Japanese Houses (Nihon No Ie /日本の家)

Some people who have visited Japan may know that there are different types of Japanese houses. The Japanese might buy a brand new house or a second hand house. Some of them might rent a house, an apartment and a condominium.

Which types of the houses would you like to live if you are in Japan? It all depends on your circumstances doesn’t it!

A traditional house

This type of house mainly be seen at countryside. It is very spacious and big house with tiled roof. It is a detached house with 5 or 6 bedrooms in general. Most of Japanese houses are detached.

Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev on Pexels.com

A traditional room with Tatamis (たたみ・畳) and paper slinging blinds (Shoji/障子・しょうじ)

A Tatame and a shouji are distinguishing characters of the Japanese houses and are known by many foreigners. . A tatami (畳) is a type of mat used as a flooring material in traditional Japanese-style rooms. The advantages of the tatame are;

  • An excellent heat insulation and humidity control performance
  • Relaxing rush scent
  • Easy to clean and keep clean
  • Little maintenance required

However the disadvantages are

  • Every 3 to 4 years it requires turning over
  • Fading due to sunburn
  • It is easy for feet to get cold or tired
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

How about the shoji? A shōji is a door, window or room divider used in traditional Japanese architecture.  The advantages of the shoji are;

  • Avoid from direct sun light
  • Ideal design for both Japanese-style rooms and western-style rooms
  • Make rooms looks bigger and neat by pulling it in
  • An excellent heat insulation
  • Increase lighting efficiency

The disadvantages are

  • It could be too blight
  • it could be too hot
  • Easily get torn
  • Difficult to clean
  • Unwashable

An old hearth 囲炉裏・いろり・IRORI

Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev on Pexels.com

The hearth (Irori 囲炉裏) is hardly seen nowadays but it is still used at old houses at countryside or minshuku (民宿), a Japanese breakfast and bed, or traditional Japanese restaurants. Having said that I have seen some modern style irori designed in modern houses.

It has a quaint atmosphere and looks so elegant with traditional plates and foods. Surely we would enjoy meals much better and meals taste 100 times better. Don’t you agree?

A porch – 縁側・えんがわ・Engawa

An engawa (縁側/掾側) or en (縁) is an edging strip of non-tatami-matted flooring in Japanese architecture, usually wood or bamboo. The en may run around the rooms, on the outside of the building, in which case they resemble a porch or sunroom. A similar structure in Korean architecture is the toenmaru. by Wikipedia

A behind sliding doors is a floor where people can sit down and have a cup of tea and a sweet while they are talking on a sunny day! This feature may not be seen in a modern-style house.

A newly built modern house

This type of house with a well-equipped looks modern and clean but it can be smaller compared to a traditional house. It might be 2 to 3 bedrooms and either a detached house or a semi-detached house like a picture below.

An entrance (genkan・玄関・げんかん)

The Japanese people take their shoes off at an entrance and put them inside a shoes rack (geta bako・下駄箱・げたばこ) for cleanliness. After that they step up and normally wear slippers before going into a house. The Japanese people strongly believe that carrying outdoor shoes inside a house is very dirty. The reason being probably is related to its structure of the house. Traditionally,the Japanese ate meals sitting on tatame mats instead of chairs. They put the futon to sleep on tatami floors. So bringing the shoes into the house is not nice thing to do. .

A bathroom

A way of having a bath is totally different from its western way. The Japanese washes their body outside a bathtub. There is a tiled floor (タイル床) or FRP (Fiber reinforced plastic) (繊維強化プラスチック)floor where they wash their body. The bathtub for Japanese is to keep their body warm and relax. Another different thing/item we can see is the bathtub cover. As you know by now that the Japanese does not wash their body inside the bathtub. Therefore, they keep hot water inside for another members of families to use. In my family, normally when the last person who finished having a bath was the one to drain the hot water and clean it. Or sometimes if the water was still clean enough to use then we kept it until the water get dirty.

A condominium (mansion・マンション)

Photo by Abby Chung on Pexels.com

It might be confusing but in Japan we call the condominium “mansion”. I know “mansion” means totally different in western countries. The mansion in Japanese means bigger than apartments and is used as a general word. It has been said that Japanese developers started using the word of “mansion” in order to image a sense of luxury when they approached the potential customers to sell the properties or let at the beginning of 1955 (Shouwa era 30). It is built with Reinforced-Concrete. There are middle to high rise buildings either with/without balconies. Price wise it is usually much expensive than an apartment. This is for sale or letting.

Security cameras are fitted inside the building and there is an entrance with an auto locked door.

A kitchen, a dinner, a living room areas (キッチンダイナー)

A nice and clean well-equipped kitchen with a spacious dinnering areas.

An entrance (Genkan/玄関・げんかん)

A fitted shoe rack makes rather a small entrance bigger, neat and tidy.

A mail post (Yubin uke/郵便受け・ゆうびんうけ)

Some mail boxes have its own key to open for security reasons.

An apartment (アパート)

An apartment normally comes with two/three floors unlike a mansion. It is built with either woods or light-gauge steels. Non soundproof. This is for letting only. An entrance door is visible from miles away and no security cameras are fitted. Security is not as tight as a mansion. It is ideal for one or two persons as it is not spacious. Of course there are two/three bedrooms available for letting. It is run by either private owners or letting agents.

A particular apartment built and managed by a letting agent collaborated with a developer is located nationwide which means wherever you go to you will be able to rent the exactly same style and the same layout of the apartment. This apartment is cheap to rent and be able to save money as it is a finished with the minimum required of home appliances..

The actual image of a furnished room

A balcony (バルコニー)

Most of the apartments have balconies. It is better to have for hanging washed clothes.

A living room (リビングルーム)

An air conditioner is a must item and is fitted at a room.

A bathroom unit (ofuro/お風呂・おふろ)

It is a rather small bathtub but easy to clean. The modern bathroom has an electric ventilation fun fitted as this type of the bathroom normally has not got a window to open for ventilation. . (Obviously it depends on a layout of a bathroom). Some bathrooms must use the ventilation fun otherwise the rising steam might cause a fire alarm to go off.

When I stayed at my friend’s apartment I did not know about this system as I have been living in the UK too long so after finishing a shower I simply open the bathroom door with setting the ventilation fun. My friend explained to me that if we did not use the ventilation fun it would go off the fire alarm.

A kitchen unit (daidokoro/キッチン・台所)

It is a simple but enough for one or two person. a unique feature might be of a gas/an electric hob combined with a girl plate.for fishes, pizzas, hamburgs etc.

The Japanese style

Things below are unique items which might not be seen in a house in your country.

A mini oven (オーブントースター・oven toaster)

The Japanese uses the mini over toaster, toast breads, pizzas and sticky rice (mochi).

The mini oven taster is very popular

A traditional kettle and a brazier or fire box (HIBACHI/火箸・ひばち)

The hibachi is a traditional Japanese heating device. It consists of a round, cylindrical, or box-shaped, open-topped container, made from or lined with a heatproof material and designed to hold burning charcoal. Wikipedia

大人の贅沢!『火鉢』のある生活を楽しんでいます (by 奈良に住んでみました)

An Oil heater (sekiyu stove/石油ストーブ・せきゆストーブ)

The Japanese heating devices are either an air conditioner installed in a room or a portable oil heater/an electric heater. Some old houses are not easy to install the air conditioner due to its structure. My dad used to use the oil heater. On the top of it, we used to put a kettle or a cooking pot. Sometimes we put mochi(もち). The disadvantage of using an oil heater is its smell and safety issue. It is also inconvenient because it has not got a timer setting to generate warm air going through a room. In the cold winter morning the rooms are very cold until you wake up and put it on. I used to hate it. I was always waiting for my mum to wake up first and put it on. By the time I woke up the room was nice and warm;)

The oil heater
The way to fill the oil in a small tank which insert a oil heater

An air conditioner outdoor unit (エアコン室外機)

A Japanese washing machine (Sentakuki/洗濯機・せんたくき)

A Japanese washing machine is similar to American one, A lit is the top of it. Usually located next to a bathroom. After taking your clothes off putting them into a washing machine straight away is very practical and make sense to me. No need to have a Laundry basket.

A inter phone (インターホーン)

A inter-phone is fitted at most mantions, some apartments and houses which connected to a camera inside.

A recycle bin GOMI BAKO/(ゴミ箱・ごみばこ)

In Japan, rubbish should be put in a recycle bin which is normally located outside at an certain place.

A pair of plastic bath boots (バスブーツ)

As I have mentioned earlier that the Japanese washes their body at the tiled bath floor or FRP floor. As a result of that, the floor might be wet so wearing this pair of plastic bath boots protects your feet from being wet and cold when you want to clean the bathroom/when you are cleaning.

A bath stool and a bath bucket (ストールとバケツ)

A nameplate of the house (Hyosatu/表札・しょうさつ)

In UK and US, a house/building number is attached on a front external wall but in Japan normally the surname of the householder and street numbers are imprinted on either a metal plate or a wooden plate and being attached. All families members’ name can be imprinted, that was a case at my parent’s house.

小川様」表札施工例(ベージュ系タイル+ステンの2層型表札) : ネームプラザ

A sliding wooden shutter (KINO AMADO/木の雨戸・きのあまど)

This sliding wooden shutter is to protect from heavy rain coming into a house. Japan is the country of many typhoons hit.

A modern style shutter outside a window (Amado/雨戸・あまど)

A window screen (Amido/網戸・あみど)

This window screen (a net) is fitted inside a window so that it protects from mosquitoes coming inside a house when the window is opened in Summer. In African countries it is also common to have a fitted window screen.


A underfloor storage (yukashita shuno/床下収納・ゆかしたしゅうのう)

The underfloor storage is mainly located in the kitchen area. Some western houses have a cellar, basement. As it is located in the kitchen it is not as big as the cellar but it is quite convenient.

Thanks for reading!! 

Yonde kurete arigato.


About mkchatinjapanese

I am a native Japanese who teaches Japanese to non-Japanese speaker as a private tutor. Teach from a beginner to Intermediate level. location in London.
This entry was posted in Japanese custom, Japanese Language, JAPANESE LIFE. Bookmark the permalink.

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