their feet with a brazier.


mamori-iru kotatsu o io no honzon kana

The 'kotatsu'
That guards my hermitage,
Is my principal image.

Tr. Blyth


. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

CLICK for more photos

kirigirisu wasurene ni naku kotatsu kana

The cricket chirps
In a forgetful way;
This 'kotatsu!'

Tr. Blyth

a cricket
crying forgetfullly:
the brazier

Tr. Barnhill

sumitsukanu tabi no kokoro ya okigotatsu

no fix place to live
in my traveler's mind -
this little kotatsu


no place to live
with my mind set on travelling -
this little kotatsu / stove / heater

Written in December of 1690 元禄3年 in Kyoto. Basho age 50
He was sitting there alone in his room, wondering what the New Year would bring this lonely traveller. Maybe he feels a bit like such a "personal kotatsu" which can be moved freely and has to hold its place where it is put.

MORE about Travelling with
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


yadogae ni supori to hamaru kotatsu kana

moving to a new home
it really fits perfectly,
my old kotatsu . . .

The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.
supori, suppori すっぽり "completely"

Buson feels joy that his old kotatsu heater frame fits the now house so perfectly.

. WKD : Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 in Edo .


sankan wo nokoshite nema no kotatsu kana

for remaining spring
the leg warmer
still in bed

Terippo Ishy, Seattle


Related Words

kotatsu fusagu 炬燵塞ぐ to pack away the kotatsu
kigo for spring

Usually, you wash the quilts and blankets and put them back in the coupboard until the next season.
The table, whose top can be lifted, can then be used as a normal table on the tatami mats.

haru-gotatsu 春炬燵   Spring-kotatsu
kigo for spring
A wellcome item on cool spring days. In mountain areas such as mine, people keep the kotatsu until after the rainy season. Since most farmhouses are difficult to heat, this in the best way to keep body and soul warm.


yutanpo 湯たんぽ / tanpo 湯婆  hot-water bottle
kiachuu yutanpo 懐中湯婆(かいちゅうたんぽ)small hot water bottle to carry in your breast pocket of the kimono
kigo for winter

tada tanomu yuba hitotsu no samusa kana

All I ask of the world,
a hot water bottle -
I'm cold!

MEISETSU (1847-1926)

My only hope against
the cold--
one hot-water bottle.  

Tr. Yoel Hoffman  

All I ask of you,--
A hot-water bottle:
The cold!  

Tr. Blyth  

. . . . . . . . . .

I miss my duvet
The hot water bottle blues
Get me (eider)down.

. Naito Meisetsu 内藤鳴雪 .

kairo 懐炉 (かいろ) pocket heater
kairobai 懐炉灰(かいろばい)ashes from the pocket heater
kairo yake 懐炉焼(かいろやけ)burn from the pocket heater
They used to be small coal sticks in a metal case, nowadays they are pads which you can stick to your cloths, to keep sholders or the back warm.
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

onjaku 温石 おんじゃく hot stone
An old device, big ones for the footside of your bed, smaller ones to put in the breast pocket of a kimono.


denki moofu 電気毛布 electric blanket
kigo for winter

One of these itmes you need in an unheated Japanese home.

Electric blanket
No more ice-cold toes for me
New-found sleeptime bliss.


with an electric blanket


jiko (both stove and brazier), Kenya
kigo for the cold season in the tropics
see Kenya Saijiki
Jiko (brazier)


***** Ash, ashes (hai) and related kigo
and sumi-temae carcoal layout of the tea ceremony

things to keep your home warm in winter


. - - - Welcome to Edo 江戸 ! - - - .

CLICK for more ukiyo-e about the Kotatsu in Edo !





Unknown said...



Gabi Greve said...

hot jiko
with roasting chapatis --
delicious smell

Isabelle Prondzynski, 2006


Gabi Greve said...

taking a nap
in the warmth of today ...
dreaming HAIKU

My cat Haiku Kun with new kotatsu photo

click on my name

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

kotatsu Benkei

Kobayashi Issa

suzume ko yo kotatsu-benkei kore ni ari

sparrows, come closer,
I'm Commander Blowhard,
feared by no one!

This hokku is from the tenth month (November) of 1813, the year Issa received his half of his father's house in his hometown. In November he was traveling around meeting many local haijin and students and establishing himself within the Shinano province haikai network. In this first-person hokku, Issa seems to be outside trying to communicate with some sparrows, who appear to hesitate to come near him. To appeal to the birds, Issa uses humor, creating a fictional name for himself -- a common idiom that literally means, "While he's sitting warming his feet under his foot warmer at home, he's like the strong, fierce medieval warrior-monk Benkei, but when he goes outside he's quiet and gentle." The idiom is used metaphorically to describe someone who blusters and swaggers when he's at home but suddenly becomes timid and harmless as soon as he goes outside.

Issa parodies the language of medieval warriors as they appeared in plays and long oral narratives in his time and speaks as if he were a high-ranking samurai leader and the idiom (the second line of the hokku) were his name, which he announces in the midst of a battle. By using this humorous name, Issa actually says the opposite of what medieval warriors were saying: outdoors like this I'm gentle and harmless and want to be friends with you sparrows. Issa's new name is a travesty if taken literally, but luckily there don't seem to be any outraged warriors standing nearby, only birds. Issa seems to hope his parodic name, or perhaps his body language as he announces his name, will make the sparrows forget their hesitation and come closer to him. The tone of the hokku suggests that Issa believes he and the shy sparrows have much in common to communicate. The hokku may also contain a self-allusion to what Issa claimed was his very first hokku, one written as a boy in his hometown which asks a young orphaned sparrow to come play with him.

The last line of the hokku appears again in 1816 in Issa's famous hokku about the thin, weak frog:

skinny frog,
don't give up --
Issa's here!

yase-gaeru makeru na issa kore ni ari

In this case Issa parodically uses his own name as if he were a medieval warrior announcing his arrival at the site of a battle. The battle is between male frogs, probably fighting for the right to mate with female frogs. The scrawny frog is losing out to bigger frogs, so Issa enters the battle on his side and assures him he will win out and find a good mate in the end, just like Issa did. However, as in the first hokku above, Issa is also making fun of himself, since as a fighter he is inept, and as a poor, rambling poet he wasn't able to get married until he was fifty-two. The scrawny frog presumably doesn't want to wait that long, but Issa obviously hopes he's been able to encourage the frog at least a little. He himself may have been encouraged to give encouragement to the frog by the fact that his first son Sentaro had recently been born.

Chris Drake

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

. okigotatsu 置炬燵 kotatsu table to put on the floor .

ochanoma wa onna bakari ya okigotatsu

in the living room
there are only the womenfolk -
this tabel to get warm

竹田小時 Takeda Kotoki
chanoma, cha no ma, cha-no-ma 茶の間 private family living room

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

waga koi wa yogoto-yogoto no tampo kana

my true love
night after night --
my hot water bottle

This hokku is from the tenth lunar month (November) in 1822, when Issa was mostly at home in his hometown. Unfortunately his wife Kiku, who was nursing their infant fourth child, a boy named Konzaburo, had come down with gout in July. That year it began to snow in October, and November was already wintry. Luckily Issa could spend part of December at a hot springs owned by one of his students. In Issa's time hot water bottles were most commonly ceramic and shaped like horizontal cylinders, with a small mouth that could be plugged. People would put a bottle under the covers to warm their futon before they went to bed, and once you were under your futon covers you could place the bottle against any part of your body that felt cold. Since nights were very cold, Issa probably woke up from time to time and repositioned the bottle. Did Issa like to fall asleep holding his bottle in his arms?

Chris Drake

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Kotatsu and the day of
inoko 亥の子 / イノコ / 亥子 the "young wild boar"
in October
legends to explore in the Yokai Database