Dec 19, 2018

Using the Kotatsu for Health

    I have owned a kotatsu for many years but the last time it graced our living room was in early 2013, when I lay under it, reading Sandman and pondering if perhaps our attempts to start a family had been fruitful. They had, and almost nine months later, we welcomed my daughter into our family and the idea of having a warm place to relax in winter was the furthest thing from my mind. I was always busy, always getting something, always trying to catch up and never quite making it, like any parent of a young child. As my daughter grew, I reminded myself that she was still so active and silly and messy that I would never have time to enjoy the heated table if I bothered to take it out. All that would happen if the kotatsu were out would be her spilling things all over it or ripping up the blanket portion or ruining it somehow. It wouldn't be her fault, for she was only a little kid, but it would really hurt my feelings to see the thing destroyed, so I elected to keep the thing stored away instead. 

    Last month, things changed. Mostly, this is thanks to an impromptu visit from a friend from high school and her beau, neither of whom had been to Japan before. In the course of the incredible amount of apartment cleaning that had to take place, I elected to bring out the kotatsu. My kid is five-years-old now, capable of sitting down and relaxing with me while we warm ourselves under the heated table. Even if we only had it out for the week that my friends were visiting, it would be worth showing them a real Japanese kotatsu experience.

Using the Kotatsu for Health photo
Chaotic? Yes. Ruined? No. Using the kotatsu with a child is do-able and rewarding.


    After I set it up, it was like an epiphany. This is what winter has been missing. I have never been so happy to have cleaned my house. Pulling out the kotatsu may well save my winter. I had forgotten how nice it was to feel the various aches and pains I suffer from melt away in the heat. These days, when I am having a hard day or exhausting afternoon, I lay under the table on my stomach and let the heat work on my lower back, which is such a frequent source of pain that I sometimes pass out from the relief of it, unintentionally relaxing to the point of unconsciousness and waking up half an hour later. It's as if my back pain is an on/off switch, and as soon as the kotatsu is actively working on it, I don't have to remain functional.

Using the Kotatsu for Health photo
I don't know how you watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade, but we do it with warm tootsies.


    This relaxation is a huge factor for my mental health as the weather gets colder and colder in addition to the effects of the warmth on my various aches and pains. If you're having a hard winter and can afford it, a kotatsu might just be the thing to turn this cold season around.



A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.


  • helloalissa

    on Dec 20

    Kotatsu love. I found I wasn't used to sitting and working on my laptop, etc. at the kotatsu for a long time and would get a sore lower back from that. This year I'm fitting in planks to strengthen my abs and balance that out, but laying in the kotatsu is also so nice... if I don't have to get out soon. I'm gonna try this koshi-heater style you speak of - after work.

  • JTsuzuki

    on Dec 22

    @helloalissa Throwing in planks and such is also a great idea, both to stay fit and avoid pain. I need to be doing more of that definitely. The biggest problem is getting out from under the kotatsu when you need to. I do not recommend the belly-time nap unless you've got at least half an hour free.

  • maynestacy

    on May 15

    I added taller legs to our floor life living kotatsu when our son was about 3 because it was so difficult to clean under the thing, and easy to lose things under it. Also the blankets got spilled on a lot. Now our kotatsu functions as an ordinary dining table with chairs and I never attach the cord, and I gave away the blankets which took up a large amount of closet space. I just found that at my MIL`s, I got aching knees and sleepy spending long winters vacation hours at the kotatsu. I am glad it helped you with your aches. I am very tall so that may be one reason it did not work out for me.

  • JTsuzuki

    on May 16

    @maynestacy I do think it can be more challenging to manage with greater height. I also sit cross-legged or with my legs straight out pretty much exclusively. Anything else outside of using chairs with legs kills my ankles. I've also found that some people and aches respond better to heat, others to cold. I'm up for heat packs all the way.