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How to Use A Japanese Air Conditioner

Mastering the functions of your a/c remote is key to surviving summer in Japan.

By 3 min read

Air conditioners or エアコン (eakon) in Japan can help you through sweltering heat waves and blistering snow storms because each unit operates with both air conditioning and heating settings. As the text written on the リモコン (rimokon) are written in various combinations of kanji characters and katakana, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to distinguish one setting from another.

Accidentally blasting the heater on an already sticky June afternoon or having the air conditioner circumvent a cool breeze in the dead of winter are common occurrences that have happened at least once, even to the best of us.

In this guide, learn the basics of how to master your air conditioner to your liking.

Remote control basics

Your standard Japanese air-con.

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.

Take note that the placement of the buttons or commands on the remote may not be in the same place, so take a close look at the kanji.

Some higher-end air conditioners may have additional functions not covered in this guide, such as an タイマー (taima, on-off timer), 内部クリーン (naibu kurin, self-cleaning setting) or 衣類乾燥 (irui kansou, clothes drying setting).

English Japanese  Romaji
Air conditioner エアコン eakon
Remote control リモコン rimokon
Timer タイマー taima
Self-cleaning setting 内部クリーン naibu kurin
Clothes drying setting 衣類乾燥 irui kansou

Turning your air conditioner on and off

Remember to keep it clean!

The on and off button is labeled 運転 and 停止 (unten/teishi)  literally meaning operation and suspension respectively. Sometimes this button will be labeled 運転切/入 (unten setsu/iri) or just 切/入 (kiri/iri). 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.

English Japanese  Romaji
On (operation) 運転 unten
Off (suspension)  停止 teishi
On (operation) Off (suspension)  運転切 unten setsu
On iri
Off kiri

Changing the temperature and function of a Japanese air conditioner

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) which means temperature. Press the up arrow or plus sign to raise the temperature. Press the down arrow or minus sign to lower the temperature.

When you press the 運転切換 (unten kirikae) button, the little arrow on the screen will go down and point to a different operation.

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 desire.

Types of functions on Japanese air conditioners

English Japanese  Romaji
Temperature 温度 ondo
Switch operation 運転切換 unten kirikae
Auto-run 自動 jidou
Cooling 冷房 reibou
Dehumidifier 除湿 joshitsu
Ventilator that dries inside of a/c to prevent mold 送風 soufu
Heater 暖房 danbou
Low power-usage 省エネ 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 cool space of your own this summer. Good luck out there.

This post was updated from the original published in 2014 on 06/14/2021.

Surviving and thriving in Japan

  • For more practical tips and how-to’s related to living in Japan, check out our Japan 101 section.
  • Having an air-con emergency that you need help with straightaway? Post your question to our GaijinPot Facebook Group and the community will help you.
  • Keen to level up your kanji? Learn Japanese with our original study materials on GaijinPot Study or take a look at the GaijinPot Study Placement Program for information on studying at a Japanese language school.
  • Madhukar Vb says:

    Thanks for the GUIDE.

  • Roc says:

    Thank you so much!!!!!!!

  • Rezwana Ahmed says:

    hi there. I have a very bad problem. My air-con (HITACHI) works fine during the day but at night when its freezing cold, the heater function doesnt work at all. I keep the temperature at 18C and gradually increase it but still no use. I also cleaned the filter. I can hear that the fan is trying to run but after a while it stops. What should I do? If anyone faced a similar issue, please advice what to do. Thanks in advance

  • Sian Kirstin says:

    Big help! Thank you so much:-)

  • Sian Kirstin says:

    Big help! Thank you so much! You saved us from extreme cold in our vacation here in Japan:-)

  • Kevin says:

    Thank you!!!

  • Marlon Crisostomo says:

    Where can i buy remote control for my corona cw 180nr here in the philippines

  • Aqeel says:

    I had problm in ac light on off light and just up on of light is blinkin becuase of that ac cannot work even remote also not.work that time

  • Hilda Jacob Moshi says:

    Very helpful. Thank you.

  • Sean Monaghan says:

    Wonderful thank you. Just saved us from freezing in our airbnb apartment.

  • thumblister says:

    7 years in Japan. Seven. 七。I never bothered to figure this out until this unreal lonely night in Hiroshima. Thank you so much.

  • Boknek says:

    Hi. I hope you could help me with my AC. I bought this corona cw-163 NR but unfortunately without the remote control. Everytime i use it i just push the main button and then wait if it will function very well.i really don’t have any idea of what to do to make it operate well since i am not a japanese and i don’t have the slightest knowledge on how to read those things written on my unit. I already searched the internet for its manual but found none. But i found hope after i read your blog.i hope you can help me with my problem.

    • Lynn says:

      I couldn’t find any information online either, but if you could post a photo of the buttons (or email it to me: admin (AT) wandertokyo.com ) then I might be able to help you out.

  • Indra Riyanto says:

    thanks, great help, I had difficulties with this during the last blizzard

  • Rol says:

    Thank you Lynn!

  • Brandt Mackay says:

    Good times, I remember summer of 2007, me and my roommate would keep the AC on all night, the best part is, we had a large company paying our electric bill so we didn’t care

    • Lynn says:

      Hurray for employer-paid utilities! I try to keep my A/C off as much as possible but usually break down in August when mold starts to form…

  • Mayukh Mukherjee says:

    Ha ha nice sharing, initially i was not familiar with that much Kanjis except 切/入 I used to press all the buttons one after another and wait for the change happening and marked them accordingly ..took a long time to understand completely

  • lifeyoutv says:

    Do you know what the clean button is for? well I guess to clean the AC but when to use it?

    • LynnAllmon says:

      Do you mean the “内部クリーン” (the “self-cleaning function” referred to briefly in the article)? This question seems to get asked a lot on the net by native Japanese speakers, too; the name of the function is a little misleading.

      According to Fujitsu and Dankin air-conditioner company sites, the clean function basically dries out the inside of the air-conditioner wall-unit to make it difficult for mold and bacteria to grow. Thus, the “clean” function is more of a prevention measure. If the a/c already has a lot of mold or needs a thorough clean, you should probably contact a pro cleaner.

      The Fujitsu site states to use the “clean” function after using the cooling function or de-humidifying function. The Dankin site says to avoid using the clean function when someone is in the room.

      Hope that helps!

    • Anthony Joh says:

      I’ve wondered about this also. Maybe the ac unit blows super fast air through it to get the dust out? Or do you push it when you take the cover off and manually clean it?

      • Jazzbebop says:

        Clean your AC at least once a week by taking of the front cover and take out the filter. Clean it carefully and put it back.

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