Cozy in Winters the Japanese Way

Kotatsu with a built-in heater is a wooden table frame covered by a blanket and a table top.

Over the centuries, Japanese have learned how to stay cozy and comfortable in winters using minimal energy and resources, and I try to put the old wisdom to use.

I live in a traditional Japanese wooden house with modest insulation. Miyazaki is blessed with a subtropical climate. It hardly ever snows here, though we have fairly cold winters.

Staying comfortable through the winter isn’t as trivial as turning up the central-heating’s thermostat, which my house doesn’t have anyway and we manage just fine without it.

Below is a short list of my Japanese traditional winter comforts.


This low wooden table, with a built-in heater underneath and its sides covered with a quality blanket, does an ample job of warming the body (top picture).

On cold winter nights families sit on the floor with legs tucked under the table, enjoying its warmth and the feeling of closeness. The kotatsu is found in almost every home in Japan.


Many Japanese traditional houses are built with an engawa, or sun roomMany Japanese traditional houses are built with an engawa, or sun room.  An engawa always faces south and its outside wall consists of sliding windows/doors.

These windows catch the sun on its low winter path and efficiently transfer its heat into the house.

We often enjoy breakfast in the engawa where the temperature is comfortable without turning on the heater in all but the coldest days.


Japanese winter slippersThe hardwood floor no longer feels cold when you are wearing comfortable slippers and a good pair of socks. Different slippers for different seasons are a must-have items here all year round. They are sold in all kinds of shops, and an acceptable-quality pair can be had for about $10.

Green Tea

poring-a-cup-of-hot-green-teaThe benefits of a hot cup of green tea cannot be overstated. The temperature of the room may not feel toasty, but a steaming cup of green tea can do wonders to make you feel warm from inside out.

It’s a Way of Life

My winter comforts do more than just keep me warm. Each of them offer simple pleasures in their own ways, while together they help create an ambiance and memories that I sometimes long for in the heat of the summer.

It might seem easier to dial-up the thermostat and blast the rooms, but I would never trade-in my winter comforts for a “modern” central heating system. The techno-wonders couldn’t hold a candle to my simple and cozy winter pleasures!


Lives in Miyazaki, Japan and is a contributing editor to WAWAZA's blogs.

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About Kiyotake

Lives in Miyazaki, Japan and is a contributing editor to WAWAZA's blogs.
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