Japanese Houses



Japanese Houses in the news

Foreign brokers place net Japan stock sell orders 

Reuters via Yahoo! Asia News - Jan 11 3:51 PM
TOKYO, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Orders for Japanese stocks placed through 13 foreign securities houses before the start of trade on Friday showed an intention to sell a net 900,000 shares, market sources said.
Veils aside, Arab women eye latest runway fashions 
Reuters via Yahoo! News - Jan 11 7:51 AM
The women in the audience may be enveloped in black but their eyes are on mini-dresses, hotpants and glittering gowns shown by Valentino, Kenzo and other fashion houses on the catwalk in Dubai this week.

Turning Japanese 
Escape.com.au - Jan 11 5:57 PM
BARRY Dick bypasses the big smoke on a whirlwind trip to Japan, where 128 million people live with what seems like a vending machine each.

Veils aside, Arab women eye hotpants 
IBN live - Jan 11 9:02 AM
Women came to watch the fashion shows by Valentino, Kenzo and other fashion houses in Dubai this week.

- Japanes Houses

Here is an article on Japanese Houses.

This building is public housing provided by the government of Tokyo.
A house with an old-style thatched roof near Mount Mitake, Tokyo.

Housing in Japan includes modern and traditional Japanes Houses styles. Two patterns of residences Japanees Houses are predominant in contemporary Japan: the single-family detached house Japnese Houses and the multiple-unit building, either owned by an individual or corporation and rented as apartments to tenants, Jappanese Houses or owned by occupants as condominiums. Additional kinds Japanse Houses of housing, especially for unmarried people, include boarding houses (which are popular among college students), dormitories Japannese Houses (common in companies), and barracks (for members of the Self-Defense Forces, police and Japanee Houses some other public employees).


  • 1 Housing statistics
  • 2 Interior design
    • 2.1 Genkan
    • 2.2 Ima Apanese Houses (Living room/space)
    • 2.3 Toilet
    • 2.4 Kitchen
    • 2.5 Bathroom
    • 2.6 Washitsu
  • 3 Utilities
    • 3.1 Heating
    • 3.2 Electricity
    • 3.3 Security
  • 4 Automobiles
  • 5 Construction
    • 5.1 Construction Japaese Houses Japamese Houses Japanesee Houses materials
    • 5.2 Housing Japnaese Houses regulations
  • 6 Living Jpanese Houses patterns
  • 7 Home ownership
  • 8 Home and apartment rental
    • 8.1 Guest houses
  • 9 Company housing
  • 10 Traditional housing
  • 11 Homelessness
  • 12 See also
  • 13 External links
  • 14 Notes
  • 15 References

Housing statistics

Figures from the 1998 Housing and Land Survey conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications indicate that Japan had 50,246,000 housing units at the time. Of these, 43,922,100 (87.4%) were occupied and 6,323,900 (12.6%) unoccupied. Of the occupied units, 26,467,800 (60.2%) were owned by the resident household. The average number of rooms per unit of housing was 4.79, the average total floor area in square meters was 92.43 m2, and the average number of persons per room was 0.59 persons.[1]

Interior design

To understand the cultural difference, it is imporant to know that traditional Japanese housing does not have designated utility for each room aside from entrance area (genkan), kitchen, bath room and toilet. So any room can be a living room, dining room, study room or bed (futon) room. This is possible because all the necessarily furnitures are portable, being stored in Oshiire, a small section of the house which is used for storage. It is also important to note that in Japanese, living room are expressed as I-ma, living "space". This is because size of room can be change by altering the partitioning arrangement. Large traditional house often have only one ima (living room/space) under the roof while kitchen, bathroom and toilet are attached on the side of the house as extension. Somewhat similar to modern office, partitions within the house are created by fusuma, sliding door made from wood and paper, which is also portable and easily removed. Fusuma seal each partition from top to bottom so it can create mini room within the house. On the edge of house are rouka, wooden floored passage, which are somewhat similar to hallway. Rouka and ima are partitioned by shouji, sliding and portable door which are also made from paper and wood. However, unlike fusuma, paper used for shouji are very thin so outside light can pass through into the house. This was before glass was used for sliding door. Rouka and outside of the house are either partitioned by wall or portable wooden board which are used to seal the house at night. Extended roof are supposed to protect rouka area from getting wet when it rain except during typhoon season where the house get sealed completely. If large gathering takes place, these partitions are removed to create one large meeting room. During a normal day, partitions create much smaller and more manageable living spaces. Therefore, kitichen, bathroom, toilet and genkan with one multi purpose living space create one complete Japanese housing unit. However, bathroom, toilet and even kitichen can be communal. (see Sento) Therefore, the minimum Japanese housing arrangement, still possible to find if one is looking for cheapest room to rent, consist of just genkan and one living room/space.

Real estate advertisements provide a glimpse into the modern Japanese home. They typically list in the manner of 2LDK or 3LDK, L desiginating living room, D designating dining room and K designating kitchen. In this format, bathroom and toilet are not mentioned but always included. D and K are not really separate. Dining room are part of or next to kitchen. Therefore, the size and the price of appartment house are primarly determined by the number of L, "living room". However, the expression "living room" is slightly deceptive because living room, thought not necessarily decorated in traditional Japanese style with tatami, are presumed to be multi purpose. Therefore, living room are simultaneously used as study room, "living room", bed (futon) room as well as dining room depending on the need of resident(s). Moreover, each "living room" are separated by removable slidning door like fusuma, so living rooms can be one large single room.

Additionally, they often quote the sizes of the rooms, most importantly, the living room, with measurements in tatami ( in Japanese; the traditional straw mats, which come in a standard size) or square meters: "2DK; one 6 tatami Japanese-style room, one 6 tatami Western-style room" is an example. The layout of a typical apartment varies, but, entry is usually into the DK (dining/kitchen), while the other rooms are behind it. In larger dwellings, one or more rooms may be also be accessed via the hallway before reaching the kitchen area. The toilet is located adjacent to the "DK", as is the larger "ofuro/bath" room. It is worth noting that though commonly accepted standards for description exist, this is not a legal requirement. Therefore, the description may not be accurate.


Main article: Genkan

One characteristic of a Japanese home is the genkan, or entryway. It includes a small area, at the same level as the outside, where arriving people remove their shoes. As they take off their shoes, people step up onto a raised floor. The rest of the residence is at the raised level of this floor. Adjacent to the lower floor is a shelf or cabinet called a getabako in which people may place their shoes. Slippers for wear in the home are also stored there.

Ima (Living room/space)


(See also Japanese toilet )


Main article: Japanese kitchen

The modern Japanese kitchen features appliances such as a stove and broiler (grill), and an electric refrigerator. The stove may be built-in or free-standing, and is usually gas-burning, although recently induction heating, or IH, ranges have become popular. Common units of all types of stoves include two or three burners. Many kitchens have electric exhaust fans. Furnishings commonly include microwave ovens and electric toaster-ovens. Broilers are designed for cooking fish, and are usually a part of the stove. Built-in ovens large enough to bake or roast are uncommon, as are built-in dishwashers. The kitchen includes running water, typically with hot and cold faucets.


(see also Japanese bath)

Japanese housing typically has multiple rooms for what in Western housing is the bathroom. Separate rooms for the toilet, sink, and ofuro (bathing room) are common. Small apartments, however, frequently contain a tiny single bathroom called a unit bath that contains all three fixtures. The room with the sink, which is called a "clothes changing room", usually includes a space for a clothes-washing machine. The room containing the bathtub is waterproof with a space for washing, and often for showering, adjacent to (rather than in) the tub. As a result, bathwater is neither soapy nor dirty, and can be reused. Many washing machines in Japan come with an extension pipe to draw water from the tub for the wash.

Hot water usually comes from a gas or kerosene heater. The heater is usually located outdoors (at least in warm climates). Its gas supply may be from a municipal utility or from tanks on site. The typical Japanese water heater is tankless and heats water on demand. One heater may supply both bath and kitchen however many homes have two or more heaters.


A tatami room with shoji.

Many homes include at least one traditional Japanese styled room, or washitsu. It features tatami flooring, shoji rather than draperies covering the window, fusuma (opaque sliding vertical partitions) separating it from the other rooms, an oshiire (closet) with two levels (for storing futon), and a wooden ceiling. It might be unfurnished, and function as a family room during the day and a bedroom at night. Many washitsu have sliding glass doors opening onto a deck or balcony.

Other bedrooms, as well as living rooms, dining rooms, and kitchens, are in a Western style. They usually have modern synthetic floor coverings. Ceilings are typically also synthetic, and might be white or beige. Windows usually open by sliding laterally, although many kitchen windows open by tilting, with the bottom slanting outwards.



Hearth in a traditional Japanese house in Honshū.
A modern kerosene space heater.

Space heating, rather than central heating, is the norm in Japanese homes. Kerosene, gas, and electric units are common. Dwellings are commonly sold and rented without heating or cooling equipment. Occupants purchase appliances and take them when they move.

The simplest kerosene burner has a tank for fuel, a mantle, and a control dial. Battery-operated electric ignition is a popular step up. The next rank has an electric fan to circulate hot air through the room. Many such units feature computer control of temperature. The computer can also turn them on and off on schedule. Gas heaters are also popular, and many homes have gas outlets in various rooms to accommodate portable units. Windows in many homes have vents to open to protect the occupants from excessive exhaust gas. Kerosene and gas units have safety features to turn off the fire and cut off the fuel supply when the heater receives a shake, whether from an accident or due to earthquake. These units also usually shut off automatically after two or three hours to prevent carbon monoxide fumes from building up while the resident is sleeping.

Another type of kerosene heater functions similar to a radiator, and consists of two parts. Kerosene fuel is stored in a tank and burned outside the home, and the flame is used to heat a fluid which is circulated into the second unit inside the house. In this unit, fans blow across the tubes carrying the heated fluid, and the room is warmed as a result. This type of heater is popular since it reduces the fumes significantly, and also virtually eliminates the chance of a small child or pet accidentally injuring themselves.

Electric heat is typically delivered through units mounted on the walls, such as above the doors to the deck or balcony, rather than through baseboards. These heaters often do double duty as air-conditioners. Thermostatic control and timers are available in most lines. The manufacturers of electric and electronic appliances produce these heaters.

In northern Japan, yukadanbō (床暖房?) (literally, floor heater) is a type of radiating heater beneath the floor in some rooms of newer houses, where heated fluids are circulated to provide warmth. The cost is expensive, so sometimes this type of heater is only installed in small rooms like the "clothes changing room". Electric carpets have become popular in recent years.

Finally, a traditional type of heater known as a kotatsu is also still widely used today. The kotatsu can come in multiple forms, but the more common is as an electric heating element attached to the underside of a short table: the table is typically surrounded by a light duvet-like cloth to keep the heat in. This type of table is common in the washitsu.


This outlet has a post for grounding a clothes washer.

Japanese dwellings connected to the nation's power grid have 100 V AC electricity at outlets throughout the home. The line frequency is 50 Hz in eastern Japan, and 60 Hz in the western part of the country. Service of 30 or 50 A is typical. Many domestic appliances operate properly at either frequency. Outlets resemble those formerly used in the United States (see comparison), with two vertical slots. Unlike modern American outlets, the slots are usually of equal width, and there is no third slot for ground plugs. Devices designed for use with water, such as clothes washers and heated toilet seats, often have a separate ground wire.

Lighting equipment, like heaters, is normally the provenance of the occupant. Many homes do not include lights in the living, dining, and bedrooms. Instead, they have receptacles that provide both electrical connection and mechanical support for lighting equipment. Kitchens, bathrooms, corridors and genkan are likely to have built-in ceiling fixtures.


The "interphone," or intercom, is a common sight in Japanese homes. It provides telephone-like connection between the interior and exterior. The doorbell is frequently part of the interphone, and when it rings, the occupant can pick up a handset to talk with the visitor before opening the door. Models with video cameras are available, but a peephole in the door is sufficient for most homes.

In Japan the usual custom is for visitors to wait at the gate of the house before entering, and thus in houses the interphone speaker is placed at the gate of the house rather than directly before the front door. Nowadays there is very often an electrical lock on the gate which can be controlled from inside by the home owner, and camera equipped interphones are also common.


Outside of the downtown areas of large cities, many Japanese people park their cars at or near their homes. Some single-family houses have built-in garages; others have carports or unsheltered spaces on the grounds. Apartment and condominium buildings frequently have parking lots, some occupying (for example) the first floor of the building, others outdoors. Elevator parking allows double use of limited space: one car parks below ground level, with an elevator raising it when needed; the other parks at ground level. More elaborate elevator arrangements are also in use. Residents also lease parking spaces at vacant lots in the neighborhood.


Foundation for a new house

Many single-family residences are constructed by nationwide manufacturers such as Matsushita (under the name National PanaHome), Misawa Home, Mitsui, and Sumitomo Forestry. Some such companies maintain parks with model homes to show to prospective buyers. The builders of a condominium may open a unit to show prospective buyers; alternatively, they may construct a separate model room elsewhere. Makers of appliances similarly operate showrooms to display their products.

Construction materials

A retail display shows a variety of ceramic roofing tile styles.

For freestanding houses, wood frames are popular. Two-by-four construction is an alternative to the native style. Houses may be clad in siding or faced with ceramic tile. Interiors often have drywall, painted or with a wall covering. Tile is a common roofing material; it may be fired clay or concrete. Clay tiles often bear a color and a glaze.

Large buildings are typically constructed of reinforced concrete. Roofs coverings include asphalt and synthetics.

Housing regulations

The usual maximum allowed height of a wooden building in Japan is two stories. Some wooden houses may have lofts, but these may not be used as bedrooms, only for storage space. Steel and concrete buildings may have more stories, but usually they only have two. Basements are uncommon.

The ratio of built-upon area is regulated according to a system called kenpeiritsu (建蔽率?) involving the floor area of the house and the area of land the house is built upon. The area is restricted to being, for example, 80% of the area of the land. The kenpeiritsu varies according to the location of the land.

The taxable value of a house is controlled by its building material. Wooden houses are considered to have a lifespan of twenty years, and concrete ones to have a lifespan of thirty years, and the assessed price depreciates each year contrary to housing markets in other nations. Most real estate agents also use this pricing policy as a rough guide.

Living patterns

Many young Japanese adults choose to live with their parents, rather than seeking a separate residence, a phenomenon known as parasite singles (パラサイトシングル). A 1998 survey by the Ministry of Health and Welfare indicated that about 60% of single Japanese men and 80% of single women between the ages of 20 and 34 lived with their parents.

After marriage, the young couple often live in the same house as their parents. A desire for some separation between the generations has led to the phenomenon of nisedaijūtaku (二世代住宅?), literally "two generation housing", a single house which contains two complete separate living areas, one for the parents and one for the younger generation.

Conversely, in large metropolitan areas of Japan, it is no longer uncommon for young couples to co-habit in an apartment before they marry.

Traditionally, the elderly also continue to live with their children rather than being put into homes for the elderly. The responsibility for the parent usually falls onto the oldest male child or atotsugi (跡継ぎ?). The number of elderly people living at home has led to a great demand for care products for home use, and also the so-called "barrier-free" housing, which contains fewer steps and obstacles for the elderly.

Apartment sharing between strangers is rare in Japan, most single people preferring to live in small sized individual apartments. However, in recent years, as Japan is undergoing demographic and socioeconomic change, it is becoming more common for young people to share apartments. Apartment designs are many and varied. An older pattern for single occupancy is a long thin, shoe-box shaped apartment, with a kitchen area and bathroom located often near the genkan and a living space/bedroom at the opposite end where a small balcony may be located.

Japanese companies and organizations often send their male employees to various locations throughout Japan. It is not always possible or desirable for the entire family unit to move near to the employees new job site. In this case, small apartments are rented by married men who then travel to the family home on the weekends.

Home ownership

Because of the high cost of housing in major Japanese cities, many families and individuals rent apartments rather than owning their own home. In 2003, less than half of the living units in Tokyo were owned by the resident. On the other hand, rural areas tend to have much higher ownership rates. The highest rate in the country is Toyama Prefecture, with around 80% of all living units being owned by the resident.

Understandably, the living space of houses and condominiums (commonly referred to in Japan as mansions) is larger than apartments. The average size of an owned residence in Japan is 121.7m². This varies wildly between major urban areas (Tokyo: 91.0m²) and rural areas (Toyama Prefecture: 178.4m²). The area of homes that are advertised for sale or rental is commonly listed in the Japanese unit tsubo (坪), which is approximately 3.3m², or two tatamis. On diagrams of the house, individual room sizes are usually measured in tatami, as described above in the interior design section.

In recent years, condos/mansions have become more and more popular. Compared to 1983, when 64% of owned homes were single family dwellings, and only 27% were condos, more recent statistics show that the latter make up around 40% of the category now.

As houses age, owners replace them. A common pattern is to rebuild on the same site. To accomplish this, the occupants move to a temporary residence. A contractor demolishes the old structure and builds a new one on the grounds. The residents can then return to the location. Not having moved, they enjoy the convenience of keeping the same address, telephone number, and utility accounts, as well as avoid the cost of purchasing new land. Because of the wooden construction and relatively short lifespan of Japanese houses, this is often considered cheaper than maintaining the old structure.

Home and apartment rental

A two-story Japanese rental apartment building in Karatsu, Saga.

To rent an apartment in Japan, would-be tenants visit real estate agents located in every neighborhood and browse through copies of apartments for rent. These usually have the layout of the apartment for rent and the costs to rent this apartment. If a would be tenant is interested in a particular apartment, the agent contacts the landlord to see if the apartment is still available and whether a visit could be arranged. Typically, a renter cannot rent an apartment on her or his own, but is required to have a guarantor who promises to pay the rent if problems arise.

Traditionally, Japanese landlords collect both a damage deposit and "key money" before the renter takes occupancy, and the real estate agent is also paid a month's rent for services provided. Key money is a non-refundable payment to the landlord. In major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, key money is often a major investment in itself: up to six months' rent in many cases. In recent years many landlords have begun demanding smaller amounts of key money, equal to two or three months' rent or none at all. An industry of no-deposit apartments, called monthly mansion and weekly mansion, has also sprouted up in major cities: these generally charge higher rents than traditional leases, and may offer some hotel-style amenities such as linen service.

Guest houses

Foreigners in Japan renting apartments on their own often face discrimination from real estate agents and or landlords who refuse to rent to foreigners. Some agents will explain to foreigners directly that is it difficult to rent to them. Finding a guarantor is also difficult for many foreigners. Sometimes referred to as "Gaijin Houses" (meaning Foreign persons' house), Guest Houses come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are designed to provide short-term accommodation at reasonable prices with a minimum of hassle. Usually aimed at foreign visitors they are becoming increasingly popular with young Japanese seeking to break with the tradition of living with parents until, and sometimes after, marriage. While deposits are payable in most cases they tend to be low and the famous Japanese' key money is not charged for these properties. A guest house will provide one room for sleeping, a shared kitchen and shared bathroom. Facilities like Washing machines are usually coin operated but due to intense competition many landlords are seeking to provide as many free utilities as they can; free internet is almost a given in Tokyo these days.

Company housing

Many Japanese companies also maintain their own apartment buildings (called shataku, or 社宅, in Japanese) where young employees live when they first start working. Sometimes, the shataku is located near the company's office building. In other cases, the company may not own its own apartment complex, but hold an exclusive lease over one or more independent apartment buildings. In 2003, there were nearly 1.5 million shataku units in Japan.

Traditional housing

A traditional house in Okinawa Prefecture has the red tile roof characteristic of the region.

In premodern Japan, commoners typically lived either in free-standing houses, now known as minka, or, predominantly in cities, in row-houses called nagaya (長屋). Examples are still visible in Kyoto. Additional dwelling patterns included the samurai residence, the homes of wealthy farmers (such as the village headmen), and the residences of Buddhist temples.

Wood was the material of choice for structures, while roofs could be thatch, cypress bark, tile, or bare wood. Raised floors were of wood, and might be covered with straw mats in places. Kitchens usually had dirt floors.


The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare reported [2] in 2003 that Japan had 25,296 homeless people. Osaka, Tokyo, and Aichi were the prefectures with the highest homeless populations, while the city of Osaka, the 23 special wards of Tokyo, and the city of Nagoya had 1750 or more (no other city had 850). The ministry found that about 41% lived in urban parks and 23% along river banks; streets and railway stations also had significant numbers. It is possible that these figures underestimate the problem.

See also

  • Japanese carpentry
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Japanese house

External links

  • Housing Construction Statistics - Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, updated November 10 2005.
  • Japan (See the 'Settlements' section)
  • Minka — Traditional Japanese housing
  • Nihon Minka-en in Kawasaki, Kanagawa is a collection of traditional Japanese minka.
  • "The recent controversial rough sleepers provisions in Japan" Information on homelessness in Japan (pdf)


  1.   Guide to Official Statistics in Japan: Housing and Land Survey Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
  2.   Homeless no Jittai ni Kansuru Zenkoku Chōsa Hōkokusho no Gaiyō (Summary of the Report on the National Investigation of the Condition of the Homeless, in Japanese), Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (Japan) (retrieved April 9, 2006)


  • Edward S. Morse (1838–1925), Japanese homes and their surroundings, published by Charles E. Tuttle company, ISBN 0-8048-0998-4
  • Ann Waswo. Housing in Postwar Japan: A Social History. London: Routledge, 2002 ISBN 0-7007-1517-7
Search Term: "Housing_in_Japan"