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Before you come to Japan be aware that our ideas of housing and the Japanese ideas of housing are different. That being said don't be afraid of Japanese homes. A lot has changed in the way that homes are built in Japan over the the last couple of years. The thin walls, lack of insulation, and tatami rooms throughout the homes are mostly gone. The things that did remain are the size. A typical American home usually runs around 140 sq meters (1400 sqft) and a typical Japanese home runs around 80 sq meters (800 sqft). This doesn't mean that larger homes are not available, they are. But homes that are larger than about 1400 sqft tend to be older, i.e. thin walls and no insulation. Also a larger size home in Japan doesn't mean larger always. Most homes that are larger just have several rooms in them, more rooms means smaller sizes. Also if you are interested in more traditional homes, they are still here. These days however, traditional Japanese house structures and those patterned in Western style, subsist side by side in Japan. On one side, you will find houses with traditional structures of wood and wooden pillars. But as a town develops and population grows, apartment complex, by way of Western influence, have the Japanese also adapting and embracing Western Architecture.


Sometime in the 8th century, Japanese aristocrats began building houses for distinction. There houses were called shinden-zukuri. Its beautiful house with long hallways that stood in the middle of a very large garden. Many of the upper class particularly enjoyed the beauty of nature in the comforts of their home.
The Samurais in the ancient days also built their own distinctive houses. Called, shoin-zukuri, these are basically temple like structures, deriving its influence from Zen Buddhism. The main feature of this house is the shoin, or the study alcove, where art objects are displayed.
Common people lived in a gassho-styled house. These are farm houses, still existing today in the province of Kyoto. A gassho-styled house enables farmers to keep their cattles indoors.

3. Characteristics

There are several things you should know before you start to look for a home in Japan.
Homes with yards are fairly uncommon. When I say yards, I mean like what a community in the States would have. Here you might get enough room to have a BBQ grill and your bicycle and maybe a small shed. You also might have parking for 1-2 cars at you home, but don't be surprised if you have to walk a couple of minutes away to get to your car.
Sizes here are displayed in sq meters, so 1 sq meter is equal to 10.75 sqft. Also homes are listed the following way:

2K - two room home with kitchen
2DK - two room home with dining and kitchen area
3LDK - three room home with a living, dining and kitchen area
4SLDK- four room home with study, living, dining and kitchen area

They also come with a separate toilet and bath and a genkan area (entrance to home) is almost always present.
Also toilets and baths are in separate rooms in Japan. Most newer homes will come with a toilet upstairs and downstairs, but will only have a bathtub downstairs. Japanese bath tubs and showers, unlike America, are separated but in the same room. You take a shower next to the tub, then get in tub and soak. You do not take a bath in the tub, only relax. Also most Japanese tubs are set up with re circulation heaters. These tubs are nice because the heat will always be set at a specific temperature that you set. You can stay in the tub for hours and never have to worry about the tub getting cold. The down side to this is that American bubble bath is not good for the tub. Also the newer tubs will fill up and stop filling for you, just set the water level and temperature and go, when you return your bath will be ready.

Another surprise for Americans when they get to Japan is the heating and air conditioning units here. Unlike in the States, here you don't get central air and heat. The a/c heater units here are a lot smaller than those in the states. They only control the room they are in or a couple of rooms near them. Most homes come with two or three which should be enough for a 3 bedroom home. Just be careful in using these to much. They run off of electricity, which can be very expensive. Most Japanese families use kerosene heaters in the winter, which work very well. The newer heaters are very safe and clean. Your agent will explain how to use these to you as all the controllers are in Japanese.

Also the washer and dryers in Japan are different from what you are probably use to. Unlike in America were the washers and dryers hold a large amount of clothes, here 2 to 3 pair of jeans will fill the normal Japanese unit. Also cold water is the only water used off base to wash with. Most Japanese families do not use dryers because they use to much electricity and do not dry all that well. Most families tend to hand their cloths on the balcony or in the home and dry them that way. Also Japanese dryers do not vent out of them home but instead vent into the bathroom. Unfortunately American machines will not fit or work in Japanese homes.

4. Don't Worry

That being said....don't let what I said scare you. Just use this information for a base on what you should bring. Most of our customers are happy with their choice to live off base. Many decide to stay off base even after being offered housing. At first most people are overwhelmed by the lack of size but after moving in and getting settled they realize that it wasn't as small as they though. Also many wished they had brought other furniture. Let me know what type of furniture you have or would like to bring and I can let you know how difficult it will be to fit it into a home. I am here to help you with your move and believe me...I understand what it's like. I am also helping in the design of our homes so I try to get more American ideas into them. If you have any questions please email me and I will do my best to help you out.


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