Kotatsu Blanket and Kotatsu Futon Guide

Kotatsu Blanket Guide

こたつ布団

Some people buy a Kotatsu as a set including a table, heater, blanket and rug.

Others like to mix and match things. Personal taste is so different for most of these items that you will probably want to choose your own for some things. This is especially true of the kotatsu blanket or kotatsu futon you choose to use with your table and heater.

Usually, there are two parts two the blanket, called futon in Japanese, side of things. You have a kakebuton (Comforter) on top and a shikibuton *rug) on the bottom. Generally these are sold as a set, but there is nothing to stop you mixing and matching these if you want.

If you are after a complete Kotatsu set, we have a page outlining those here

If you need a new kotatsu heater for your Japanese heated table, look here.

If you are looking at what you might want to combine your table with in the room, we have a post on the Japanoscope Japanese Home Decor page.

For a look at what you can sit at the table take a look at our Zabuton cushion page.

See below for all the dirt, ahem, on Kotatsu blankets and Kotatsu futons!

What Size Kotatsu Futon (kakebuton) do you need?

Generally speaking, you want to buy a futon that is around 110 – 130cm larger than the size of your Kotatsu table.

You want to get a futon that matches the shape of your table eg. rectangular, square, round etc.

See below for a translation of a detailed table found here, if you really want to get into the nitty gritty.

What size rug (shikibuton) do you need for a Kotatsu?

Generally speaking, you want to put your Kotatsu on a rug that protrudes at least 50cm further than your Kotatsu size. If you really want to spread out, get a rug that is going to allow you to do it.

A translation of a detailed table found here is printed below, if you really want to get into the nitty gritty.

 

Square Kotatsu

Table Size

Number of people

Recommended Kotatsu Futon/Blanket Size

75~80 × 75~80cm

1 to 2 people

Thick185 x 185 cm

Thin  190 x 190 cm

Space Saving 180 x 180 cm

80~90 × 80~90cm

2 to 3 people

Thick 205 x 205 cm

Thin 200 x 200 cm

High type

90 x 90 cm

Height: 63-68 cm

3 to 4 people

Thin 235 x 235 cm

Rectangular Kotatsu

Table size

Number of people

Recommended Kotatsu Futon/Blanket Size

60 × 90cm

1 to 2 people

Space Saving 160 x 190 cm

75 × 105cm

2 to 3 people

Thick 185 x 235 cm

Thin 190 x 240 cm

80 × 120cm

3 to 4 people

Thick 205 x 245 cm

Thin 200 x 250 cm

Space Saving 180 x 220 cm

Space Saving 190 x 230 cm

80~90 × 130~150cm

3 to 4 people

Thick  205 x 285cm

Thin  200 x 290cm

Space Saving 180 x 250cm

80~90 × 180cm

3 to 4 people

Thick 205 x 315 cm

80~90 × 210cm

3 to 4 people

Thick 205 x 345 cm

High type

80-90 x 135 cm

Height: 63-68 cm

3 to 4 people

Thin 235 x 275 cm

High type

80-90 x 150 cm

Height: 63-68 cm

3 to 4 people

Thin 235 x 290 cm

Circular Kotatsu

Table size

Number of people

Recommended Kotatsu Futon/Blanket Size

Diameter: 65cm

1 person

Thick Diameter: 175 cm

Thin Diameter: 170 cm

Diameter: 75cm

2 to 3 people

Thick Diameter: 185 cm

Thin Diameter: 180 cm

Diameter: 90cm

2 to 3 people

Thick  Diameter: 205cm

Thin  Diameter: 200cm

Diameter: 110cm

3 to 4 people

Thick Diameter: 225 cm

Thin Diameter: 220 cm

Diameter: 120cm

3 to 4 people

Thick Diameter: 245 cm

Thin Diameter: 240 cm

How kotatsu hold the futon

Generally speaking, the table top of a Kotatsu with a futon inserted beneath it is not fixed and is mainly held on by the weight of the tabletop itself. There are underlays that can be purchased to help grip the top. It is possible to also hold on the top with screws, but this requires putting holes in the futon underneath, so is not a popular option.

How to wash a Kotatsu Blanket or Kotatsu Futon? 

Kotatsu futons will be marked as either hand wash or dry clean.

In Japanese, hand wash will be marked as 手洗イ (read as tearai)

Items that must be dry cleaned will be marked ドライ (dry)

Futons can’t be machine washed because the cotton inside will be damaged.

Do you need a Kotatsu futon cover?

Kotatsu are usually fairly high use items, and are often around (and underneath) food and drink. So the likelihood of them needing regular cleaning is pretty high. Given, their bulkiness, for most people, putting your Kotatsu blanket in a cover is going to make the washing process a lot easier. This does add another level of expense though, so you’ll have to way up convenience versus expense.

Can you use any blanket for a kotatsu?

Some people use regular futon duvets in their Kotatsu, so it’s possible. That being said, it is hard to find the perfect size, and you would want to be sure that there is nothing flammable in your blanket. Think of how some synthetic clothing materials react around heaters! If you do go down this route, you would probably want to use something that was pure natural material. It is generally safer to go with a dedicated Kotatsu blanket.

Consider this also:

A normal blanket/futon may not be appropriate as a Kotatsu blanket/futon

But

A kotatsu blanket/futon can always be used as a normal blanket/futon

So you still get another general use futon when you buy a Kotatsu futon.

 

What types of Kotatsu blankets and Kotatsu futons are there?

There are basically three types of blanket, called futon, that people use with Kotatus in Japan; 

Thick (atsugake 厚がけ) 

Thin (usugake 薄がけ) 

Space saving (sho-supesu 省スペース)

 

Thick (atsugake 厚がけ)

The thicker the blanket, the more warm and luxurious. The drawback is that they are bulky, heavy and more difficult to store.

 

Thin (usugake 薄がけ) 

Thinner blankets are easier to get in and out of and take less room to store.

 

Space saving (sho-supesu 省スペース)

You’ll find that when getting around the Kotatsu that the corners are the places that often get most in the way. Space savers have a slit cut into the corners and use thin material in these areas so that they take up the least space. They consequently have a fairly distinctive look, which may or may not be to your taste.

Bright Patterned Kotatsu Futon

If you need to brighten up your room…

Pros

  • Stylish pattern design
  • Reasonable price
  • Different patterns to choose from
  • For 60/75/80/90cm Table
  • 100% Polyester

Cons

  • Non-natural materials
  • Non-Japanese maker

 

Space Saver Kotatsu Futon

Two in one with “Space Saver” corner design

Pros

  • Stylish pattern design
  • Reasonable price
  • Different patterns to choose from
  • For 60/75/80/90cm Table
  • 100% Polyester

Cons

  • Non-natural materials
  • Non-Japanese maker

Pattern blanket and rug leaf pattern set

Stylish Patterning two-in one

Pros

  • Two in one, don’t need to worry about mixing and matching
  • Stylish pattern design
  • Reasonable price
  • Different patterns to choose from
  • For 60/75/80/90cm Table
  • 100% Polyester

Cons

  • Non-natural materials
  • Non-Japanese maker

Natural Nagomi Cotton Kotatsu Futon Cover

100% natural fibre hand made kotatsu blanket cover!

Pros

  • All natural
  • Nagomi Cotton
  • Various Colors
  • Simple single tone
  • Custom sizes available

Cons

  • Have to buy futon seperately

Hand Made, All Natural Kotatsu Futon

Lovingly crafted in Japan, this one is for the connoisseurs

Pros

  • Hand Made
  • Natural Cotton Materials
  • Square or Rectangle

Cons

  • Plain design best used with cover

AntiGnor Luxury Kotatsu Futon Blanket Square/Rectangle

A great thick style futon in dark shades

 
Pros
  • Fluffy fleece style edge
  • Dark color doesn’t stain easily
  • Fire safe
  • Thick
  • Two sizes available
Cons
  • Non-natural materials
  • Does not come with under rug

Nishikawa Reversible Kotatsu Futon Square

A thinner, non-bulky “usugake” style futon that for 80cm square

Pros

  • Reversible – two colors!
  • Thin, non-bulky style futon
  • Fleece material
  • Rings in corners for attaching cover

Cons

  • Thickness may not suit particularly cold climates
  • Non-distinctive pattern

Pathwork Kotatsu Blanket

Classic Patchwork Style Kakebuton

 
Pros
  • Fluffy fleece style edge
  • Muted color doesn’t stain easily
  • Fire safe
Cons
  • Non-natural materials
  • Does not come with under rug

EMOOR Washable Kotatsu Futon Comforter Cover Rectangle-Type

Highly unique Scandinavian meets Native American Design!

Pros
  • Cover only – transform an existing futon
  • 77×93in (195 x 245cm)
  • Zipper and corner strings
 
Cons
  • Does not come with Futon!

Conclusion

I think if you’ve got the money, it’s worth investing in a hand made Kotatsu blanket from Etsy and then putting it into your favorite cover. Aliexpress has a lot of cute options, if you’re into something with, say, kawaii cats, or more modern designs. In many ways, it will all come down to the size you require and your personal preferences. Happy Kotatsu-ing!

If you are after a complete Kotatsu set, we have a page outlining those here. If you need a new kotatsu heater for your Japanese heated table, look here.

If you are looking at what you might want to combine your table with in the room, we have a post on the Japanoscope Japanese Home Decor page.

For a look at what you can sit at the table take a look at our Zabuton cushion page.

Phew, so much comfort!

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

About the reviewer

I’m Peter Head. I have succesfully completed the  highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1). I lived in Japan for four years as a student and on working holiday.  I have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.

Kotatsu Sets Japanese Kotatsu Tables

Kotatsu Sets

こたつセット

Women sitting at a Japanese Kotatsu Table

Across centuries, the Kotatsu has been the traditional gathering point for families relaxing and keeping warm together. Sure, central heating is good, but there is nothing like a central point where loved ones come together to stave off the elements. They are also relatively cost efficient. I’m going to aim at answering all of the most commonly asked questions about Kotatsu tables and Japanese heated tables and then introduce some of the best ones available to purchase online. Let’s start by looking at some of the picks for Kotatsu sets.

If you are wanting to see more information about Japanese tables generally see the Japanoscope JAPANESE TABLES PAGE, or to see what you can combine your table with in a room, check out the Japanoscope JAPANESE HOME DECOR page. For a look at what you can sit at the table take a look at our ZABUTON CUSHIONS page.

If you want to find out about just the heater part of these Kotatsu units, take a look at the KOTATSU HEATERS Page.

If you want to see more about KOTATSU BLANKETS AND KOTATSU FUTON look here.

#1 Stylish LZG Kotatsu Set

Unlike the vast majority of Kotatsu covers, this one actually looks really stylish and can be a value adding element in your lounge room. Size-wize it suits one -two people.

Pros

  • Stylish Kotatsu Futon design
  • All-in-one set
  • Simple and stylish when used as a normal table
  • Blanket compact when folded
  • Non-slip, washable materials
  • Temperature adjustable

Cons

  • Table protrubes quite a lot, making it more prone to being bumped
  • On the small side if used with two people

#2 Damedai Wooden Rectangular Kotatsu Set

With a wooden table that is stylish with or without the Kotatsu add ons, this is a solid versatile option.

Pros

  • Stylish table design
  • All-in-one set
  • Slim heater with protected element
  • Adjustable heat
  • Warm, fluffy blanket

Cons

  • Cat designed blanket won’t suit all
  • No adjustable legs for storage

#3 Classic SquareTwo Person Kotatsu Set

This classic square Kotatsu set is traditional with a patchwork design.

Pros

  • Traditional Patchwork Blanket
  • All-in-one set
  • Good size and shape for two people
  • Classic table design
  • Solid wood legs

Cons

  • Plywood top
  • Non-folding or adjustable legs

What is a Kotatsu?

A Kotatsu is a Japanese table with a heater attached to it’s underside that warms up a space enclosed by a blanket underneath.

In other words, a Kotatsu is as close a place as there is to heaven on earth.

Modern and traditional Kotatsu set up

What’s good about a Kotatsu?

Relatively cost efficient – rather than heating up a whole house, you just heat up one confined space

  • Bring people together in one central location. Board games anyone?
  • They combine the most comforting things in the world, heating, bedding and eating. That’s a pretty potent combo.
  • They double as an ordinary old coffee table in the warm months

Where did the Kotatsu come from anyway?

People in Japan traditionally sat around an open fire pit in the middle of the house called an irori. You can get a more complete history of the Kotatsu from wikipedia but the short answer is that people started putting a blanket over the hot coals in the pit to trap heat to make a kind of mini sauna to keep warm in winter.

How to buy a Kotatsu outside of Japan

There are several major stores including Kotatsu on Amazon, or for a lot more choice you can check these Kotatsu on Amazon Japan that offer international shipping. In some cases, Aliexpress’ Kotatsu page has Kotatsu listed at prices much lower than you see in other places. All these sights list Kotatsu sets, Kotatsu heaters or Kotatsu blankets/futons. 

How much does a kotatsu cost?

Generally speaking, complete sets of a table with heater, a mat and blanket start from around $600, generally you’re going to need to spend a $1000 or for good quality items.

Kotatsu in a room next to a futon

Kotatsu set or mix and match table/heater/futon

There are a couple of routes to take. You can either: 

  1. Purchase a complete set, with all the blankets, table and heating apparatus together, or 
  2. Find and combine the different pieces together yourself. 

Both of these methods have pluses as minuses. Obviously buying as a complete set is easier. But the drawback is that you don’t get as much control over the design and feel. Maybe you like the table but not the design or vica versa. Maybe you have a table and you want to put a floor style Kotatsu heater underneath it, or attach one to on the underside of the tabletop. 

You will find that if you look through the Amazon Japan store and search for items that include international shipping, the options for Kotatsu futons and blankets is a lot wider than if you only look on an international store or restrict yourself to sets. 

It all depends on how particular are and how you much effort you want to put in to mixing and matching. Considering a Kotatsu is likely to be something that is in your household for many years, it is probably worth taking the time to get something you’re really happy with!

What Size Kotatsu Do I need?

Kotatsu For One Person

Recommended size: 60cm x 40cm

60cm on the sides and 40cm depth gives you enough room for using a computer, reading, eating etc.

Kotatsu For Two People 

Recommended size: Square 80-90cm Rectangle Long side 90-105cm

A square is generally the best size for two people. 80cm is around optimal, 90cm if you want to stretch out.

Kotatsu For Three People 

Recommended size: Rectangle with 105 ~ 120cm on the long side

If you get something closer to 120cm you could comfortably use the kotatsu with can be used by 4 people, so you should choose it if you want more space or think about the future.

Kotatsu For Three People 

Recommended size: Rectangle … Rectangle of 80 ~ 85cm x  120 ~ 135cm

For two children and two adults, a width of 120 cm is about right. 

For four adults, you probably want something with a width of 135 cm.

Kotatsu Tables and Room Size

It’s the obvious things that sometimes get forgotten about when making a house purchase. Make sure you look at the measurements in proportion to your room size.

You want to leave enough room for people to freely pass around the Kotatsu, usually at least 60cm.

It is worth actually marking out the space, using a measuring tape, you plan to use your Kotatsu to see how it feels.

Also consider whether you plan to use your table for dining, obviously you’ll want more room at dining table than a table that you will be using more casually.

There are “space saving” style Kotatsu futons that help reduce some of the bulk created by the futon.

What size rug do you need for a Kotatsu?

Generally speaking, you want to put your Kotatsu on a rug that protrudes at least 50cm further than your Kotatsu size.

How tall is a kotatsu table?

If sitting unseated, on a carpet or rug, under a Kotatsu, the recommended table height is around 35 cm. Children will start to feel a Kotatsu as being too high around the 40 cm mark. If you plan to sit at a Kotatsu with a chair or floor sofa, it is best to allow another 5 to 10 cm and go for something around 40 – 45cm in height. So it is good to think about whether or not you plan to use chairs right from the start.

Of late, there are people that use their kotatsu in combination with fairly large sofa style cushions. In this case you may need an even higher Kotatsu of 50 cm or higher.

Some Kotatsu come with adjustable height mechanisms built into their construction.

Kotatsu Legs

There are three main types of Kotatsu legs:

  • Folding

Legs that have a hinge that make them foldable and, thus, easy to store away in the hotter months!

  • Fixed

Kotatsu heaters of late have started to become a lot smaller than in the past. This opens up the possibility of using your Kotatsu as a normal all-purpose table throughout the year. So having a table with fixed legs is, of course, no problem in this context.

  • Adjustable

Some Kotatsu have adjustable legs so you can raise the table higher or lower as your needs may be. This is actually more convenient than a lot of people may think as you may want to switch between using your kotatsu with or without it’s blanket or between using chairs and not using chairs over time or depending on the season. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you are being “squeezed in” to a tight sitting space!

Under The Kotatsu

Is a kotatsu a fire hazard?

Kotatsu do not represent a significant fire hazard if used correctly. Modern Kotatsu generally have automatic temperature adjustment functionality. In 2017, there were four reports from the Tokyo Fire Department of fires linked to the use of Kotatsu. 

There have been cases where incorrect use of Kotatus has led to fires. These are often associated with different items being pushed inside the Kotatus cavity, such as laundry or flammable items that can ignite if in contact with the heating apparatus too long.

The top things to be aware of when using a Kotatsu from a safety perspective are:

(1) Keep cushions and clothes out of the kotatsu

(2) Don’t put furniture on the power cord

(3) Arrange a cord in a way that it is not constantly getting stepped on and damaged

(4) Prevent dust from accumulating on the heater of the electric kotatsu, which can build up and become flammable over time

(5) Turn off the power when not using the kotatsu

As with any kind of heating, using a kotatsu demands a level of awareness.

Can you burn yourself on a kotatsu?

It is possible to sustain low temperature burns from long contact with a kotatsu heating apparatus.

Low temperature burns are those caused by heat sources below 60 ° C. For every 1 degree increase in temperature, the time it takes to get a low temperature burn is roughly halved. If you were to touch something at 44 ° C for 6 hours, you run the risk of getting a low temperature burn.

Low-temperature burns tend to cause burns that run deeply into the skin. Legs, ankles, and heels are particularly susceptible to low-temperature burns as these areas of the body do not perceive pain as acutely as others and often have poor blood circulation. 

This means people should take care in spending too long in a Kotatsu, such as sleeping for long periods of time.

What converter would you use for a kotatsu heater

Voltage in Japan is 100v, so if you buy a Japanese made Kotatsu you would need a power converter or transformer to convert to 120v for North America, 230v for Central Europe or 240v for Australia.

Power Converter

How do kotatsu work?

Kotatsu have a heating unit installed underneath the top table which heats up the space underneath the blanket and table top.

Most commonly, Quartz Tube Heating units are used. Halogen heaters are also popular due because they are quick to heat up. 

Heaters are relatively these days, especially in the flat heater type which aim at entirely doing away with any protrusion under the table whatsoever. Check out the Japanoscope Kotatsu Heater page for more information.

What blanket to use for a kotatsu?

There are basically three types of blanket, called futon, that people use with Kotatus in Japan; Thick (atsugake), thin (usugake) and space saving (sho-supesu).

The thicker the blanket, the more warm and luxurious. The drawback is that they are bulky, heavy and more difficult to store.

Thinner blankets are easier to get in and out of and take less room to store.

Space savers have thin material at the corners so that they take up the least space.

Can you sleep under a kotatsu?

It is a widely held belief in Japan that sleeping in a kotatsu leads to catching a cold. This is a difficult phenomenon to study clinically, so there is little solid medical evidence to support the commonly held view. Theoretically there is plenty of medical evidence that links changes in body temperature with various ailments. So the idea that you sleep with half your body in a highly warm space and half in a cold space could lead to you being more susceptible to sickness has some logic to it in theory. The main concerns that have been voiced about sleeping under a kotatsu are:

  • Dehydration from sweating so much during the night leading ailments such as constipation.
  • Lower body temperature becomes higher than upper ⇒ sweating leads to dehydration ⇒ blood thickens ⇒ Blood clots form more easily ⇒ Increased risk of strokes or heart attack
  • Risk of burns from body parts resting against warm-hot surfaces over a long period of time.

How does kotatsu top stay on?

Generally speaking, the table top of a Kotatsu with a futon inserted beneath it is not fixed and is mainly held on by the weight of the tabletop itself. There are underlays that can be purchased to help grip the top. It is possible to also hold on the top with screws, but this requires putting holes in the futon underneath, so is not a popular option.

What cushions to use with Kotatsu?

Kotatsu cushion or zabuton sizes are generally best at around 50 cm or more larger on each side than the width and depth of the kotatsu. This allows the cushion to be equal to the space that the blanket covers when hanging out from the kotatsu.

For a 80 cm x 80 cm square kotatsu, the cushion space should be about 180 cm x 180 cm.

It also depends on how much you want to sprawl out. If you want to lay down, you will, of course, need more cushioned space!

There are also Kotatsu that are designed to save space by eliminating any slack in the corners by draping. These have thick blanketing where you want warmth and thinner material at the edges and corners where thickness is not needed.

 

#4 BJ Design Chabudai-Style Round Kotatsu

This classic chabudai-style Kotatsu Japanese floor table is made of high-quality luxury wood and is stylish enough that you can use it the whole year. It’s a great option if you are after a round table for one to two people. It a pinch, you could squeeze up to four people around up, but not particularly comfortably.

Pros

  • Stylish year round use
  • Circular design comfortably accommodates one to two people, can take up to four less comfortably
  • Includes a screw to keep table top in place
  • Easy to assemble.The table is easy to set up and can easily be assembled by anyone with no technical skills or tools. It features a temperature adjustment knob for the heater.
  • Bring your own favourite futon or kotatsu appropriate blanket
  • Power-efficient quartz tube heater.

Cons

  • Not a complete set, need to find own blanket/mat
  • On the small side if needed for family use
  • Need power converter

#5 Round Wooden Kotatsu

This table has distinctive panel style legs that give it a modern feel. The circular table measures 80 centimeters in diameter, so would be best for around two people. It has a unique a double-decked table top which makes it relatively stable when used as a Kotatsu with a futon. The fitted heater is compact and easy to install

Pros
  • Double deck top adds stability to kotatsu
  • Compact and easy install heater
  • Modern looking, sturdy legs
  • Good size for two people
Cons
  • The legs are not collapsible
  • Not Japanese made

#6 Round Wooden Kotatsu

A Stylish Modern rectangular Kotatsu with table, futon and heater all included. With a long edge of 105cm, this Kotatsu is suitable for 3+ people.

Pros

  • Rounded edges are sleek, modern, and safe for children and adults alike
  • Perfect size for three person family, but also usable for four
  • Stylish wooden piece appropriate for use as a year-round table
  • Natural or dark finish available on wood

Cons

  • Relatively bulky
  • Non-removable legs
  • Requires power converter for most countries

 

Oh, and why are oranges associated with kotatsu?

Any talk of Kotatsu in Japan brings up the image of the family sitting around the table eating mandarin oranges and playing cards. So what gives with the oranges?

Mandarin oranges are good for keeping hydrated. A Kotatsu is a bit like a mini sauna, the hotter it is, the more you sweat. Oranges are sweet and juicy and in season in winter. And, you can’t rush an orange. It has to be peeled. Just as you can’t rush the Kotatsu experience, lounging around with family taking refuge from the harsh winter.

Hopefully this article has been able to answer all of your burning questions to do with Japanese kotatsu heated tables.  Any of the Kotatsu sets we have listed are solid options if you’re in the market. Buying a set is definitely the easiest way to go if you want to get started with a kotatsu easily. Things like blanket design are quite individual though, so you may want to consider going the mix and match route.

If you are wanting to see more information about Japanese tables generally see the Japanoscope Japanese tables page, or to see what you can combine your table with in a room, check out the Japanoscope Japanese Home Decor page. For a look at what you can sit at the table take a look at our Zabuton cushion page.

Heres to happy times getting toasty at the table!

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter  Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts doing a Masters Degree, have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。4年間京都市立芸大の大学院として日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Japanese Table and Chabudai Guide

Japanese Tables

ちゃぶ台

So maybe you’ve been to a Japanese restaurant and wondered about the Japanese floor tables that you’ve been seated at. Sitting around a low dining table or tatami table offers a whole new perspective on the world. Japanese dining tables, Japanese tea tables and Japanese folding tables are highly sought after for the modern minimalist aesthetics, making them very appealing in contemporary minimalistic settings. We answer most of the questions people have about Japanese tables below but let’s start by introducing a few of our favorites.

If you are wanting to see what you can combine your table with in a room, check out the Japanoscope Japanese Home Decor page. For a look at what you can sit at the table take a look at our Zabuton cushion page.

If you are looking for heated Japanese tables, we have a whole post on KOTATSU HERE.

#1 Deluxe Custom Japanese Table Chabudai

The Rolls Royce of Chabudai with beautiful wood and craftsmanship customizable to your requirements. You pay for what you get though.

Pros

  • Table overhang designed for leg clearance while floor seating
  • Relatively high 36″ accomadates taller/larger people
  • Custom sizes and alterations
  • Available in Walnut (shown), Oak, Cherry

Cons

  • Price will be beyond what many are looking to spend

#2 Folding Leg Japanese Table Set

An all in one table and chair set that is stylish and compact.

Pros

  • Includes 4 Zaiisu style seats with built in cushions
  • Retractable legs for easy storage
  • Solid wood construction
  • Cushions on table legs to protect floor and aid in stability

Cons

  • Foldable items are by their nature less stable than hard constructed items

 

#3 Antique Style Chabudai Japanese Table

This low tea table is perfect for serving beverages to guests when you are entertaining. The surface is made of dark wood while the thick legs make the table extra sturdy. The top surface has a lacquar finish and measures 60 centimeters by 35 centimeter, thus providing you with enough surface to serve meals.

Pros
  • thick sturdy legs
  • Beautiful finish on the exterior
  • Large top surface
Conts
  • The legs are not collapsible
  • Has no storage compartment

What are japanese floor tables called

The most common Japanese floor table is the chabudai (sometimes also called a shippukudai, shippokudai, shoppukudai in different regions of Japan).

Individual tables placed in front of a single person are called a Zen.

"How to present a Zen table"

How high are japanese tables?

A standard size low Japanese floor table is around 30cm. This has changed over time, with antique tables being lower at anywhere between 15-30cm.

What are the pillows that japanese use to sit at their tables called?

The pillows that Japanese use to sit on at low tables are called Zabuton. They are sometimes combined with floor seats called zaiisu.

How are japanese tables set?

A Japanese table is usually set with a rice bowl to the left, a main dish plate in the centre and soup bowl at the right with chopsticks at the front. This is illustrated below.

Japanese Table Setting Japanese Plates Japanese Bowl Japanese Chopsticks Chawan
Basic Japanese Table Setting. Left to right, Chawan bowl, plate for main dish, Soup bowl. Chopsticks in front.

Why are japanese tables so low?

Japanese tables are low because of the culture of Japanese sitting and sleeping on the floor. The reason Japanese people sit on the floor is a larger discussion but is related to the humid climate in Japan, which led to houses being raised off the ground. Many houses in Europe had little separation between ground and floor. In this context, people are much less likely to be inclined to take off their shoes, the floors become more dirty and people don’t use their floors for much other than walking over. In Japan’s raised floor context, the floor become a space to be used for many activities, including dining at low tables.

What shapes do Japanese low tables take?

Japanese floor tables generally take one of four shapes: circle, ellipsis, square, oblong.

What are the different types of Japanese tables?

Chabudai 卓袱台

A chabudai is a popular short-legged table you will find in many Japanese homes. The table usually ranges from a height of 15 cm to 30 cm and are often designed to be collapsible for easy storage. Not being high enough for western style chairs, people typically sit on tatami or zabuton, often placed on a zaiisu chair. Chabudais can be used for different purposes, such as low workbenches, low dinning tables, study tables, Japanese tea tables.

There are several theories as to where the word “Chabudai” came from. Some say it is derived from the word Cha, meaning tea, but there also strong arguments that the word is actually derived from a chinese word meaning “to sit at a table”.

Chabudai first spread throughout Japan in the late 1800s, and their often circular design is considered symblomatic of the rise of the nuclear family unit in Japan, where families would sit around the table in a setting they didn’t highlight hierarchy.

Kotatsu 炬燵

A kotatsu basically resembles a chabudai, but the frame is covered by a heavy blanket or futon, upon which the tabletop rests. The table features a heat source installed underneath the table. In most Kotatsus, the electric heater is usually fitted on to the table itself. 

Traditionally, Kotatsu have tended to be a lot more “functional” than stylish, making them perhaps not the best choice for year round use. More recently, with the heating mechanisms becoming smaller and more hidden away in the design, Kotatsu have started to become genuine competetors to the coffee table as beautiful objects in their own right. You will generally pay a little more for a Kotatsu, but given all you get for heating solution that can also be used year round, they are definitely worth considering. 

Japanoscope has a whole page on Kotatsu here that goes into more detail.

Single Action Table

The table gets its name from its ability to fold up in a single action of closing. The table is quite compact and portable, making it very useful for confined spaces. The single-action table works perfectly as a dining and tea table. The table features a nylon carrying case that makes it easy to haul around.

Notable Japanese Table brands

Meiduo

The meiduo is made of natural bamboo wood and features a non-standard square design. It has a multi-layered wood accent that makes its integration into different rooms seamless. It also comes with a shelf panel beneath the tabletop. The meiduo requires no setup and comes with two comfy chairs covered with cushioning.

Yamako Table

The Yamako is also a short-legged table with collapsible legs for easy storage and transportation. It features a round wooden top and flared legs. Because of its design, the Yamako integrates into most spaces perfectly, while the natural wood adds a calming tone. The Yamako can accommodate up to four people but comfortably seats two.

 

How to choose the best Japanese table for your home.

The different types of tables mentioned above are designed for different spaces and uses, so what should you consider when choosing one that works for you? Well, it all boils down to what you intend to use the table for and the amount of space available in your home. Most of the tables can be used for multiple purposes, including studying, dining, or even working. If you live in a cold area, you could pick a Kotatsu for obvious reasons.

In terms of shape, there are a few things to consider:

Round tables give you the flexibility of trying to squeeze more or less people around them as necessary. They are also the most “social” and least “hierarchal” shape. If you are looking for a Japan style dining table, this shape can work well. They are good for communal eating where you put a lot of dishes in the middle to share. They also open up the possibility of using a “lazy Susan” revolving table in the middle.

The oblong Or Rectangular Japanese low table is the most popular shape in Japan. I guess you could say that it is really the most popular shape for all tables in the world, because they tend to fit into most rooms in the most efficient way.

square table suggests no hierarchy, so can be good fostering open dialogue. But you are limited with the amount of people that can sit, so they don’t provide flexibility.

low folding table is something you should consider if you are space restricted or want to use your home in a modular way where you bring things out when you need them and put them away when you don’t. This opens up the possibility of using your room for multiple purposes. You could, for example, use your Japanese folding table to help you change your room from a living room to a bedroom where needed. Indeed, this is norm for how traditional houses in Japan have been used over time.

Is it rude to sit cross legged in Japan?

Sitting cross legged, called “agura”, is generally considered the relaxed or casual way of sitting. In a hierarchical society like Japan it could be considered rude to sit this way if you are in the presence of someone you should be paying respect to. In this situation you would want to sit in the kneeling position, called “seiza”. This way of sitting is considered to be deferential to the others in the room.

#4 ZEN'S Bamboo Square Coffee Table

This bamboo coffee table is not only practical but also very versatile. It is large enough to serve different purposes but also small enough to be easily concealed after use. Don’t let the size fool you, though! The table can handle up to a remarkable 100 kgs.

The table is made of natural bamboo and high-quality MDF; it is finished off with a waterborne paint to make the surface smooth and more durable. The Zen table has a storage space strategically fitted under the tabletop. The table’s corners are arc-shaped to protect you and your child from being knocked down by the corners.

Pros

  • It is built with high-quality materials.
  • It can carry up to 100 kgs.
  • It has smooth arc shaped table corners.

Cons

  • The MDF construction takes out the Japanese-styled authenticity.

#5 Snow Peak Single Action Table Low

The snow peak table is a stylish minimalistic table made of bamboo that is made to be portable. The table is quite convenient to carry along in your next outdoor dinner or picnic. The well-built table can be used as a study table, picnic table, or even a coffee table. It can easily accommodate up to four people but is more comfortable and spacious when used by two.

Pros

  • It is easy to assemble.
  • It is quite portable.
  • It easily fits into confined spaces.

Cons

  • It cannot handle that much weight.

#6 Multi Folding Wooden Japanese Tea Table

This Japanese tea table is elegantly designed to complement any space it is put in. 

The table is made of high-quality solid Paulownia Wood, giving it a stylish aesthetic when fit to any space. Its folding legs make it quite easy to move and convenient to keep away when it is not needed.

Pros

  • It is easy to assemble.
  • It is multi-functiona.
  • It is very durable.
  • It features safe round corners.
  • It features a Shelf for storage.

Cons

  • The table itself is quite heavy.

#7 Custom Deluxe Chabudai

High end, custom made to order item from Dystopian Furnishings

Pros

  • Made from solid Stained style Bonsai wood
  • Fully made to order
  • Solid, made-to-last quality construction

Cons

  • Takes 4 weeks to make and deliver

If you are a lover of Japanese tables and you are looking for a something special we think the deluxe, handmade options above are worth investing in. Ultimately, each room is different and there is no one-size-fits all table. 

If you live in a cold area, considering a stylish Kotatsu incorporating heating and a table that can be used year round iis a smart way to go. Check out the Japanoscope guide to Kotatsu here.

If you are looking at what you might want to combine your table with in the room, we have a post on the Japanoscope Japanese Home Decor page.

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Japanese Lamps

Japanese Lamp Guide

灯り

Recently in my house we had a blackout. We had to break out the candles for light and I was reminded just how beautiful the natural light of a burning flame is. While moving to electricity along with the rest of the world, Japanese lamps and lighting have done a pretty good job of keeping alight the flame (see what I did there?) of the warmth and moodiness in their design.

Traditional, and traditionally inspired, Japanese lamps and lighting continue to incorporate items such as the chochin 提灯 (Japanese Lantern) and andon 行灯 (Shoji Light – of which we have a whole page devoted to here).

Japanese lamps and lanterns are generally beautiful objects in their own right, on or off. To see what kind of other furniture and room setting you might want to use this sort of Japanese lighting take a look at the Japanoscope Japanese Home Decor Top 10 Page.

How to Choose the Best Japanese Lamp

There are a lot of options, much more than just the paper based, and somewhat erroneously named, “Shoji lamps”. You will find a range of materials and shapes that include the table, floor, indoor, outdoor, and ceiling lamps.

Different lamps play different roles, so this article is meant to, ahem, shed some light on what your options are.

When choosing the best Japanese lamp, here are the things you should consider:

  1. Shape

This is the first decision you need to make – the fundamental form factor for your Japanese Lamp! Your main choices are:

  • Table Lamp
  • Floor Lamp
  • Ceiling Lamp
    • Hanging
    • Box Style
  • Outdoor Lamp (such as a Japanese Stone Lantern)

2. Size

This is an obvious one, but probably the most overlooked – especially when buying online. Don’t forget the basics!

The carpenter’s adage of “Measure twice, cut once” is also true for buying furniture on the internet.

  • Make sure you get a Japanese lamp that fits your space!
  • Consider height – the higher the light the wider the spread.
  • Usually, the height of the lamp should consider the scale of everything else in the space. If your living room has low furniture, ensure the light source does not tower above everything else.

3. Cost 

 As always, prices vary broadly from basic models to thousands of dollars for customized pieces. Personally, I think it makes sense to not buy bottom of the range for something that you are going to see and use everyday. The main aesthetic of Japanese design is influenced by buddhist ideas of mindfulness and creating more with less. This means a focus on quality over quantity. It’s no good having a minimal look if you are going to skimp on the detail.

4. Style 

How will your Japanese lamp match your existing room decor?

  • What materials are you after?
    • Paper (Shoji Lamp)
    • Glass
      • Clear
      • Frosted
      • Colored
    • Wooden
    • Bamboo

6. Wattage and Lumens 

Like any electric lighting source, Japanese lamps have a predefined wattage range and power specifications. It is best to take this into consideration when you purchase, as this will ultimately decide the range of brightness you can achieve.

Watts refer to the amount of power used, and Lumens refer to the brightness of the light. You want to take into account the efficiency, so more watts doesn’t always mean better. You can find tables outlining wattage to lumens here.

On top of this, there has been a huge proliferation in the different types of light bulb in recent years from screw to twist top to capsule. Consider how easy it is going to be to get a range of globes in the desired wattage in the style that fits your Japanese Lamp.

7. Smart vs Dumb Japanese lamps

Just because you like a classic look doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in the past. Many Japanese lamps now offer smart functionality such as compatibility with networked homes that allow you to control your devices by smart phone or voice control. Others include USB and charging functions. You will pay for this type of functionality, both in financial terms and in some level of compromise to the traditional look. It’s a balancing act that each person needs to consider from their own needs. 

8. Color

Well, this one’s pretty self explanatory, but, you know, if everything in your zen tea room is brown and wooden toned, don’t buy the pink lamp.

Japanese Lamp In The Minimal Style

What Are The Different Types of Japanese Lamps?

Let’s take a look at the main lamps available and when you might want to use them.

Table Japanese Lamps –

an ideal option for the living room as they are usually used as a complementary source of lighting. Apart from offering extra light, they also act as classic accessories to your furnished room, giving it an elegant Japanese touch to the living room.

Table lamps also work well as bedside table lamps.

 Floor Lamps

These lamps are built to sit on the floor directly, so work well in those “awkward” spaces they there often isn’t much else to do with, such as behind a glass door or between a couch and a wall. In this way, they are often an efficient use of floor space. Indeed, many floor lamps also incorporate some kind of storage also in the form of shelving.

They are an ideal option for areas that need a little extra warmth at a mid-room level. They can work well in a minimal setting where you need some kind of “accent”. 

Although most are made of wood, it is possible to find modern floor lamps that are made of steel or synthetic materials.

Their simple, modern yet classic, and elegant look fits well in the living room, office, or bedroom. When we tried this lamp, we noted it provides a soft, calming brilliance, creating a relaxing atmosphere.

 

Hanging Lamps –

If you think the table lamp or the floor lamp is elegant, but you just can’t justify the sacrifice of even the smallest floor space, then a Japanese Ceiling Lamp or hanging lamp is the way to go. This style of lamp can work well in the kitchen, where a table or floor lamp would be in danger of getting dirty.

Probably the most popular place to install a Japanese ceiling lamp is in the bedroom. One of the features of some Japanese ceiling lamps is a drawstring which can be used to turn the light on and off from floor or bed level. No more having to remember to turn off the room light before you get into bed. This works best in a futon room where the place you are sleeping is close to the center of the room. 

Many of these ceiling lights are in the “Shoji” style made from paper and wood. The soft lighting provided by Japanese ceiling lamps is ideal for the bedroom, but can be used in multiple areas that require a subtle touch.

 

Outdoor Lamps 

Anyone that has been to a few Japanese gardens will be able to attest to the beauty of the stately, ancient looking Japanese stone lanterns that silently watch over the ever changing landscape.

#1 Brightech Maxwell Smart Japanese Lamp

The Brightech Maxwell table lamp is an ideal light for the bedside. It works well with an LED bulb, and it comes with a USB port that allows you to charge other electronic gadgets.

While it is an excellent example of a modern bedside lamp, it is not restricted to the bedroom.

You can opt to use it in your study room and even your office. It has a stylish look that adds character to the interior of your space.

As a smart lamp, you can use Brightech Maxwell with Google Home, Alexa, Dot, Echo, among other voice commands apps.

Pros

  • Charge your devices!
  • wall switch and smart outlet compatible with Alexa, Echo, Dot, Google Home, etc 
  • turn the lights on and off with your voice or the simple flick of a switch as you enter the room
  • Has a beautiful design with quality fabric top
  • Soft light

Cons

  • Plastic base
  • Light weight means that it is relatively easy to knock over
  • light fabric needs regular cleaning

#2 Surpars House Minimalist Solid Wood Table Japanese Lamp

This table lamp is ideal for anyone looking for a traditional yet modern looking Japanese light. It’s stylish, functional and no nonsense.

Pros

  • Linen shade
  • Very reasonable price
  • Has a sleek look

Cons

  • On/Off Switch is in middle of chord, which is a little inconvenient to reach.
  • Small in size

#3 Brightech Maxwell - Modern LED Shelf Floor Lamp

This lamp stands at 63-inches tall, and it takes a space of about 10¼ square inches, and is perfect for spaces requiring something slender. In a quintessentially traditional Japanese style, this lamp offers you space for your books and other materials, combining lighting and storage.

The Brightech Maxwell – Modern LED Shelf Floor Lamp is easy to assemble and sturdy.

Pros

  • Slender size and delicate look
  • Easy to assemble
  • sturdy
  • Compatible with traditional and modern interior
  • Has a thick upper light shade that offers a soothing light
  • Acts as a shelf

Cons

  • Although steady, it’s height makes it relatively easy to destabilize. Possibly not the best option for kids.
  • The light’s sheer height makes it “tower” too much in some spaces.

#4 IKEA Holmo

The Ikea 301.841.73 is an excellent piece if you live in a vintage home that has wooden and antique furniture. It comes with a rice paper, which gives it a subtle and calm look to your room without causing a visual distraction.

When it comes to cleaning, you only need a cloth to wipe dust away without tearing the cover. It is compatible with any bulb that fits the E26 screw base giving you the freedom to choose your bulb.

Pros

  • Easy set up & installation
  • Easy to clean rice paper
  • Well known global brand
  • Tall, 46-inches

Cons

  • Paper lamps inherently are subject to tearing
  • Not as instantly “Japanese” looking as some

#5 Ikea Regolit Pendant Lamp Shade

If you are looking to add a sense of levity and “floating ness” to your home, a hanging Japanese light shade is a great place to start. The Ikea 701.034.10 has an array of lighting colors that feel contemporary and in fashion.

Its classic spherical design is simple and pleasing, giving your room a relaxed feel and ambience.

Pros

  • Internationally recognised brand
  • Inexpensive
  • Good size for average size for homes
  • Classic shape and texture

Cons

  • Shade only, must buy cord and globe separately
  • Fragile

#6 Oriental Furniture Akida Box Hanging Lamp

If you are searching for something in a very traditional, vintage style the Oriental Furniture Akida Hanging Lamp is an ideal option.

Its retro look takes the visual look of your space to a whole new level. If you decide to hang it above your furniture or dining table, this fabulous lamp will offer you a guest-friendly light without being gaudily bright.

Pros

  • 100-percent kiln dried scandinavian spruce
  • Inexpensive
  • Ships fully assembled
  •  fiber reinforced pressed pulp rice paper
  • Has a classic look
  • Gives out great lighting

Cons

  • 60 watts may not be sufficient for some rooms
  • Hangs from cord rather than a dedicated chain

Conclusion

Because of its unique mix of traditional aesthetic mixed with high tech smart technology, the Brightech Maxwell – Bedroom Nightstand Lamp with USB Ports comes out as my clear favorite. This being said, others might want something that is truly “traditional”, so it’s worth checking out some of the other options listed here. If you are specifically looking at a “rice paper” style lamp, we’ve got a whole post about Shoji lamps here.

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Contributor

Hi, I’m Peter.  I lived in Japan for four years as a University student completing a Masters Degree in Musicology.  I have succesfully completed the  highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1).  have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.

Matchstick Blinds Buying Guide

Matchstick Blinds

すだれ

There’s something romantiac about matchstick blinds, especially the Japanese shades that you see in and on traditional homes such as this Machiya. Called Sudare in Japan, hanging Japanese shades around your home is a way to bring an instant rustic charm to your home.

Sudare on a traditional Japanese Machiya home

Image: gorian21, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53356982

What are the advantages of matchstick blinds?

Curtains have a way of trapping in heat. Matchstick blinds are made of bamboo or wood, materials that don’t conduct heat well, and have gaps between each stick that allow air to pass and flow. They also have the advantage of being able to be placed outside a room. This means that even if they get so much direct hot rays that they start to heat, the heat dissipates into the open air rather than into your room. They can free up room inside by lessening the need for curtains.

Woven wood and matchstick blinds also maintain a level of transparency in the small gaps between pieces of wood, which means they are ideal for spaces where you still want a view of outside, but don’t want to be open to direct sunlight.

The 3 biggest things to think about when buying Matchstick Blinds

 

1. Where do you need them

Inside or Outside?

In Japan, they are more commonly used outside, often being placed quite far forward from windows, creating a “2nd-space” effect, almost akin to a quasi-veranda. The idea of having different layers, or lines around a space, that Alex Kerr refers to as limination in his book Another Kyoto, is common in Japanese architecture. Sometimes these blinds will be in line with a Noren hanging curtain at the entrance.

Putting your matchstick blinds outside blocks the heat before it has a chance to come in the room and get you back some indoor space.

On the other hand, matchstick blinds in the outdoors won’t last as blinds indoors. They are also harder to raise or lower as the sun moves and you want to change the level of shade.

 

2. What size do you need?

This is the obvious one, but, surprisingly often overlooked right back at the start of the searching process. Measure twice, cut once applies to purchasing as well. It can be worth investing in shades that are custom made to the size you require.

 

3. What are matchstick blinds made of?

The most common material for matchstick blinds is bamboo. In the wider category of woven wood blinds, you will find a large range of woods used, usually cut into larger pieces than the matchstick style blinds. More recently, you increasingly find blinds made of synthetic materials also. 

Japanese shades are either made of bamboo or reeds (ashi).

So we’ll get into more details about choosing the best blind below but if you just want to know what our top recommendations are then here’s our top three.

#1 Bamboo Blinds by GX & XD

Pros

  • Fine Bamboo Weave
  • EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR USE: Ideal For Patio Or Porches, But Can Also Be Used indoors. 
  • Install on window or door frame with two provided hooks
  • Simple, rustic design
  • All hardware and instruction included

Cons

  • Corded – can be dangerous for young children when not installed correctly

#2 Bamboo Blinds by PLLP

Pros

  • Exterior or Interior Uses
  • Solid, Durable Upper Rale
  • Simple, rustic design
  • All hardware and instruction included

Cons

  • No custom installation hardware
  • Corded – can be dangerous for young children when not installed correctly

#3 Bamboo Blinds by PLLP

Pros

  • Indoor or Outdoor Use
  • Distinctive Light & Shade Design
  • Hand-woven, exquisite workmanship,it is the best choice for your home decoration.
  • Various Sizes

Cons

  • No custom installation hardware
  • Various sizes available, but no custom size offer
  • Corded – can be dangerous for young children when not installed correctly
Sudare house!

How To Hang Matchstick Blinds – Is it Easy?

One of the attractions about matchstick blinds is that they are generally super easy to hang. If you can manage to put up a couple of hooks to hold up your blinds, then that’s usually about all you really need to figure out.

That being said, some of the blinds do come with their own custom mounting systems and they can get as complex or as simple as you want them to be. At the risk of sounding facetious, how long is a piece of string? 

 

Should you put lining on the back of bamboo blinds?

Some people do choose to put lining on the back woven wood or matchstick blinds. They do this to either increase the privacy provided by the blinds, or provide insulation and/or protection from the elements.

The trade-off in doing this is that you are often getting rid of many of the things that make matchstick blinds attractive in the first place ie their ability to provide shade while still allowing air to circulate through them and their tendency to disperse, and not hold in, heat.

 

Do matchstick blinds provide privacy

Matchstick blinds are generally fairly see through, so are not a good option if you are wanting to maintain a level of privacy. This being said, this is one of the very things that actually makes people like these blinds. If you have a nice view, you can get shade while still being able to make out, say, the beautiful mountain or fields in the distance. They also can be used to create a sense of intrigue by allowing people outside to see in somewhat without being able to get “the full picture”. In ancient times in Japan, people granted an audience with the Emperor would see him through a matchstick blind, to facilitate communication without revealing all of the regent’s mystery.

#4 Painted Bamboo Blinds

Pros

  • Feature piece with Sumi-E style grosing bamboo illustration
  • Indoor or Outdoor Use
  • Distinctive Light & Shade Design
  • Various Sizes
  • Includes installation hardware

Cons

  • Picture design not suitable for all spaces
  • Various sizes available, but no custom size offer
  • Corded – can be dangerous for young children when not installed correctly

#5 Dark Bamboo Shades

Pros

  • All natural materials
  • Distinctive dark tone
  • Interior or exterior use
  • Elegant drawstring Design
  • All hardware and instruction included
  • Includes mounting equipment and instructions
  •  

Cons

  • Corded – can be dangerous for young children when not installed correctly

Japanese Shades and bamboo blinds in Japan

Types of Japanese blinds

Japanese bamboo blinds can be widely separated into Kakesudare 掛け簾 (Hung Sudare) and Tate Sudare 立て簾 (Standing Sudare). The hung blinds are the ones that most people would be relatively familiar with. Within Standing Sudare, the most common is the Yoshizu 葦簀. Yoshizu are named after the reed called Yoshi, from which they are made of. They are large panels of weaved reed that are leaned against a space to provide shade. 

Within Sudare, the classical style that characteristically uses green cloth or brocade edging are known as Misu. These are the sort that are depicted in classical works including the Tale of Genji and were often used to divide the large open rooms of aristocratic and ruling military classes. They tend to make a feature of the draw strings and tassels used to hold and draw the blinds.

Free standing Yoshizu

Japanese blinds in Japanese culture

Sudare are referenced as far back as the Manyoshu 万葉集, the oldest known anthology of Japanese poetry from the 8th century.

Japan has various more or less set words, called Fubutsushi 風物詩, that are considered symbols of the seasons. Sudare can be used as a shorthand indicator of the season of summer in Japan. Instead of saying in a poem “summer came and we were hot” you could say “the sudare barely swayed as the people struggled to sleep” and no one would doubt what time of the year the action was taking place in.

Misu Sudare in the Tale of Genji

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Other Recommended Japanese Home Items

Contributor

Hi, I’m Peter.  I lived in Japan for four years as a University student completing a Masters Degree in Musicology.  I have succesfully completed the  highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1).  have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.

Zabuton Cushions and Sitting Pillows

Get on down

座布団

You hear a lot about how sitting in chairs all the time is not good. Well, one thing you can try is to break it up with some floor sitting time. Zabuton’s (occasionally written as Zabutan) are Japanese floor cushions that help get you down to the floor. We’ll talk a bit more about these spiffy pillow seats for the floor later, but first let’s go ahead and show you our very favorites that we’ve found online.

We’ve got a complete guide to Japanese Home Decor here.

1. Classic Sahiko Zanmai

Pros

  • High Quality Crafted Item
  • Made In Japan
  • Cushion & Removable Cover Set (washable)

Cons

  • Only Ships to certain countries

2. Classic Enshu Weave, Muted Tone Zabuton

Pros

  • Genuine Japanese crafted piece
  • “Meisen” 銘仙 style of weaving popular in women’s fashion from the early to mid 20th century
  • Using Enshu Tsumugi 遠州綿紬 techniques from Shizuoka region of Japan
  • Understated stylish design

Cons

  • Not washable – just air out
  • Only Ships to certain countries

3. Gold Hattan Zabuton Cover

Pros

  • Equisite gold patterning in tradional Japanese design
  • Made of Hattan 八端織りfabric. Hattan is thickly woven kimono fabric that is durable and often used in padded kimono or Futon coverings.
  • Cover can be added to existing cushion to “Japanify” it!
  • (Size) : about 62 x 64 cm / about 24.4 x 25.19 inch

Cons

  • Need to buy separate cushion

Zabuton Size Chart

There are 7 standard zabuton sizes, each with it’s own unique name. The most common sizes are the Meisen size 55cm×59cm and the Hattanban 59cm×63cm. According to the Japanese Industrial Standards the Momen size is considered equivalent to S size, the Meisen to size and the Hattanban to L size. A full list of all the sizes can be found in the below chart.

At the risk of stating the obvious, as a general rule, the bigger the person, the bigger zabuton you will need. This means that for most westerners you are best off looking from around the Hattanban size and up.

Zabuton Size NameWidthLength
Kozabuton (小座布団)40~50cm40~50cm
Chasekiban (茶席判)43cm47cm
Momenban (木綿判)51cm55cm
Meisenban (銘仙判)55cm59cm
Hattanban (八端判)59cm63cm
Donsuban (緞子判)63cm68cm
Meotoban (夫婦判)67cm72cm

How to look after a Zabuton

  • Can I wash a zabuton?

Generally not. Some are machine washable but these are in the minority. Check the tag!

  • Do I need to air out my zabuton?

Yes, generally people in Japan shake out their floor cushions regularly to remove dust and particles and air them out for several hours in the sun.

  • How do I clean a zabuton?

It is fairly common to put zabuton into dry cleaning in Japan. Outside of Japan, it can be more hit and miss as to which dry cleaners will accept zabuton.

History and symbolism of zabuton

The use of Zabuton goes back to the Kamakura  (1185–1333) period. They were originally associated with people of high rank and priests, so they still are still commonly used a symbol of status. This can be seen today in customs including the throwing of zabuton at Sumo wrestling tournaments when spectators feel that are particularly outstanding victory has been won, and in the use of Zabuton by Rakugo traditional comedy performers. 

Around the 

4. Home Of Wool Large Zabuton with Handle

Pros

  • 100% OEKO-TEX-certified wool filling
  • Customize your material to match your preferred aesthetic.
  • Artisanal, handcrafted meditation cushion
  • Carry handle to be portable for meditation meets etc.
  • Guaranteed to never include any potentially dangerous chemicals. 
  • Large Size: 27″ x 33″ x 2″ (69 x 84 x 5 cm).
  • For custom sizes available

Cons

  • Light color is harder to keep clean

5. Jumbo Zabuton Meditation Mat Black

Pros

  • Suits tall people 6′ 1″ and over
  • Approximately 36″ long and 30″ wide
  • Outer cover made of cotton twill fabric
  • zipper along one length so that cushion can be easily removed and washed
  • Filled with natural kapok stuffing for soft and more resilient than cotton batting
  • Kapok is more environmentally friendly than cotton

Cons

  • Plain design – best for practical non-decorative purposes

6. Tatami Zabuton

Pros

  • Natural straw
  • Memory foam core
  • Simple & stylish tatami design
  • Ideal for rustic interiors
  • 65*65*4.5cm
  • 55*55*4.5cm

Cons

  • Not Made-In-Japan product

7. Natural Rush Zabuton

Pros

  • Hand-woven
  • All-natural materials
  • High-density rubber filler makes it soft and comfortable.

Cons

  • Not as comfortable as some other options for sitting a long time.

Contributor

Hi, I’m Peter.  I lived in Japan for four years as a University student completing a Masters Degree in Musicology.  I have succesfully completed the  highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1).  have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.

Noren Curtains

Japanese Noren Curtains

のれん

You may have seen Japanese Noren Curtains at the front of shops, as curtains for doorways, sento bathes and nosen hot sprints, Izakayas in Japan or in our Japanese Home Decor roundup. Japanese door curtains are great way of separating out a space while having it remain accessible. 

Let’s cut to the chase by showing you what our three favourite Japanese noren curtains available online are:

  • One of the most characteristic Noren in bathhouses throughout Japan
  • Featuring the hiragana character for “Yu”, hot water.
  • Good quality, thick cotton
  • 59″ (150cm) length and dark, non-see through color provide privacy
  • Size:W850×H1500(33.5″×59″)
  • Made in Japan
  • Thick linen cloth
  • Non synthetic materials
  • Beautiful rich color
  • Exclusive pattern printed on one side, handmade with great care
  • Size: 33.5×47.2 inches (85×120 cm)
  • Linen material
  • Double-layer Lock Edge
  • Koi fish symbolize perseverance and abundance in Japan
  • Briliant color
  • Telescopic Rod  Included For Hanging
  • Comes in a range of sizes

Now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s get into the nitty gritty, because really Noren are a matter of horses for courses, or curtains for circumstances. 

How to choose a Noren

 

How to choose a noren curtain

Alex Kerr has written about the sense of the “liminal” in Japan in his masterful essential-reading-for-any-Japanofile book Another Kyoto, where you often have symbolic lines placed to seperate out a space. You see these in Japanese gardens with borders of rocks, in housing design with wooden beams or the brocade on a tatami mat, and, perhaps most representatively, in the gates that exist without a wall at the entrance of temples. These dividers are there to give you the sense that you are moving to a new area, physically, psychologically, spiritually. Japanese door curtains are a classic example of this.

1. Decide the space you want to “separate out” using a noren as a symbolic border.

Most common areas that people like to place noren curtains:

  • Front entrance
  • Bathroom entrance
  • Kitchen Entrance
  • Middle of room as a divider
  • Bedroom
  • Back entrance 
  • Shop entrance style Noren
  • Character says “noodles”
  • Material: Canvas. 
  • Size: 85cm x 120cm (33.46″ x 47.24″).

2. Decide how much space you want to block out. Eg. What size Noren curtain do you need?

Up to 90 cm (35 inches)

These are good for kitchens either at home or in a restaurant. People can see what is going on but there is a level of privacy with the face being out of view. You can carry things, such as plates, easily beneath them without the curtains getting in the way. Small children can pass beneath them without touching them at all, meaning they are less likely to get dirty or pulled on. They generally leave you without about 130cm of room between the floor and the bottom of the noren.

Short Noren

  • A “kitchen” or “restaurant” style short Noren
  • Text advertises Japanese dishes Okonomiyaki, Udon and Yakisoba noodles.
  • Multiple slits for easy coming and going
  • Length : 145cm 57.1 inches, Height: 85cm 33.5 inches

130cm (51 inches)

These will generally hide a person down to around their knees or waist, meaning you will still be able to see their feet and get a sense of who is behind them without actually seeing the whole person. They are still relatively easy to fold or move through but they will start to block out a significant amount of light. 

Use cases include a back door where you want to block out some light but still keep things breezy.

  • Linen
  • Hypoallergenic & Eco-friendly
  • Minimalist design
  • 3 Panels
  • Various sizes available

200cm (78 inches)

A noren curtain this length will stretch close to the floor and provide the most privacy. It will also provide the most insulation effect if you are wanting to hold in some warmth in a space that you don’t want to block off completely with a door. 

Use cases include a doorway between a kitchen and a living room that you move through regularly but want to keep secret, or bedroom where you would like to keep the door open most of the time and still have privacy.

  • Traditional Ukiyo Print
  • Available in short to long sizes up to 180cm (71 inches)
  • Linen
  • Plate Printed Typical Japanese Pattern On Hand-woven Linen fabric.
  • Good size for most doors.

3. How much light do you want to block out: Do you want a see-through or opaque Noren curtain?

Once you know the length of the noren you want to use, you can think about how opaque you want it to be. If you want to use a noren to partition a room, then a noren that is relatively see-through can be a good option. I relatively see through noren can also be good for covering off a wardrobe or a pantry. If you want to cover off, say, an entrance to a shower, you may want to go with something less revealing.

  • Sheer, lets light through
  • Summery imagery including wind chimes and goldfish
  • “Shiki no furin” means “four season wind chime”
  • Cotton
  • Size:W850×H1500(33.5 x 59.1 inches)
  • Made in Japan

4. What material do you like (and what is easiest to wash & look after)?

Do you want something heavy to conserve heat, or something light and airy? Do you want something that is nice to touch, or easy to clean and look after?

The three main materials you will find are: 

  • Cotton 
  • Linen/hemp 
  • Polyester

Linen & hemp will give you a soothing “cool” feel to your room. Cotton will give a softer feel.

Polyester is probably the easiest to look after because it is so easy to roll up and clean. Although it may feel a bit cheaper if you look at it up close, and may not last as long as some of the other materials, for most intents and purposes it will serve the purposes. It can be good option for use around a bathroom where you may need to clean the noren regularly. 

 

  • Traditional Ukiyo-e pattern
  • Polyester is easy clean
  • Made in Japan
  • 33.46 x 33.46 x 59.06 inches

5. What pattern do you like? Do you want a “statement” piece or something more subdued?

The last criteria is more a question of personal aesthetic preferences. There is a wide range of designs for noren ranging from the striking and loud to the subtle and understated. Though this is down to taste, it is best to think about the larger aesthetic of the room or rooms you are trying to decorate. Is the surrounding full of colour or using more muted tones. Do you want to make a “feature” of the noren by contrasting or to blend in with what is already there.

  • Striking feature piece
  • 100% Heavy weight cotton linen fabric
  • Handmade block printed Ukiyoe
  • Includes free tension rod
  • Vivid color

Modern Noren

Although there are various “traditional Japanese” looking noren, there are also various options that inspired by modern design and designs from other cultures (notably scandanavian). 

  • Striking modern design
  • Cotton Linen
  • Size: 33.5″ W x 47.2″ L (85 x 120cm)
  • Includes tension rod
  • Pattern printed on one side

Noren with characters

You can also use a Noren to express your fandom. If you need to get some more totoro in your life.

  • Studio Ghibli Authentic License
  • Material: Polyester 100%
  • Size:W850×H1500 cm
  • Made in Japan

Other Japanese home decor items

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Contributor

Hi, I’m Peter.  I lived in Japan for four years as a University student completing a Masters Degree in Musicology.  I have succesfully completed the  highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1).  have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.

Japanese Vase Top Ten

Japanese Vases

花瓶

Ikebana Flower Arrangement

There is a big world of Japanese vases out there. There is such a long history and range of styles that is difficult to neatly categorise them in a short time. 

There are a few approaches you can take:

  1. Think about the sort of flower & arrangement you want to display and then look by shape.
  2. Choose by the kind of material you want. Eg. Porcelain, Glass, Ceramic, rough, smooth, earthen, colorful.
  3. Choose by region. Given the bredth of Japanese pottery, the most common way to categorise ceramic goods in Japan is by region.
Some of the major pottery regions of Japan (Image: Chanoyu . com )

To simplify things, we’ve chosen ten of our favorite Japanese vases from a range of styles and regions. Rather than make a futile attempt at an exhaustive categorisation of Japanese vases, these as a representative sample of what is out there.

For an overview of our top items of Japanese Home Decor see our article here.

#1 Rough Tokoname Ware Vase

  • Tokoname ware – Stoneware, and ceramics produced in and around the municipality of Tokoname, Aichi, in central Japan. Tokoname was the location of one of the Six Ancient Kilns of Japan.
  • Height 12cm
  • Distinctively Japanese style ideal for natural, earthy aesthetics

#2 Earthen Shigaraki Ware Vase

  • Beautiful rough hewen Shigaraki – ware piece.
  • Natural earthen tones
  • Size Width23cm X Depth20cm X Height19.5cm

#3 Colorful Kutani Porcelain Vase

  • Exquisite Kutani porcelain ware item.
  • Style was popular with European aristocracy
  • Striking colorful motif on white
  • Features crane motif – symbol associated with long life.
  • 18 x 31cm.
  •  

#4 Modern Shigaraki Ware Vase

  • Outstanding modern twist on traditional Shigaraki Ware techniques
  • Luscious green glaze using Kinsai technique
  • Size Width21cm X Depth21cm X Height24.5cm

#5 Flat Square Large Ikebana Vase

  • Suits “Ikebana” flower arrangement practitioner
  • large 11″ square tiered Ikebana vase. 
  • Constructed of composite engineered wood painted with stone pebble finish in grey.
  • Large 4″ dia. water cup  included

#6 Slim Hagiyaki Gohonte Vase

  • This tall, thin vase uses the gohonte 御本手 technique.
  • Gohonte makes a feature of the pinkish blemishes that happen as a result of the firing process
  • Hand made piece – each one unique
  • Size width10cm X depth10cm X height24cm
  •  

#7 Classic Satsuma Peacock Vase

  • Satsuma vases were hugely popular items in the west from the 19th century
  • Peacock is popular motif symbolising the deity Kannon associated with kindness and good health
  • 18 inch
  • Rich colored item

#8 Minimalist Bizen Vase

  • Minimal, timeless design
  • Earthen feel with metallic tones
  • Characterstic Bizen Ware piece
  • W 12cm x 12cm, H 27 cm.

#9 Refined Arita Porcelain Vase