As Japanese houses aren’t exactly well insulated and central heating has yet to make inroads, the kotatsu is an absolutely essential piece of furniture for surviving the chilly season. It’s basically a low table with a small heater underneath and a blanket draped over it; you’re supposed to slip your lower body into the contraption, close the ‘curtains’ and just take in the fuzzy feeling. A larger kotatsu can fit an entire family; it's similar to sitting together around a campfire – without the flying soot or the hassle of maintaining the fire, of course. Other than buying one for your home, your best shot for experiencing it is at a kotatsu-equipped café, bar or izakaya. Here are five of our favourites in or near Tokyo.
Top five kotatsu restaurants and bars
A self-proclaimed ‘kotatsu café’, Stay Happy in Shimokitazawa is run by a cosmopolitan, English-speaking Japanese couple who travelled the world before opening their comfy base. They’ve got hammocks, communal tables and around half a dozen kotatsu for your snuggling pleasure.
It’s a little out of the way in Mitaka – and a five-minute walk from the station – but the Bunbuku izakaya is worth the trip. After all, where else can you sit outside under a kotatsu while indulging in rich nabe and appetisers that go superbly with beer?
An organic-focused casual eatery occupying an old house in historic Kamakura, Tsubame serves great matcha tea and has tatami mat seating – complete with kotatsu for those chilly winter evenings.
Boasting nine horigotatsu, or kotatsu with a sunken floor to dangle your feet in, Ryogoku Terrace Café combines the heating pleasures of the kotatsu with the warm goodness of nabe. It’s a very popular spot, so consider booking in advance.
If you're not in the mood for Japanese, head to this cosy eatery for all sorts of international favourites from warmer countries including Thailand, Jamaica and Brazil. During the winter months diners can snuggle up under the restaurant's warm kotatsu and dig into house favourites like spicy jerk chicken and refreshing coriander soba noodles.