Guide to Using Japanese Aircon

Our favorite seasons in Japan just happen to be the cold ones — winter, spring, and autumn — and since we’re tropics-born and bred, the first thing we need on checking in is warmth. On our first visit to Tokyo, that need led to our first culture shock: no English on the aircon remote! I got by that first time by trial and error, gambling that no Japanese manufacturer would install a self-destruct button on their units. It took a while before we could get comfy though.

So I researched the kanji on the aircon remote. Turns out that while different manufacturers install different features on their aircon units, their remotes tend to have mostly the same basic functions. Here’s a quick guide to the Japanese button labels and what they do:

  • 運転/停止 – On/Off (unten/teishi)
  • 温度 – Change temperature (ondo)
  • 運転切換 – Operation mode (unten kirikae)
  • 自動 – Automatic mode (jidou)
  • 冷房 – Cooling mode (reibou)
  • 暖房 – Heating mode (danbou)
  • 送風 – Cleaning mode (soufu)
  • 風向 – Wind direction (fuukou)
  • 風量 – Fan speed (fuuryou)

For example, if you’ve just checked in on a winter evening and want to warm up the room, you’d press 運転/停止 (On/Off) to start the aircon, then either 運転切換 (Mode) to change the mode, or 暖房 (Heating) if there’s a button with this label. The automatic mode, 自動 , can also be used. Then set the temperature with the arrow keys, labeled 温度. We usually set the temp to 30 initially for a quick warming, then bring it down to a more comfortable setting once we’ve stopped shivering!

If the air smells musty, press the 送風 button. On some units you may have to hold the button down until the aircon is clean. The unit will dehydrate its interior to remove the mold.

These controls will be found on most Japanese aircon brand remotes, along with other functions that often differ from brand to brand. Every manufacturer likes to put in special features unique to their aircons, some of them really nifty like a clothes drying mode, usually written as 衣類乾燥.

Thankfully, no one’s thought of the self-destruct mode yet.


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