Many of us get creative in trying to cut down the heating bill in winter. So far, we've seen people use tents indoors, DIY candle heaters, and of course, good ol' fashioned layering with woolly socks and sweaters.
In Japan, land of quirky customs, quirky inventions and even quirkier homes, some warm up in winter using what looks like a cross between a low table, futon, reclining couch and a comforter. It's called a kotatsu, and there's a special heater built in underneath the table that warms the extremities of all who gather 'round it. Or even sleep under it, as this writer recounts during her first winter in Japan.
Sitting by the kotatsu heating table, under a thick blanket, is still the way for entire families to keep warm on winter evenings. Rather than heating up the entire house, the cosy kotatsu is a comfortable way to spend a couple of hours together, with a much lower energy bill by the end of the month.
According to Wikipedia, the modern kotatsu was based on the 14th century irori, or cooking hearth, which by the 17th century become a hole dug into the ground, or a hori-gotatsu. Traditional Japanese robes allowed people to feel the heat flowing from their feet to their neck. Nowadays, kotatsu are moveable, and by the looks of it, can be a designer item, and are formally called oki-gotatsu. In Japan, these multifunctional pieces of furniture help heat homes, which are generally not well insulated and built without central heating.
The kotatsu looks supremely comfortable, and looks like it could be an interesting piece of furniture to hack. Indeed, there is an Instructables tutorial on how make an American-style kotatsu with an IKEA Lack table. Take note, however, that a special kotatsu heater must be used, or else you run the risk of starting a fire. You want to warm your home, not burn it all down.