While you will mainly see single-family homes in the more remote suburbs and in the countryside in Japan, in more central city areas the majority of people will live in apartments that are often not much larger than 60m2, or even smaller. The most common kind of city apartment for a family of 4 in Japan has 2 or 3 bedrooms, a living room, and a dining-kitchen room. Gardens are a luxury that few have, and often you will see that families use the largest room as their communal bedroom.
Small Housing in Japan
Over 110 million people live in small houses/apartments in Japan as the country’s population is concentrated in big cities like Tokyo. Even though the situation has improved compared to 30 years ago, there simply isn’t enough space in these crowded metropolitan areas to provide everyone with spacious housing. Even with a relatively high income-level, Japan’s city dwellers continue to live in smaller spaces than most of their European or American counterparts.
Average apartments in Tokyo only have 66m2 of living space, which is a lot smaller than what most people in Europe, Australia, and the US are used to. Apartments in Tokyo are so small, that many families resort to using one bedroom for the whole family.
Flooring in Japan
As you may know, it is customary to take off one’s shoes before entering a home in Japan. Every home has a specific area for this that they call a ‘genkan’. Even if the house is not strictly Japanese-style but more European-style, you are still required to take off your shoes.
In the past, the flooring in Japanese homes was mostly made of wood and tatami mats, but nowadays you will find most floors are covered with linoleum, laminate, and carpets. Many Japanese people like to wear slippers in their houses to prevent cold feet. Be careful when you go to the toilet, as you are required to wear special toilet slippers that are only to be used in the smallest room in the home. Only if you enter a room covered with tatami mats, you are also required to take off your slippers as you can only walk on tatami barefoot or with your socks on.
Tatami Mats in Japanese Homes
Tatami is a thick mat, made from reeds that grow in wetlands. One tatami mat is about 1.8m long, 1m wide and 8cm thick, exact measurements depending on the area. Tatami used to be so commonly used for flooring in Japanese homes that a room’s size in Japan is usually measured with the number of tatami that fit in the room, that is to say, we call a room that fits exactly 6 tatami mats a 6-tatami room.
The feel and smell of tatami are often associated with being home for Japanese people. I think that there are still many Japanese who will want to feel the sensation of having returned to Japan by lying on tatami after a long stay abroad. Many people still have one tatami-covered room in their house, even in Western-style apartments.
Japan Home Stay Tour
If you are thinking about making a trip to Japan, as seasoned Japan experts we can help you create your perfect Japan tour that could include a homestay at a Japanese family’s house. Contact us to start planning your unforgettable holiday to this fascinating country full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, culture, history, nature, and delicious food!