Monday, November 06, 2006


Originally uploaded by jfraser.
A kotatsu is a low table with a heating element and fan secured to the bottom of the table top. It has a heavy skirt that goes all the way around it, and a blanket that goes on the floor underneath it. On those cold winter nights, you sit on the floor with your legs under the skirt and crank the heat up. It heats up every drop of blood in your body and is prone to leaving people nearly comatose in bliss. I've wanted a kotatsu ever since I first encountered them on Iwagi Island about seven years ago.

I was in Japan last week and I got my wish. Muji (a sort of Japanese Ikea) was having a sale. The comlete set in the picture (minus the stuff on top) was only 25,000 yen. It came out to about $220. It turns out though that no one wants to ship a package that has a circumference plus length of over 150 cm. The post office wanted to charge me almost two hundred dollars to take it by air (it's somehow too big for a boat), and the airline wanted to charge me nearly as much as an oversize baggage charge.

Fortunately, the woman at the airline counter was in a far better mood than those we spoke with on the phone. I asked her if I had to pay extra and she said, with a bit of a wink in her voice (if such a thing is possible), "If I measured it, it might be oversized, but it looks ok from here." To which I replied, "So, you don't really need to measure it then."

"Only this time." By which I think she meant, "not today."