Japanese apartments are very different from those in the United States, primarily due to the smaller size of most accommodations, particularly in large cities like Tokyo. While many apartments are still small in size, there are a growing number of larger apartments throughout the country that are more like Western style apartments. Visitors who are familiar with the country already know that there are differences in the bathrooms of nearly all Japanese homes, but in many other ways, today’s apartments are simply smaller versions of what most visitors are accustomed to. Visitors to Japan who are planning to stay for an extended period often prefer renting a furnished “short stay” apartment as a way to cut costs. With a few exceptions, Japanese apartments are similar to homes in Japan and many reflect the modern culture of large cities.
While most American apartments are measured in terms of square feet, Japanese apartments are measured in terms of tatami mats. A tatami mat is a woven straw floor covering which measures roughly three by six feet. Apartments are measured this way whether they have wooden or tatami flooring, and both are common options in Japan. Rooms that have wall-to-wall carpeting are fairly rare in Japanese apartments.
Upon entering Japanese apartments, you will usually walk into an entrance area called a genkan where visitors are expected to remove their shoes. Apartments all have a bathroom and separate toilet room, although other rooms in the apartment will vary. When looking at listings for Japanese apartments, you will usually see the abbreviations L, D, and K, which refer to the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Apartments are listed with the number of bedrooms first, followed by L, D, and K to indicate which rooms are in the apartment.
Japanese apartments will look different based on the area where they are located, the age of the building, the cost of renting the apartment, and whether the building is considered more “traditional” or “western”. The very small apartments that some people picture when they think of Japan are usually found in big cities, and they are usually older buildings where rent is less expensive. The best way to describe these apartments is to say that they are similar to a college dorm room, with enough room for the necessities but not a lot of extra room. On the other end of the spectrum are luxury apartments that are often quite expensive to rent but which provide all the amenities that a person could want. It is not uncommon to find that Japanese Apartments have rooms separated by sliding doors, rather than solid walls. Also called “shoji screens”, these dividers can make an apartment feel larger than it really is. In general, the Japanese are not fond of having a ton of possessions that clutter up the living space, and so there is usually not a lot of storage space in Japanese apartments. The standard of living that is expected of most people is to have a clean, simply decorated apartment that is free of excessive “stuff.” Remember, the concept of Feng Shui comes from Japan originally, and the principles of this design aesthetic are common throughout the country.
Japanese apartments reflect a country that is small, and often crowded, and where the people are very proud of their homes. Visitors will find that living in Japanese apartments can be cramped if they fill the apartment with a lot of excess “stuff”. For those planning an extended stay in Japan, staying in a short term lease furnished apartment can save money and give a more realistic experience of today’s Japan.