Tiny living spaces in Japan: How to live in a little space

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When living in Japan, you’ll likely find that whether you’re in a share house or your own apartment you’ll have somewhat limited space. This is pretty common for a densely populated country so you’ve got to make the most of it and optimise that space to the max.

We’ve put together a few tips and tricks for tiny living spaces in Japan that will help you make your new place a proper home.

Just how big is a Japanese apartment?

As you may have seen from your favourite anime or Japanese TV shows, the apartment itself is often small and the spaces within them are too.

There are many very small apartments similar to the western ‘studio apartment’. These are known as one-room mansions (ワンルームマンション, wan rūmu manshon). They often have a small kitchen area with a small bathroom and one room that is around 10m2 or a 110sqft. If you are looking to live on your own, this may be the type of place you will find within an affordable price range. If you’re unsure where to start with this, have a look at our article on finding accommodation in Japan.

So with only 110sqft to use, what’s the best way to make the most of your space?

Futons and furniture

There’s a reason that the futon is one of the central items of furniture within the Japanese home. It’s perfectly designed to be a super comfy bed and to fold away neatly and fit within your apartment storage. This then means that even if you only have one room you can make the most of it as it will serve two different purposes during the day and the night. Ultimately the futon will work best on a tatami floor as this is softer and has a small amount of spring to it. Don’t worry though as you can buy thicker futons if necessary and it’s not hugely different.

If you’re fortunate enough to have your own apartment, it may already come with a washing machine. But if it doesn’t, I wouldn’t worry about it. Particularly in the cities, coin laundries are all over the place, make the most of them. You don’t even need to worry about your laundry just stick it in the machine and come back when it’s done. In such a safe society, you don’t need to worry about people pinching your laundry. While you’re there it’s also worth making use of the driers. Unless you have a balcony, you’ll soon find that your entire place is filled up with your washing drying and it’ll soon get smelly.

If there are other ways that you can avoid getting some of the larger items of furniture then it’s worth doing.

For example, central heating isn’t as standard in Japanese homes as it is in many western ones and you will want to avoid investing in any additional heaters where you can. That’s why there are some uniquely innovative items of furniture in Japan such as the Kotatsu table. It can be multi-functional when it comes to its uses as a table and it’s great for keeping you warm in the winter.

Have you KonMari’d yet?

Mari Kondo has recently hit the world by storm but she’s been around in Japan for much longer and there’s a reason for this. It’s because the spaces in Japan are small and the way you store your stuff needs to be efficient.

Now there are some elements that we don’t support such as disposing of all the items you don’t need in the bin. We recommend either donating it or upcycling it where you can. There are plenty of second-hand stores around; you just have to seek them out.

However, the techniques for folding can be surprisingly useful for fitting your clothes in your wardrobe and draws both neatly and efficiently. Furthermore, keeping in mind to only buy or keep the items that you use and need is a very useful way to live. You’ll also find that keeping your home tidy becomes super important when you don’t have much space. It’s amazing how small a space can seem if it’s full of stuff.

Get organised

One of the best ways to deal with your small but perfectly formed home is to get organised. One thing Japan excels at (among so many other things) is the organisation of everything. This includes homes and in order to enable you to organise your space, it has kindly developed several ranges of storage systems, containers, and items to help you sort your stuff neatly and efficiently.

Whether you’re looking for some slightly more upmarket storage units or need to stick to a tight budget, there are plenty of stores to help you on your way. Our personal favourite is Muji, they have a range of solutions for most budgets and of course are beautifully designed.

On the other end of the spectrum are 100 yen stores such as Daiso. They won’t have as many larger items but they can be very useful for kitchen containers, bento boxes, chopstick containers and more. Check out our article for the full overview of what’s on offer.

If you’re smart about the way you organise your space and make sure to buy the right furniture, you can make your tiny living space in Japan a cozy home.

If you like to read more about Japanese culture, make sure to follow our blog where we cover everything you need to know about Japan!

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