Me: Japan, what’s a kotatsu?

Japan: Ah, kotatsu. It’s so good. So comfortable. So nice.

Me: Yeah, but what is it?

Japan: It’s a way of keeping warm in winter. It’s a small heated table that has blankets attached to the edges of it. You cover your legs with the blankets and the heater on the underside of the table heats your legs and feet as you sit around it in the winter and it’ll keep you warm whilst you watch TV and eat oranges and stuff.

Me: Sounds a bit old-fashioned.

Japan: Yeah it is, it but it’s ok because the heaters are all electric now.

Me: So, the heaters under these little tables with blankets attached to them used to be heated by something else?

Japan: Yes. Normally charcoal.

Me: Did they have some kind of chimney device?

Japan: No.

Me: So how would you get rid of the carbon monoxide?

Japan: Open the door.

Me: But it’s winter. It’s freezing. Your house would be cold.

Japan: Er, yeah. But old Japanese houses weren’t very well insulated anyway. There was always a bit of a draft.

Me: Right…Aren’t old Japanese houses made of wood?

Japan: Yep.

Me: A charcoal heater under a wooden table in a wooden house? Did this ever lead to house fires?

Japan: Yeah but not very often.

Me: Right….And what would happen if you move away from the table?

Japan: You’d get cold.

Me: So you just have to sit around the table?

Japan: Well, yeah.

Me: What happens if you don’t like the people who you’re sitting around the table with?

Japan: Erm….choose your friends more carefully in winter?

Me: And what about the rest of your body? Does that just get left to the cold air?

Japan: Yeah, your back’ll be freezing and you’ll have to keep your hands under the blanket. But the theory is that if your feet and legs are nice and warm and your head is cool then it’s good for blood circulation and health.

Me: But last time i checked carbon monoxide poisoning and house fires aren’t really contributing to blood circulation and brain health are they?

Japan: Fair point. Anyway, nobody’s got a charcoal one now. They’re all electric. And everybody’s got air conditioners or under floor heating.

Me: So why are they still in the shops? I was wandering around a department store last week and there was a whole section of the place hawking these strange heated coffee table blanket contraptions. What’s going on?

Japan: We’re a bit nostalgic for them. We like them too much. Can’t give them up. And they probably use less electric than the air con and under floor heating and people are kindly trying use less juice since most of my nuclear power plants are still arse to front.

Me: Ah…yeah…how’s that going?

Japan: Don’t fucking ask.

Me: OK. Thanks Japan. See you later.


January 7, 2012. Uncategorized.

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