FEB 2021 (vol. 160)
Warm Up to a Japanese Kotatsu
att.JAPAN × JapanUp!
FEBRUARY 2021 (VOL. 160)
Warm Up to a Japanese Kotasu!
What's a Kotatsu?
A kotatsu is a low blanketed table with a heater fixed to the underside. Sit on the floor with your legs tucked in and you’ll feel so snug, you won’t want to move.
The winter thing to do is to snuggle up to a kotatsu with a mound of mandarin oranges at the height of their season. Mandarins are said to stave off colds and hydrate the body,
the perfect cold-weather go-to.
Different prefectures, however, have their own customs. In Fukui Prefecture, for instance, the kotatsu snack of choice happens to be not mandarins but mizu yokan, a confection of red bean jelly.
Then there are people who associate cats with kotatsu. Our warm-blooded feline friends seem to love curling up within the radius of a kotatsu.
Types of Kotatsu
The traditional kotatsu is a low table with a large rectangular or square top. Today, we see modern variations that boast stylish and practical appeal. On the market are one-person kotatsu, bed-type kotatsu, and kotatsu tall enough to pull up a chair to.
The Sunken Kotatsu
A great innovation if you can’t sit for long, Japanese style! The kotatsu table rests above an opening in the floor where the tatami mat has been removed. Relax while dangling your feet as though sitting in a chair.
While a kotatsu is a winter staple in Japan, it may be completely foreign to our friends from abroad. The kotatsu is a heater indispensable to Japanese households from days of old. But not only in Japanese homes: traditional inns and restaurants, as well as some modes of travel, also offer this comfort of home, so by all means, give it a try.
Matsue Horikawa Pleasure Boat
Sightseeing boats navigate the moats of Matsue, a castle town in Shimane Prefecture. See the castle from diverse perspectives and sail past the former residence of famous foreign-
born writer Lafcadio Hearn, all the while in the warm comfort of a kotatsu, from November to April.
Kotatsu Spots in Tokyo
Cafe Stay Happy
A laid back, resort feel of a cafe where you will “Stay Happy” and warm from November to March in their colorful and inviting kotatsu. Organic vegetables and non-additive ingredients are standard in their menus and their beer and coffee hail from all over the world. Their desserts, too, are highly popular.
Nearest Station: Shimokitazawa Sta.
Ryogoku Terrace Cafe
Located on the banks of the Sumida River, next door to the Kyu Yasuda Garden, where “Food and Health,” or healthy eating, is its theme. Its outside terrace setting gives way to kotatsu tables from October to March (tbd), providing a whole new meaning to terrace dining.
Nearest Station: Ryogoku Sta.
“Kotatsu Cat” Treats
The neko donut, or catshaped donut, is a favorite at Blue Sky Coffee, a takeout shop on the grounds of the Inokashira Park. The donut, shaped like a curledup cat, is crispy on the outside while soft and chewy on the inside. The donut comes in a bag with a drawing of a kotatsu on the outside. The curled-up neko donut inside makes for a humorous visual pun.
“Kotatsu Cat” Shrimp Crackers
Keishindo, famous makers of shrimp crackers, offers a winter gift set called “Fuyu Akari,” or winter brightness. Among the assortments is a package of “kotatsu neko” shrimp crackers that look like a sleeping cat, playfully enclosed in a kotatsu illustrated wrapper film. A perfect gift for the cat lover!
A quiet time surrounded by pure white snow
Located in Yonezawa City, Yamagata Prefecture, Shirabu Onsen is a long-established onsen with a history of more than 700 years. Featuring a clear and colorless sulfur spring with various healthful effects, it has been one of the popular places for hydropathic treatment in the Tohoku Area for a long time. Several onsen inns are located in a village nestled among the scenic mountains, offering unique and original ways to enjoy onsen, including an onsen waterfall using hot spring water naturally gushing out and a stone-made open-air onsen that blends into the surrounding nature. In this area, you can walk around and visit different onsen facilities.
Located at an altitude of 900 meters, the area around Shirabu Onsen is a great place to enjoy various outdoor activities, including climbing at Mount Nishiazuma, one of the “100 Best Mountains” in Japan, and strolling in Tengendai Kogen Plateau in summer and skiing at Tengendai Ski area in winter. With a clear stream of the Otaru River near the onsen town, you can see the powerful flow of Shirabu-ootaki Falls from melted snow water from spring to summer and enjoy fishing at the mountain stream.
It is especially recommended to visit this area in winter, when you can see unique shapes of trees completely covered with ice, called “snow monsters.” The town itself is covered with snow and one of the onsen inns, “Higashiya Ryokan,” offers “yukimi-roten” (snow-viewing bath), an open-air onsen bath surrounded by snow walls as high as two meters. As the onsen water can keep its high temperature even if it is surrounded by snow, you can enjoy immersing yourself into the onsen without feeling cold.
The magazine att.JAPAN is for non-Japanese visiting from overseas and those residing in Japan. This quarterly magazine written in English, Mandarin, and Korean offers a wide range of information about Japan –– from travel and sightseeing to various aspects of traditional culture and the latest trends. The magazine is distributed at major airports, hotels, and tourist information centers throughout Japan. https://att-japan.net/en/