Why Do the Japanese Live in Such Small Apartments?

Why Do the Japanese Live in Such Small Apartments?
culture
intermediate
September 16, 2022

3 min read

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By Western standards, most Japanese apartments are tiny. This is especially noticeable in large cities where 20% of apartments are smaller than 20 sqm (square meters)!

If you look at the map, you’ll understand why. Japan is a densely populated country, so the available space is limited. While Japan’s population equals half of the US population, the available territory is only about the size of California. No wonder the Japanese are used to small, narrow living spaces. 

Japan's urban areas are overcrowded. 30% of the population lives in the greater Tokyo area, and with more people choosing to live alone, the demand for small apartments is on the rise.

So, what are they like, those tiny Japanese apartments? They are similar to Western studios, but can be even smaller. The smallest and cheapest type is called 1R which means “1 room”. This type of apartment is smaller than 13 sqm in size and has one room with a small kitchen area and a unit bath (shower and toilet). Such micro-apartments often have two floors, with the second floor being a sleeping loft.

1K (“1 kitchen”) and 1DK (“1 dining room and kitchen”) apartments are one-bedroom apartments and come with a more spacious kitchen where you can put a small dining table. Kitchens in Japanese apartments are almost always very modest in size, with not much room to prepare food.

How do the Japanese make it work? They use foldaway beds, tables and chairs and keep things small and simple. As a studio kitchenette works well only for quick and simple meals, people often eat out or bring home takeaway food.

Tiny apartments are not just a Japanese phenomenon. Micro-apartments are in vogue in many large cities with a high population density — and high rental prices: Hong Kong, New York, Paris, Moscow, etc.

For young single people, micro-apartments are the way to go. Besides being very affordable, such apartments are easier to clean and cheaper to furnish.

Margarita Shvetsova
Margarita Shvetsova

I speak fluent English, Swedish and intermediate Chinese. My trips to the US and China shaped my approach to learning and teaching languages. I used to teach English and Swedish focusing on the practical, spoken language.

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