rural houses of japan

Japanese Housing vs. American Housing

Although traditional Japanese housing is becoming less and less common as Japan becomes increasingly westernized since the laboriousness of building a traditional Japanese house compared to a Western style one is expensive, there are still considerable differences between a modern Japanese house and a typical American house. Ivey and I talked about the smallest things we’ve never even noticed that are different, and that inspired me to write a post of the differences and the common courtesies/manners of visiting a house in Japan.

Here’s the view from my window. I live in the country, so most of the houses are traditional style. Go 30 minutes into the city, however, and the housing will be completely different:


Here’s Ivey’s view (looks way cooler to me lol):

1. Shoes

In Japan, no matter what type of house it is, you pretty much always take your shoes off in the 玄関ー genkan (entrance), which is sort of the equivalent to a “foyer” (I guess?). This is so as not to track dirt inside the house. It’s already a mystery to me why Americans enter their houses without taking their shoes off, it would be bothersome to clean up later. 
In general, you take your shoes off at the door and wear socks around the house, except in the bathroom, where you wear separate shoes (because the bathroom floor is dirty, and why would you only wear socks into the bathroom and then bring that dirt into the rest of the house with your socks).

2. Bathrooms

“Wait, so is the bathtub in a separate room from the toilet?” -Ivey

Of course they are separated from each other. Even if we live in such a house with wooden floors instead of tatami, our bathtub is usually separated from a toilet. I mean, why do we want to have them in a same place? It’s so inconvenient. You can’t use a toilet while someone else is taking a bath, it’s almost impossible to keep the lid of the toilet from wetting when you’re taking a shower, etc. Somehow hotels usually have Western style bathrooms though. 
There are houses with Western style bathroom as well, (which is called 3点式ユニットバス?) but it’s not popular here, I guess.

This is for men and women.

The controls are for the toilet: the 小 button on the right is for pee, and the 大 button on the left is for…well, you know.
おしり is to clean your butt, やわらか is basically the same thing but weaker, ビデ is like English “bidet”, and 乾燥 is to dry.

This is only for men.
Why do men want to use this? It’s mystery.
You can see the bathroom slippers on the floor. When entering the bathroom we always put on the slippers because the floor is dirty.

My house is kind of old, so I guess it’s rare to have both kinds of those toilets in the house.

3. Doors

I mean, of course we have Western style door, too, but Ivey pointed out how cool the sliding “paper” doors (襖 ー fusuma) are and after taking a picture and looking at it again, it’s beginning to look cool to me too, lol. 

Flooring

The traditional type flooring is becoming less popular because they have to be replaced often because they get moldy easily, many houses have 畳 (tatami) flooring. Basically, it’s a sort of woven straw mat. Tatami is actually so common that it’s usually a unit of measurement in Japanese houses and apartments (instead of __ square meters, rooms will often be measured as __ tatami mats). They’re pretty soft, I guess like a carpet. However, you never wear shoes on tatami (it would ruin the floor, plus, shoes are very dirty anyhow, as said before).
If you’ve ever wondered why it’s a cultural norm to sit and sleep on the floor, this is why. Often people with tatami floors sleep with a futon (no “bed frame”) and use cushions to sit on instead of chairs (chair would ruin the floor).
Newer Western houses will usually have just one tatami room nowadays, but generally Japanese people feel nostalgia for tatami.
You can see my room has tatami flooring in the picture above. 

-Todd