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 this....dad 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!