Created for expats living in Japan

How to Translate Your Japanese Air Conditioner Remote Control

While most Japanese residences do not have central heating and air conditioning, they do typically come with at least one wall-mounted air conditioner installed in smaller apartments and multiple wall units positioned throughout larger homes. This is a great relief for renters, both in the sweltering heat and humidity of summer as well as in the cooler winter months when the air conditioner's heating function comes in handy.

Air conditioners in Japan generally work via a remote control. For those new to Japan or who are looking to access the full range of typical air conditioner functions, it can be tricky to navigate the Japanese-language menus and buttons. Keep reading to find what main functions your air conditioner is likely to have and how to turn them on and off with the remote control.

Translating the Remote Control for Your Japanese Air Conditioner

A Japanese air conditioner generally has the same settings and functions as modern wall-mounted air conditioners in other countries. However, with all the settings written in Japanese (much like Japanese toilets), they can be difficult to understand. Below are some of the main settings and functions available on a standard Japanese air conditioner.

運転・停止 (unten/teishi) ①

Power On/Off
This Power button turns the air conditioner on or off. Usually, it will be larger or a different color than the other buttons. When turning off the air conditioner, make sure that you hear an audible beep signifying that the air conditioner recognizes your action.

温度 (ondo)

There are usually two arrow buttons associated with this word. You can use this button to control the target temperature for a room.

運転切換 (unten kirikae)

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

自動 (jidô) ②

In Automatic mode, the unit will maintain the target temperature, switching between cooling and heating as appropriate.

冷房 (reibô) ⑤

In Cool mode, the unit will only use cool air to maintain the target temperature.

暖房 (danbô) ③

In Heat mode, the unit will only use hot air to maintain the target temperature.

送風 (sôfû)

In Fan mode, the unit will only turn on the fan to blow air, and no hot or cold air will be used.

除湿/ドライ (joshitsu/dry) ④

In Dehumidifier mode, the unit will dehumidify a room but not change the temperature. This is particularly useful during Japan’s rainy season.


The Eco button uses energy-saving functions to be more eco-friendly.

風量切換 (Fûryou kirikae) ⑦

Fan Speed
The Fan Speed button changes the speed of the fan that the unit uses to move the 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
Noise Suppression is a white noise setting that helps to drown out background noise.

風向 (kazamuki) ⑥

Fan Direction
Fan Direction changes the direction of the airflow from straight below the vent up to horizontal from the vent. Some units also have manual vents that allow you to direct the flow by hand.


Swing allows the fan direction to be in constant movement rather than setting the vent only to a vertical or horizontal position.

タイマー (taimaa) ⑧

The Timer 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 two different buttons. 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
Change Time allows you to set the time for shutting off the unit.


Different Modes

With such a range of options available, it can be easy to just stick to the basics and not explore the rest of the air conditioner's functions. However, some of the additional modes and functions can be very beneficial during different times of the year.

Of course, during summer, we all want to use the standard cooling mode. Coming in from the hot sun into a cool, air-conditioned room is one of the best feelings of summer. However, the dehumidifying mode can also be very useful. As mentioned, summer in Japan is very hot. However, it is also very humid. This can lead to issues with mold in the home and uncomfortable, sticky air. The dehumidifier setting can reduce some of the humidity, help protect your house from mold and associated issues, and in the process, often help to cool down the room as well. This is especially useful during the rainy season when you may be drying clothes inside or have wet umbrellas and shoes in your front entry.

In winter, there are a range of options for heating rooms, including oil-burning heaters, space heaters, and so on, but one of the most convenient and easiest options is using the heat setting on the air conditioner. This will warm the room up quickly and without any ventilation issues.

For those worried about the environmental impact of using air conditioners too much, or even just about the high cost of constant air conditioner use, the eco function can be useful. Many modern air conditioners include an eco mode, which conserves energy and maintains the temperature without using as much electricity. This means the electricity cost is less and the impact on the environment is lower.

Cleaning and Maintenance

As with anything in your house, the air conditioner can get dirty. We often don’t think about it, but the inside of the air conditioner can get dusty and moisture can build up, potentially causing mold issues. Some modern air conditioners have a self-cleaning mode that can be utilized to help avoid this. However, even self-cleaning air conditioners should be manually cleaned sometimes. This is best done on a regular basis.

Cleaning the air conditioner involves opening the front of the unit to access the filters inside. These should be wiped free of dust. The filters can then be removed and washed more thoroughly under water. The inside of the unit should also be wiped clean of dust. After the filters have dried, they can be reinstalled inside the air conditioner and the outside of the unit can be wiped down. This allows the air coming through your air conditioner to stay fresh and mold-free. It is also possible to hire a professional cleaner to do a more thorough cleaning if there are issues with the air conditioner or you feel it needs a deep clean.

When it comes to malfunctions or issues with the air conditioner not working as normal, it is best to consult a professional air conditioner repairman or the manufacturer rather than attempt any repairs yourself. 

More Ways to Beat Japan’s Summer Heat

Air conditioning is a great aid to living comfortably, especially in countries with large changes in weather. With Japan’s hot, humid summers and cold winters, air conditioners are an extremely useful part of everyday life. However, it can be difficult to navigate the various settings, functions, and modes. Here we have covered some of the most common settings to help make your life more comfortable. Cleaning and general maintenance is also an important aspect of using an air conditioner and should be done regularly. Hopefully with this guide, you can use your air conditioner in Japan to the full extent of its capabilities.