In Japan, most homes have no central heating, and are very thinly insulated, so most people rely on electric space heaters. The most common form is the kotatsu
("heater table") which consists of a low table with an electric heater built into its underside, with a very thick quilted drape around it. People wanting to stay warm seat themselves on the floor under the table. The drape keeps the heat trapped underneath, and it travels through the inside of clothing to heat the sitters' bodies. If they're so inclined, they can scoot almost all the way under and use it as a makeshift heated bed, although there is a belief that falling asleep under the kotatsu makes you vulnerable to catching a cold.
(known as satsuma
in the west) are a species of mandarin orange that are considered to have a lot of nutrients important for getting through the winter, so it is common to see a bowl of them on the table. For many Japanese, a kotatsu holding a bowl of oranges is the
archetypal symbol of winter.
Kotatsus tend to show up in two situations:
- Slice of Life will have a (usually female) group of friends sitting around a kotatsu, murmuring about how warm and comfortable it is, rambling on about their lives, napping, and every single one complaining that someone else should go get some snacks. Often prime Sleep Cute and Crowning Moment of Heartwarming territory.
- Ecchi/Hentai, almost always a male and female doing homework or studying for exams together. Important naughty bits are under that table, so when a pen or some other minor item gets dropped under the huge honking comforter nothing should be able to get under by accident, it is inevitably the guy's duty to look under there, stare at panties, start reaching around trying to find the item, find something soft... and ecchiness ensues.
- Love Hina uses the ecchi version a few times (and the non-ecchi.)
- Negima! has the Slice of Life use.
- Azumanga Daioh has Osaka falling asleep under a kotatsu while at Chiyo's house and having a weird Dream Sequence. When they leave, she bids it farewell and reminisces about it on the way home...
- Keroro Gunsou in one manga chapter. (Fuyuki and Natsumi. Guess who has to go get the snacks?)
- Lucky Star episode 13 has an extended Seinfeldian Conversation about kotatsus.
- Ichigo Mashimaro, of course, has the Slice of Life version a couple of times. In one episode picture, Miu and Matsuri share the space underneath.
- Minami-ke devotes considerable time to kotatsu antics and also had an episode or two involving oranges in one of those scenes.
- Persona 4 includes kotatsu scenes in the later parts of the game. Nanako wants one, and the party eventually gets one for her.
- Cross Game: On New Years, Kou and Aoba both fall asleep under the kotatsu leading to a Sleep Cute situation. Heartwarming since they are normally fighting with each other.
- Hidamari Sketch has the Slice of Life use, natch.
- In Urusei Yatsura, Kotatsu Neko is the ghost of a cat that froze to death, so its spirit is now attracted to heater tables.
- Kotatsu Neko, on the other hand, is a live action film recently adapted to anime, about two (living) cats that spend most of their time under a kotatsu.
- In Watashi No Ookami-san the Big Bad Evil Overlord Subaru... spends his days under the kotatsu sleeping or watching television. (When he isn't attempting lay Komomo on top of it...)
Will launch as Kotatsu Coziness with Kotatsu and Heater Table as redirects at 8PM EST tonight. (Unless someone thinks up a snappier name.)