How to Keep Cool and Use your Japanese Air Conditioner

Post date: Thursday, February 22, 2018

We’re not sure how summer is where you’re from, but here in Tokyo, it’s HOT. The average peak temperature in the summer is around 30 C. Besides that, it’s also humid. So, get ready, temperatures are set to start climbing and they won’t stop until sometime in September.

The question is: how do you keep cool in the sometimes oppressive heat and humidity that summer brings?

Why, use the air conditioner of course. Japan’s household air conditioners are typically not centralized units with vents and ductwork like you may have had at home. There is usually one unit per room or living space in a typical Japanese apartment or home. And…in almost all cases, the panel and remote that control the temperature are all Japanese! Never fear, below is a guide to most of the common buttons and symbols on a Japanese air conditioner’s control panel to make sure you always stay comfortable.

How to read Japanese air conditioner controls

■ 運転・停止 (unten/teishi)

Power On/Off
This is the most important one. The button associated with this phrase turns the air conditioner on and off.

■ 温度 (ondo)

This word usually may have either a rocker or two buttons that indicate up or down. Use this to control the target temperature for a room.

■ 運転切換 (unten kirikae)

Change mode
This changes the mode the air conditioner runs in, and the following modes are typically available.

・自動 (jidô)

In this mode, the unit will maintain the target temperature, switching between cool and heat as appropriate.

・冷房 (reibô)

In this mode, the unit will only use cooling to keep the temperature at or below the target temperature.

・暖房 (danbô)

In this mode, the unit will only use heating to keep the temperature at or above the target temperature.

・送風 (sôfû)

In this mode, the unit will only turn on the fan to blow air and no heating or cooling will be used.

・除湿 (joshitsu)

In this mode, the unit will dehumidify a room but not change the temperature.

■ 風量切換 (Fûryou kirikae)

Fan speed
This changes the speed of the fan that the unit uses to move air, and the following speeds are typically available.

・自動 (jidô)


・強風 (kyôfû)

 High speed

・弱風 (jakufû)

 Medium Speed

・微風 (bifû)

 Low Speed

・静か (shizuka)

 Noise suppression
This is a white noise setting that helps to drown out background noise.

■ 風向 (kazamuki)

Fan direction
This changes the direction of the fan from straight down, up to horizontal. Some units also have manual vents that allow you to direct flow by hand.

■ タイマー (taimaa)

This allows the unit to be programmed to run for a specific amount of time before shutting off. Depending on the type of unit, there are several possible options for how to program the timer.

・入・切 (ireru/kiru)

These characters indicate turning the timer on or off, whether on the same button or different. You might also see 切換 (kirikae) which means to switch modes. In other words, "timer on" or "timer off."

・時間変更 (jikan henkô)

 Change time
This allows you to set the time for the timer to shut-off the unit.

This covers the controls common to almost all Japanese air conditioners.

Other options

On certain models, there are additional options, including a “swing“ mode to assist with drying laundry or “eco“ mode for when you want to use less energy while running your air conditioner. For these or other options, or if you just don’t understand how to work your air conditioner, you should consult with a friend who can read Japanese for additional guidance.


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