Winter is here and although it did not snow this time (yet), it did become cold enough for my partner to complain a lot about the cold outside and inside.
When we visited friends in Japan last Winter, we sat under a kotatsu a lot and found it very hard to leave it again. The heated tables are the answer to the poorly isolated houses in traditionally built Japanese houses and offer comfort and company in the cold months.
Picture me writing this piece while I am warming my legs under a warm blanket.
When we returned home, there were many things we missed dearly from Japan — the kotatsu was one of them.
For quite some time I was getting asked why we could not have such a kotatsu table in our home. In the beginning I replied, that there was no need for it because we had a proper isolated and heated flat. When that argument was not convincing enough anymore I tried to be realistic and reasoned that importing and using a kotatsu table is utterly impossible for two reasons. The shipping cost of a furniture-type item is prohibitive and the power socket is different from our European ones. We would need to use a transformer that could easily replace the kotatsu itself with the heat it would generate to lower the voltage.
A typical kotatsu in Japan
One day I revisited the idea and searched for a different approach. How difficult would it be to build one from skratch?
After some research I figured it should be possible to build a make-believe kotatsu from few parts accessible online and avoid the power issue as well.
This project was inspired by an article series from German blog fukurou.
How to DIY a kotatsu in the West
You would be surprised how simply a kotatsu can be built for your home (I was).
You would need:
- Table (Lack from IKEA)
- Blanket (imported from Japan (Rakuten))
- IR heating element (Thermo 3148044 Infrarot-Wärmeplatte, Amazon.de)
- Low chairs (optional, aliexpress.com)
- Smart plug (optional, e.g. Osram Smart+)
Luckily, this project can be carried out according to any budget. Especially the table and blanket can be quite inexpensive, depending on style and taste. In my case, I valued the visual experience a high degree, so I did not hesitate to import the blanket and chairs from an international shop. I chose a proper kotatsu blanket that I imported from Rakuten but any blanket would serve the purpose. The electric components can be conveniently purchased from Amazon.
In my case I tried to surprise my nagging partner, so I secretly ordered everything and stored the parts in my closet until everything arrived (I luickily did not have to hide the table).
It is quite important to have two equal-sized table tops. For that reason the Lack table is an excellent choice.
The assembly is quite simple actually. The heating element already came with an adhesive coating, so I just flipped the table and attached the plate in the center of the table. Next comes the heavy blanket and then, like a sandwich, the lower shelf on top.
One word about safety. In contrast to a real Japanese kotatsu, this heat source does not heat up a lot and should not ignite on its own. Still, I highly recommend to always be around when using it.
And there you have your kotatsu.
While I was quite happy with the design at this point, I also opted for four low chairs I imported from Asia for maximum authenticity.
Moreover we ordered a custom-made table top from the utility store to perfectly match up with the slightly longer table top.
Another twist was using a smart plug that allowed us to include the kotatsu in our smart home. When we were on the way home we could switch on the heating so we could slip under the warm blanket without delay.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.