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Kanji Cheat Sheet: How to Use the Heating Function on your Air Conditioner in Japan

Stay cozy all throughout winter in Japan with this quick guide

By 4 min read

Growing up in the Philippines, I’ve only ever used air conditioners to keep me cool during the summer. Back home, my year-round uniform consisted of a tank top, a pair of shorts, and slippers. You can probably imagine my surprise when I found out that Japanese air conditioners have everything but a single function. They can keep you warm too? The sorcery!

It all started when I first moved to Japan in the spring for Japanese language school. I invited one of my new friends over to play Mario Party about a week after I’d arrived when my Japanese proficiency was little to none.

I might still be sitting in my room shivering under two pairs of pajamas every night to this day without her.

My friend stepped into my freezing cold room with a frown. I only had an air conditioner after all, what did she expect? Upon telling her this, she shoved the air conditioner remote into my hands and showed me the 暖房 (heating) button.

Thank god for friends who can read kanji, because I was seriously worried I would blow the thing up if I pressed the wrong button. I might still be sitting in my room shivering under two pairs of pajamas every night to this day without her.

Though it might be intimidating at first, familiarizing yourself with the basic controls of your air conditioner can make a world of a difference and keep you from freezing yourself to death.

Use this kanji cheat sheet to learn how to use the heating function on Japanese A/C!

English Japanese Romaji
On/Off 運転切 / 入 Unten kiri/Iri
Temperature 温度 Ondo
Airflow 風量 Fuuryou
Mode selection 運転切換 Untenkirikae
Blower direction 風向 Kazamuki
Air conditioning 冷房 Reibou
Heating 暖房 Danbo
Dehumidify 除湿 / ドライ Joshitsu
Timer 予約 Yoyaku

Switching to the heating function

The easiest way to access your air conditioner’s heater would be to start with pressing 運転切 (unten kiri) to turn it on and then 運転切換 (untenkirikae) to select the mode. Lastly, you’ll press 暖房 (danbo) for heating. Most air conditioner remote controls in Japan are pretty similar so all the controls mentioned in the table above should be present.

Your basic Japanese A/C remote.

By now you’ve probably noticed that Japanese air conditioners can get pretty complex. You can use 運転切換 to switch between not only heating, but dehumidifying, and of course air. 風量 (fuuryou) will change the intensity of the air blowing on you while 風向 (kazamuki) allows you to make the air blow horizontally or vertically.

For kerosene heater users

While air conditioners do a good job of heating up small apartments and spaces, living in the countryside or a big house is a different ball game. Many Japanese homes are built without central heating so kerosene heaters are lifesavers as they can warm up much wider spaces.

Just so you know, kerosene heaters are called “stoves” (ストーブ) in Japan. So just to be clear, if you hear stove in Japanese they’re probably not talking about the one in your kitchen!

English Japanese Romaji
Kerosene Heater 灯油ストーブ/石油ストーブ Touyusutobu/ sekiyusutobu
Ignition 点火 Tenka
On 押す Osu
Switch off immediately スピード消火 Supeedo shouka
Ignition and combustion 点火/燃焼 Tenka/Nenshou
Refueling Sign 給油サイン kyuuyusain
Fire Extinction 消火位置 shoukaichi

How to use your kerosene heater

First, as the name suggests, fill the cartridge up with kerosene (never use gasoline). You can ask your nearest gas station for 灯油 (touyu) or ストーブ 用石油 (sutobuyou sekiyu). When filling the cartridge it’s best to use an electric pump to make transferring the kerosene much easier. You can easily buy one at a home improvement shop for as cheap as ¥500.

Place the cartridge back into the heater and press 押す or to turn it on. Depending on the brand or model of your heater, the current temperature in the room will be displayed on the right side and your desired temperature on the left. Adjust the temperature to your liking by using the arrows below the display. To turn the heater off, press the power button again or スピード消火 which will shut it off immediately for safety purposes.

給油サイン tells you how much kerosene you have left in the heater.

This should go without saying, but make sure never to sleep with the kerosene heater on and keep it a safe distance away from walls, curtains, and furniture.

Hopefully, this guide helps you stay nice and cozy this winter. If you still find it too chilly in your room, try buying a 湯たんぽ or hot water bag for extra heat!

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