Saturday, April 5, 2008

Things you might not have known about Japan-Homes

I get asked questions about Japan so I thought I would share some rather interesting things I have learned about over the years. This one will be about homes.

1)Japanese homes go down in value over the years and are only built to last about 30 years. When you buy a house in Canada, you buy the house (in most cases). Here you buy the land so most people tear down the house,even if it is only 10 years old, and build a new one.

2)New houses being built today *might* have insulation but most don't. Walls are paper thin.

3)There is no central heat or air conditioning in most of Japan. It is cold enough to snow where I live but there is no heat. Every winter many old people die of shock in the bathroom and I totally understand why. When I take a bath or shower in the winter...I might as well be outside because the house is usually about the same temperature. Japanese heat each room individually so if you are in the living room, you might use the heat but there will be no heat in the rest of the house. It takes some getting used to!!

4)Many houses still have only 1 toilet-even if there are 5 people in the house.

5)Most houses are built like this....1 kitchen/dining/living room combination, a tatami room (a room that is covered with tatami, mats made of hard-packed straw covered with woven rushes), and some bedrooms. No basements, attics, play rooms, dens , laundry rooms,etc.In Canada an ad for a house reads like "4 bedroom 3 bathroom...2000 sqft" etc but in japan it looks like "4ldk" which means "4 rooms plus living/dining/kitchen" so those 4 rooms are probably 1 tatami room, and 3 other rooms which would mostly be used for bedrooms plus there will be a bathroom.

6) Bathrooms-bathrooms are divided in a Japanese house so that actually there is a "toilet"room and a "bath" room. The toilet is a completely different room so that someone could be in taking a bath and someone else can use the toilet. The "bath" area of the bathroom is meant to get completely wet as Japanese scrub their bodies with soap while sitting on little stools next to the tub and get in the tub after they have rinsed off. Everyone uses the same water in the bath (ok after 10 years I still think it is gross and I love my honey but I'm not using his bath water!). It usually goes like uses the bath first followed by the kids and finally the mom. The next day (as they always bathe in the evening/night), many women (notice I use the word women as most men don't do laundry) attach a special pump and tube to the bath and drain the water into the washing machine to clean the clothes. Very economical!! And that is why they don't use soap in the water while taking a bath.

7) Bedrooms-Many parents don't have their own rooms-it is still very normal for the whole family to sleep together when the kids are young. I'm not talking just about moms and dads sleeping with a new born in their room. I'm talking about parents sleeping with 2 or 3 kids ages up to 12 (one of students slept with her son like this) all sharing one big futon on the floor. This is probably why love hotels are so popular since getting some "love" time with your honey isn't likely to happen when your kids are in the same bed (and when the walls are paper thin)! This isn't true for everyone of course but it is the norm in Japan and some of my friends do this.

8) Most Japanese don't have dryers so they all hang their laundry outside which is great until it rains or snows or there is a typhoon. And don't forget, Japan has a rainy season!

So...there are a few things about Japanese homes that you might not have known! I'm sure there are more and I will post them when I remember them!


melissa, aka maoiliosa said...

very interesting! i can't wait for future installments of 'things you might not have known about japan' :).

hope you're doing well!

Mariska said...

Very interesting. I've been to japan a few years ago and I love reading your blog! I hope to visit Japan again someday!

sofia said...

Hey Melissa-thanks! I'm planning more...there are so many interesting things that I'm guessing many don't know about.

Mariska-thanks! Where did you go in Japan? Just visiting?

Amal said...

Sofia! I came across your blog while on etsy ,I live in hawaii so I do see lots of japanese people.I also have japanese friends and I just love visiting your blog and reading about all your experiences and info.My honey and I would love to visit japan but I am kind of nervous to do so unless I go with a group which I usually don't like I prefer to roam on my own and explore if you ever get a chance or time I would love some Ideas for english speakers that want to visit for the first time.

Pineapple Princess said...

Hey it's me just above (Amal) Lol!! forgot to mention I love you guys work do you mind if I feature you in my very humble blog

sofia said...

Hi Amal aka pineapple princess- thanks for the kind words. And please-I would be honored if you feature us in your blog! As for the traveling....I understand what you are saying about being nervous coming here alone but I would still say try to come without a tour if you can. I`m sure, at least in Tokyo ( I will ask my friend Sachiko, who lives there, about this) you can find a 1 day only tour to get you aquainted with the city before wandering around on your own. I love your idea about tips for travellers....will have to do that soon!

Jenevy said...

interesting indeed,.
i can relate about bathing during winter time,.before i enter the bathroom i always have to splash hot water on the bathroom's floor coz it's really difficult to step on it,.


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