HOW TO: Use an Air Conditioner in Japan

Given that we're in the height of summer now with the rainy season behind us, temps are soaring across the country and folks are suffering from heatstroke left and right, this might be a good time to look at how to use your air conditioner, especially as I've received several requests for this post. Of course, we should all be trying to do our best to save electricity or finding other ways to cool off, but now that we have a baby, I understand the importance of regulating the temperature somewhat (or else, we NEVER sleep at night due to a cranky, hot little one).

And if the heat and humidity are enough to actually affect you negatively, then please be careful and cool down as needed. It's crazy (in a bad way) to see how many people are falling victim to the heat, this year and every year.

Back to your air conditioner. Keep in mind that aircon makes and models vary -- some have only the most basic features and others a long list of options. I'm using our air conditioner remote as an example for this post, but there are remotes that differ to some extent. Some features might be called something else under different models, as well.

air conditioner, aircon, remote, Japan, Japanese

The basic functions on most air conditioners will include some or all of the following:

Japanese Hiragana RomajiEnglish
冷房れいぼうreibou air conditioning
暖房 だんぼう danbouheating
除湿 じょしつjoshitsu dehumidify (may also see this as ドライ)
自動 じどうjidou automatic

If you use the dehumidify function, you can save some electricity versus using the air conditioning function, although it, of course, won't really cool things down (usually heats up the room instead), but just reduces moisture in the air, which can feel better in some cases. You might also see this function as ドライ.

The automatic function, from my understanding, is slightly different among models, but it basically regulates the room's temperature and humidity automatically, depending on how it's set and the manufacturer's settings.

Some air conditioners have an on/off switch while others (like ours above) have an off/stop button (停止, ていし, teishi) and the function buttons can be pressed to turn it on (such as a/c, heating, etc.)

air conditioner, Japan, aircon, remote, functions
A simpler version than the other two photos, with some similar but some different options.

Other aircon settings include (see the vocabulary chart below the picture for more detailed translations and other words to know):
  • temperature settings (温度), which in the picture below is up and down arrows to raise or lower the temperature
  • high power (ハイパワー), which makes the fan blow extra strong
  • swing function (スイング), so the fan will swing (rotate) up and down
  • fan direction (風向), which allows you to manually change the direction of the fan up or down
  • laundry mode (ランドリー), which varies by make and model but usually adjusts temperature and humidity to dry your clothes over a specified period of time
  • energy saving mode (省パワー), which also varies by make and model, and isn't necessarily available on all models, but in our case adjusts the temperature higher or lower than the settings depending on if you're using heating or cooling and may also reduce the fan strength, among other ways to reduce electricity consumption.
  • strength or amount of air flow (風量切換), this might also be listed on a remote as 運転切換 with settings on the side of the screen for high, low, weak, and quiet that you press the button multiple times to scroll through and select.

aircon, air conditioner, buttons, Japanese, Japan

Some air conditioners also have timers, which you can see in the picture above. Again, these may vary by make and model but in our case the おやすみ timer acts as a countdown timer so the aircon  turns off after the period of time you specify. The other two timers allow you to specify a time you want the aircon to turn off and on, perhaps to make sure it turns off when you leave for work, or to turn on right before you get home, etc.

Japanese Hiragana RomajiEnglish
温度おんどondo temperature
ハイパワー - haipawaahigh power
スイング -suingu swing (the fan will swing up and down) - you might also see swing as 上下風向
風向 かざむき or ふうこう  kazamuki or fuukou direction of "wind" (the fan)
ランドリー              -randori-laundry function
省パワーしょうパワー shoupawa- energy saving mode
風量切換ふうりょう きりかえ fuuryou kirikae "wind" (fan) strength, amount of air flow
送風そうふう soufuu ventilate
強風きょうふう kyoufuu strong, high (fan, wind)
弱風じゃくふう jyakufuu weak, low (fan, wind)
微風びふう bifuu very low, breeze
静音せいおん seion quiet mode
運転うんてん unten operate

Now, hopefully you'll be able to work that heating/cooling device on your wall. Those of you with aircon remotes, what other functions does your make and model have?

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