A guide to heaters in Japan

Considering I wrote about some ways to winterize your apartment or house in Japan a few weeks ago, this week I want to talk about heaters. Again, most homes in Japan aren't equipped with central heating, so people typically rely on space heaters and similar items. Now, we all know that wearing some extra clothes and warm fleece is a good way to avoid turning the heat all the way up, but most likely you will need (or desperately want) a heater at some point.

And, just to note, I am not an expert on heaters, so if you are curious about how a heater works a certain way, go ahead and google that.

Also, most of the heaters below have timers and auto-turnoff options in addition to running constantly. They also often have automatic shutoff features such as if the heater fell over.
*Keep in mind another way heater might be written is 電気ストーブ (denki stobu).
*The word used for "heating" is 暖房 (だんぼう, danbou).

A guide to heaters in Japan

1. Aircon - エアコン

The air conditioner is commonly known as an aircon in Japan, and most aircons are equipped with a heating function. So, if you have an aircon, you may want to check that out (look for "暖房"). From experience I know it does a pretty good job heating a room, although I found that all the heat rose to the ceiling which was somewhat pointless if you spend most of your time sitting on the floor and don't have a ceiling fan.

I also found that running the aircon was incredibly expensive. Some are much more energy efficient (look for 省エネ on the outside or description). Aircons are also one of the more expensive options, considering that most will be ¥30,000 - 40,000 and up, depending on the size.

2. Oil heater - オイルヒーター

This heater is the one that looks like a radiator, and some of you may be familiar with already. My family used these when I was a kid, and though they work really well, they are typically energy hogs. Some are better than others though, so it's best to compare when looking at energy usage. Some of the ones I looked at operate at 1200 watts at the highest level, with an estimated ¥15-20/hour cost to operate (though this varies). Price may range from ¥5,000 - 30,000, though it's possible to find cheaper options at a recycle shop (this goes for all of the following options as well).

Oil Heater

3. Panel heater - パネルヒーター

This heater is shaped like, what else, a panel. I have never used one so can't say how effective they are. The mini ones operate around 300 watts or less, and probably cost hardly more than ¥5-7 an hour. The larger ones vary depending on the size and what level you use them at - I've seen some that claim to only cost 9 yen an hour, and others that average around 15 yen an hour. Mini panel heaters start around ¥3,000, while larger versions run around an average of ¥20,000 - 30,000.

Panel heater

4. Halogen heater - ハロゲンヒーター

See picture. Halogen heaters, like other electric heaters, operate at different wattage levels, depending on the heater. Of course you can get smaller ones that operate at around 300 watts or so, or a larger one that operates up to 1200 watts (and a range in between).

Halogen heater

5. Carbon heater - カーボンヒーター

I use this one frequently at home in winter - typically on the low setting. They look similar to a halogen heater, although claim to heat more effectively than a regular halogen heater. Honestly I really like our carbon heater, and it consumes a lot less electricity than our ceramic heater does.

Of course, the cost varies depending on the heater and what setting you operate it on. For example, one that has a max 300 watts only uses about ¥6 an hour. Our heater uses 900 watts at the highest setting, and about half that on its low setting, and honestly I rarely have it on high because it gets HOT and warms you quickly. The reason we chose a carbon heater was because it was so cheap to operate and seemed to do a good job heating. The carbon heater is probably one of the cheapest and most efficient of the electric heaters, though.

6. Ceramic heater - セラミックヒーター

These tend to be more expensive of the space heaters, in terms of energy consumption, but I have seen some that claim energy efficiency. In addition, you can also get ceramic heaters that have built-in air purifiers and/or humidifiers (you can get a nice 3-in-1 for ¥20,000 - 30,000). On high, around 1100 to 1200 watts for most of these kind of heaters, the cost typically runs as high as ¥25-30/hour. Estimate the low setting to be about half that.

Ceramic heater with a built-in humidifier

*You can also find electric fan heaters (ファンヒーター), which are similar to ceramic heaters.

7. Kerosene heater - 石油ヒーター (せきゆ, sekiyu means oil/kerosene)

Now, with kerosene heaters you can expect the electricity bill to be very low, though you will have to buy the kerosene. The nice thing is that kerosene is typically quite cheap, especially when compared to electricity, and kerosene heaters are commonly used throughout Japan. Personally, I worry too much about the nasty chemicals so I choose not to use them, but plenty of people do use them.  If you also choose to use one, be SURE to allow air circulation in your home, such as opening a window. I know, this sounds like defeating the purpose of heating your home, and I would agree, but you don't want to die from carbon monoxide poisoning or anything.

*Note: the word for kerosene is 灯油 (とうゆ, touyu), rather than 石油, but the gas heaters all use 石油 in the name. *Also, some heaters are actually called Gas heaters (ガスヒーター) and appear to use the same gas that typical gas stoves use.

Kerosene heater
8. Kotatsu - こたつ

I visited this in my post about winterizing your apartment or home, but a kotatsu is a low table with a heater attached directly underneath the table top. You then place a thick blanket between the two panels on the top of the table, and voila, stick your feet under and stay nice and cozy. You can find a wide range of kotatsu tables of varying colors and styles, and on average they run between ¥5,000 and 20,000, though some cost more.

9. Hot Carpet - ホットカーペット

Basically, this is just a rug that you plug in and it heats up. Probably most helpful if you sit on the floor regularly, or just want a warm rug in your living room/area. The cheaper ones cost around ¥5,000, but you can get some that resemble wood floors too, and those and others cost upwards of ¥12,000 - 20,000.

10. Electric blanket - 電気毛布 (でんきもうふ, denki moufu)

Need I say more? Perfect for sleeping in a cold room, or you just want to snuggle up in a warm blanket without the heater. However, most of the blankets I have found seem to be of cheap quality - in my experience electric blankets from the US are a lot nicer and better quality in general (not sure about other Western countries but my guess is the same, right?) I'm picky though, but hey, if it does the job, can't argue too much with that. This IS changing I've noticed though, and if you shell out say, ¥13,000 for a nice Panasonic electric blanket versus the cheap ¥4,000 ones typically found in stores, then you'll have a better quality blanket on your hands.


Ok, I just discovered foot warmers, and considering that I most often use my husband as a foot warmer, I could see one of these coming in handy. There are different types, but the basic idea is to stick your feet in one of these and the electric heat will warm them up. I believe there are some other types that might use hot water that you put in a special case. For foot warmers, look for: 足温器 (そくおんき, sokuonki).

Foot warmer

For more ideas, Amazon.jp has a lot of stuff you can browse through here.

You can find a myriad of items that will keep you nice and toasty during the cold and drafty Japanese winter, but these are a few to get you started. As for the heaters, you'll have the best luck and most options at an electronics store (look for 電器, でんき), though a local hardware/daily goods type store may also carry some heaters. You can also order online from Amazon.jp (and not have to worry about carrying it home if you don't have a car).

Happy heater hunting, and as always, stay warm.

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