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Looking for a low table to add to your home? A Japanese table is the ideal choice. It is different from the usual table westerners are used to. Its height is only a few inches above the floor, which makes it a unique piece of furniture.
According to Japanese culture, there were no family meals before the industrial revolution. Only men were allowed to sit at the table to eat their meals, as women were never allowed to eat in the same setting as me. That's why tables were never used in the first place. People ate on tatami trays.
During the Meiji period, people started importing furniture to Japan. Craftsmen in Japan started to make Japanese tables called "chabudai" according to their idea of new furniture. They always valued their culture of sitting on the floor, so they made a table close to the floor to incorporate this dual idea. This led to the birth of the famous chabudai table.
Many homes in Japan have been using these tables for years now. The first chabudai was only 15 cm from the floor. The table was accompanied by tatami mats or zabuton, which served as chairs in those days. These families appreciated the use of a chabudai table because it was easy to store and move.
The table has folding legs that make it easy to store. The table was used for a variety of purposes, such as studying, eating and working. Sitting is an important aspect of Japanese culture. The Japanese believe in staying close to the ground.
During the winter, the Japanese had to find a coping mechanism without compromising their comfort. This is why they replaced the chabudai with a kotatsu, which remained a low table but was equipped with a heater underneath for warmth.
If you compare a chabudai to a kotatsu, the chabudai has folding legs while a kotatsu has a tray that can be removed. The purpose may be similar, but the inclusion of a heater in the kotatsu makes it suitable for cold temperatures. A kotatsu has a heavy cover on top that covers the table top. In the past, a coal-fired brazier was used as the main source of heat, but electricity is now used to make modern tables of this type.
It is precisely the integration of the chabudai that has kept it in use to this day. It was not meant to be a substitute for the meal tray they were using in the first place. People implemented a new strategy of serving meals from one large surface and therefore continued to use this Japanese table to this day.
- Chabudai, the low table
A chabudai is a popular low table found in many Japanese homes. The table is usually 15-30 cm high and is often designed to be foldable for easy storage. Not being high enough for western chairs, people usually sit on a tatami or zabuton, often placed on a zaisu chair. Chabudais can be used for a variety of purposes, as low benches, low dining tables, low desks or Japanese tea tables.
There are several theories as to the origin of the word "Chabudai". Some say it is derived from the word Cha, meaning tea, but there are also strong arguments that the word is actually derived from a Chinese word meaning "to sit at a table".
Chabudai first spread throughout Japan in the late 1800s, and their often circular design is considered symbolic in Japan of the rise of the nuclear family concept, where families sat around the table in a setting that did not emphasise hierarchy.
- Kotatsu, the blanket table
A kotatsu is much like a chabudai, a wooden stand covered with a heavy blanket or futon, on which the tabletop rests. The table is equipped with a heat source installed underneath the table. In most Kotatsus, the electric heater is usually installed on the table itself.
Traditionally, Kotatsu have tended to be much more "functional" than elegant, which may not be the best choice for year-round use. More recently, as the heating mechanisms have become smaller and more hidden in the design, Kotatsu have started to become real competitors to the low table as a piece of furniture in its own right. You will usually pay a little more for a Kotatsu, but given all you get in terms of a heating solution that can also be used all year round, they are definitely worth considering.