How we cope with a small living space.

15 Jul

How we live cleverly in such a small house.

In my previous post I introduced what kind of houses Japanese people are living in. I’m sure you’ve learned that we live in a small house, especially when we are located in Tokyo and somewhere close to it.
Then you’d wonder how we can fit in such a limited space.
This time I’ll tell you that.

round-hanger First of all, it’s not only that the floor area is small, but ceiling hight is only 2.4 meter or so in average. This maybe considered lower compared with other countries. Even if the area is small, the room will look larger if the ceiling is high, besides, ceiling hight doesn’t need land. That’s how I feel, but normally most of the room has around 2.4m hight. (Some apartments, especially targeting single,
is lofted but most of the cases, they try to show loft and forget about the small floor.)

In spite of limited space, we have to have so many stuff to live in Japan because we have 4 seasons every year. Shoes, clothing, comforter, home electronics, and etc. we need them for spring/summer and autumn/winter. Let’s take comforter for example. In summer, we use cotton blanket but in winter we use down quilt. We have to store down quilt during spring and summer season. Likewise, we need electric fan in summer but steam vaporizer in winter. (Air conditioner is wall-hung near the ceiling, so it’s always there.) Same goes with shoes and clothing, and the amount of these will be multiple as family member increases.

This being the case, in Japan, most of the nation suffer from how small storage space is.

*Disclaimer: The photos are quoted from Nihon Chokuhan, one of the most well-known TV shopiing companies in Japan.


That’s why it’s very natural that we need a rental storage like this to store extra things we cannot take care of at our house. Furniture is another option that we can make use of. Tatamigaoka lets us have Tatami floor and storage space at a time. Popular mail order company “DINOS” always has good collection of furniture with great devices for storage. I personally like Belle Maison too. Furniture makers make small furniture that will fit in a small house. Especially when it comes to single to live in a room under 20 square meters area, sofa, table, or bed must be minimal.
Young people before marriage or college students would like to shop funiture at stores such as Francfranc, One’s, Mujirushi, and etc. Unlike abundant spaced countries such as the U.S, Canada, or Australia, we cannot have a large kitchen, which means we have to make the most out of limited space with kitchen like this. (compact kitchen but good devices to store kitechen tools)

Well, I hope I answered to Ia, who kindly suggested I refer to this topic. If you watch Japanese TV dramas, the rooms may look better because usually designer apartments are used for location. :p


21 Responses to “How we cope with a small living space.”

  1. walkw/me July 15, 2009 at 9:45 pm #

    Thanks for share. Just dropping by here. Would you mind having an exchange link with me?

    • kirin July 16, 2009 at 12:15 am #

      For ex-links, I'd put your link (text link) to the links page (
      If that's OK with you, please proceed and let me know when you finish mine. I'll then confirm it and do for yours. πŸ˜‰

  2. megan July 16, 2009 at 4:46 am #

    The tatamigaoka is neat! We have vacuum things like the one pictured in America (though I've only seen them on TV), but I haven't seen a clothing rack like that before, in a house at least.
    It's nice to have so many things to help save space. I plan on moving out soon, and one thing I'm worried about is having enough space (for two people).

    • kirin July 17, 2009 at 2:21 am #

      "Help save space" that's it, that is what I meant, but I didn't come up with the way of saying. Writing a blog in English is really good to me to improve my English. πŸ™‚

      Did you like Tatamigaoka? When you hear the brand name "Panasonic" you might hit Japanese famous company of electric devices, but in Japan, Panasonic deals with so many kinds of things including house as "Pana home"! πŸ˜€

  3. Walter July 16, 2009 at 9:02 pm #

    Hello Kirin,
    how are you ? That's a very interesting post . I remember living in a 1 room apartment for 6 years ( like 7 by 5 meters , including the kitchen ) and a separate bathroom, that's about 22 tatami's ?
    Now I live in a house I built with much more space , but I find I buy and keep more stuff around than I used to have in the small apartment, so maybe a smaller space is not a bad thing ?
    A ceiling of 2m40 is not bad ! Mine are 2m50 and that's not cramped at all. Old houses here used to have higher ceilings, but were a pain to heat in winter !

    • kirin July 17, 2009 at 2:28 am #

      Hi Walter, nice to have you back again!
      1 tatami mat is approx. 0.9m x 1.8m or smaller than that. (It's tricky but there are several tatami sizes. Tokyo tatami standard size is smaller than Kyoto one, and apartment tatami size is smaller than Tokyo one. Here's image.

      Anyway, I thought people in Europe live in a house of high ceilings. :p Thanks for your comment!

  4. n a n d a July 18, 2009 at 2:56 am #

    omg that compact kitchen is wonderful! what an invention! ❀

    i live in small house and ordinary furniture available in stores won't fit in so we had to custom made almost everything =/

    btw, would you link to exchange link? i already put yours in my blog. thank you! πŸ™‚

    • kirin July 19, 2009 at 2:00 am #

      Hi nanda!
      Thank you for the ex-links. Please wait for yours I'll work on it later. :p
      BTW is this your new blog? Somehow I think it is the first time I see your blog. It's cute! πŸ™‚

  5. n a n d a July 19, 2009 at 2:29 am #

    thank you so much for visiting and commenting ❀
    i already fix the name πŸ˜‰

  6. Miss Ia July 20, 2009 at 7:11 pm #

    Hi Kirin! Thank you for posting this. πŸ˜€ It's so interesting to see the solutions the Japanese come up with. I'll be moving into a small apartment myself next year, and I think I'll be investing in a shiki futon (any tips for them?) so that I don't have to worry about the standard bed. I love that compact kitchen! I wish they'd have those here! haha

    • kirin July 21, 2009 at 6:12 am #

      The goodness about bed mattress is that we don't have to dry it in the sun. But what about futon? If you spread shikibuton (shiki+futon=shikibuton) directly on the floor, there's no air passing between the futon and floor, and that's why Japanese people dry futon (both shikibuton and kakebuton = comforter or blanket) in the sun very often.

      By doing that, we can keep futon soft and free from (I won't say 100% but) bacteria and house mites (especially they like to live in tatami mats :(…) That's why we'd prefer wood flooring and bed like western people and our traditional way of tatami and futon is not popular especially for young people, because we are lazy to dry it in the sun and because we long for western culture. :p But I know it's quite opposite and there are many western people who think Japanese tatami and futon life is so cool. It's very interesting that people like to have what they don't.

      • JonBon August 26, 2010 at 8:51 am #

        The shikibuton is a compelling thing to me due to my having had 2 failed innerspring mattresses in the past 5 years. The amount of extra maintenance with the shikibuton is a factor I'm weighing against the support I want for my back, and the much desired extra space it would provide when not in use. Of course, I have to find a place for all the stuff under my bed…

      • kirin August 27, 2010 at 2:30 am #

        2 failed mattresses in 5 years?! I use Sealy bed. It was rather expensive but it's got 10 years warranty and to me it's the best of all. I like this bed more than any beds from any hotels. I've wanted to sleep on bed for years, as Shikibuton is kinda hard to me. But when you have a problem on your back, I believe hard mattress or futon is better than soft one. Take care. πŸ™‚

  7. riotnikki August 2, 2009 at 8:19 am #

    I used to live in some pretty small apartments when I was in college and later when I was just married. We go by the square foot here in the US. My first apartment after I was married was 350 square feet which is about 32 square meters. We then moved into what is called a "shotgun shack" style house that was 400 square feet. Eventually we moved into a house that was 1,500 square feet (about 140 square meters) that seemed enormous to us! We didn't know what to do with all that room after living in such small apartments. Now I live in a house that is 1,800 square feet (168 square meters) and it is very spacious, though my kitchen is rather small. It is perfect though for me to cook in and everything is accessible. I don't really like a big kitchen. The house I grew up in was large by any standards (except Hollywood were people live in 25,000 square foot mansions) at 4,500 square feet (418 square meters) but I think houses like that are too big. My personal preference is smaller is better. I like a cottage.

    • kirin August 2, 2009 at 2:32 pm #

      I had a feeling that people in the U.S or Canada live in a large house because they have vast land. In fact, the houses I saw or stayed while I was studying at a college in California when I was a university student ( I was one-year exchange student then) were bigger compared with Japanese average ones. It was such a surprise to me they live in a house with only 1st floor, no stairs. But still they had enough space.

      So when I read your comment, only 32 square meters for 2 people was another kind of surprise to me. My hubby and I live in 75 square meters apartment now, but this is designed for family with kids, and so many other neighbors live in the same type of house with 1 or 2 kids.
      But yet, you can see how small my kitchen is from the cooking videos.

  8. wen October 4, 2009 at 4:00 am #

    Hi Kirin,

    1st time here..
    was thinking does bellemaison ships their product to Singapore?
    Saw a few nice sofa…
    thanks ^^

    • kirin October 8, 2009 at 1:53 pm #

      Sorry for late reply. Unfortunately it seems they don't deliver their products overseas. You could combine with other service as introduced in this post.
      This means you buy from bellemaison and ship the goods to the renting address in Japan, which is what you pay for the company such as serende, and they will ship them to you. It will cost extra money but at a moment there's no other way. Sorry for that. 😦

  9. Cath November 22, 2009 at 7:50 pm #

    Absolutely love this blog! Thank you!

  10. Michelle March 3, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    Thank you for writing this article! I found it very useful since I am moving to a very small apartment in Tokyo. Thanks to the links in your article, I now have some good ideas about how to layout my space ^_^

    • kirin March 5, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

      I'm happy to hear that my post was helpful to you~! πŸ™‚

  11. Jack Smith April 20, 2013 at 4:16 am #

    I like your point with regards on your post, It seems to be interesting and great to hang out with friends.

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