Basic Guide to Using A Japanese Air Conditioner


February 6, 2014

In part because of the biting wind from the mountains, the winters in Gunma Prefecture are so cold that just stepping outside is enough to turn your eyeballs into ice-cubes.

During summer, my faithful A/C had kept my room at a refreshing temperature, but upon turning the A/C on in the winter, nothing happened.

Resist the urge to button mash, I looked closely at the air-conditioner’s remote control. The A/C had been set to “cool.” With a simple press of the button, I changed the setting to “heat,” and the room was flooded with glorious warm air.

In a performance to rival the 2001: A Space Odessey monkeys, I raised the remote above my head and brought it down on the standard-issue Leopalace apartment table several times while screeching.

You too can have a moment of triumph such as this by using this guide on how to use your Japanese air-conditioning.

How to Use Japanese Air-Conditioning (“Air-con”)

In Japanese, the air-conditioning unit itself is called “air-con” (エアコン), and the remote control is called “rimo-con” (リモコン). If you have a furnished apartment and can’t find the remote control, it might be mounted on the wall near the air-conditioner, perhaps hidden behind the curtain.

Most remote controls have the same basic functions, so I will be using my own remote control as an example. The buttons may not be in the same place, so take a close look at the kanji. Some higher-end air-conditioners may additional functions not covered in this guide, such as an on-off timer (タイマー), self-cleaning setting (内部クリーン), or clothes drying setting (衣類乾燥).


Using a Japanese Air-Conditioner Remote Control

On/Off Button (運転/停止)

Obviously, the most important button on a Japanese A/C remote control is the “on/off” button. The on/off button is labeled 運転/停止 (pronounced “unten/teishi” and literally meaning “operation/suspension”). Sometimes this button will be labeled 運転 切/入 or just 切/入. Press this button once and the A/C will come on.

Once the A/C is on, the little screen on the remote control will also come on. The temperature will be displayed, possibly along with other settings.

Change Temperature (温度)

The “change temperature” buttons are usually in the shape of an up and down arrow or have a plus or minus sign on them. In kanji, they are labeled 温度 (“ondo,” meaning “temperature”). Press the up arrow or plus sign to raise the temperature. Press the down arrow or minus sign to lower the temperature.

Change Type of Operation (運転切換)

On my remote control, the type of operation (auto-run, heating, cooling, etc.) is displayed on the screen. When you press the 運転切換 button (“unten kirikae,” meaning “change operation”), the little arrow on the screen will go down and point to a different operation. Many Leopalace remote controls are also like this.

Sometimes, buttons themselves on the remote control will be labeled with the name of the type of operation. In this case, you would press the button labeled with the operation you desired.

The following are standard operations included on many Japanese air-conditioners.

Types of Operations for Japanese Air-Conditioners

自動 (auto-run, pronounced “jidou”)

冷房 (cooling, pronounced “reibou”)

除湿 (de-humidifier, pronounced “joshitsu”)

送風 (ventilator – dries inside of a/c to prevent mold, pronounced”soufu”)

暖房 (heater, pronounced “danbou”)

省エネ (low power-usage, pronounced “shou ene”)

While many Japanese A/C remote controls have additional buttons, these are the most basic and most used. Hopefully this Japanese air-conditioner guide can help you create a warm space of your own this winter.


Spends weekends aimlessly wandering Tokyo.

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