When you think of a table in anime, the picture that will likely appear would be of people sitting on the floor eating their food. A blanket may be on this table with food placed on top of it as well, adding to the comfort of the scene. This is no ordinary table, however, this table is known as a kotatsu. It is intended to keep its guests comfortable and warm while eating together in a close setting. The history of the kotatsu is long with many improvements made along the way. However, while there is much appeal in its modern day form, there was much death that made people wary throughout the centuries.
The kotatsu was first conceptualized during the Muromachi period in the 14th century. This was at first a wooden table with a blanket or komono draped over a sort of fire pit, or irori, lined by bricks and sunk into the floor. This would contain the fire and allow for the embers to burn allowing the area under the blanket to trap the heat. This may sound dangerous, but the fires were supposed to be kept low so they would not turn hazardous. This full table at the time was known as a hori-kotatsu. The kotatsu was later revolutionized during the Edo period in the 17th century. They raised the fire so that the kotatsu was more portable. The modern look of the kotatsu was not invented until the 19th century. This was lower than the previous kotatsus and the hearth was slightly lower than ground level. There were many health and safety issues at this point in the kotatsu’s history and many children died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Modern Day Use
Modern kotatsus pose much less of a risk. They are traditionally heated using infrared lights rather than charcoal. This allows the guests to not be burned while using their kotatsus as well as not being poisoned by the noxious fumes released from the fire. Tatami mats continue to be put under them for comfort while sitting and do not pose a fire hazard with the modern day lights. Kotatsu have become increasingly popular since their existence has been spread through anime and other media. This convenient table is a safe and easy way to enjoy the winter chill all while sipping a nice cup of tea with your family.
The kotatsu is a revolutionary idea when winter is present. The snow falling on the trees outside will be welcome while you huddle under the warmth of your own personal kotatsu. The modern kotatsu is now not only a staple in Japan but has been popularized all over the world. This cozy table is a welcome addition to any household and will serve for family dinners, as well as late night study sessions. As always, if you have any questions or comments, we would love to read them and encourage you to put them in the comment section below.