Crazy Small Japanese Apartment Design- Here’s What It Is Like

Most cities in Japan suffer from high population and expensive cramped living conditions. Therefore the apartments have been downsized to be relatively small by the U.S. or European standards. But there is a type of crazy small Japanese apartment that takes locals by surprise too. How is it possible to living minimally in a downright tiny space? Let’s have a look at the following innovative design and how owners can make use of every inch of space!

Micro Apartment Trend in Japan

small Japanese apartment

Micro-apartment is a one-room, self-contained living space.

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In fact, micro-apartment which is a one-room, self-contained living space, has become a global solution to the housing crisis in cities. They are designed to accommodate a sitting space, sleeping space, bathroom, and kitchenette within 14–32 square meters (150–350 square feet). In Japan, “three-mat apartments” (each mat is about 0.91m x 1.82 m) are dominating urban areas like Tokyo, with the monthly rental price starting from ¥50,000 ($450). The reasons will be mentioned below.

Low-priced accommodation

The majority of micro-apartment tenants are young people in their twenties or thirties. They may be students or fresh graduates and just get started with their first full-time jobs. Condos in bustling areas of Tokyo which costs over ¥100,000 a month are certainly out of their reach. There are cheap options but they are likely to be old, deteriorated rooms with moldy tatami flooring.

small Japanese apartment

The majority of micro-apartment tenants are young people in their twenties or thirties.

On the other hand, mini-apartment only costs between ¥50,000 and ¥80,000 a month. Despite their low rent, micro-apartments tend to be newly built and full of modern facilities. If you plan to live alone, micro-apartment is the most affordable. Besides, small space means less money towards utility bills such as air conditioning or heating. Considering Japanese humidity in summer and coldness in winter, small apartments can save up quite a bit of yen.

Convenient Location

Many Japanese are tired of commuting long-distance day and night to go to work and go back home. With an affordable budget, they can instead rent a small modern apartment near the office, even in the most central metropolitan area of Tokyo such as Ebisu. The size doesn’t really matter now as they spend most of the most at work and home seems like a place only to sleep.

Minimal Lifestyle

Astonishingly small apartments are extremely popular among young people as they find this new minimal style of living affordable, innovative, and still meet all their fundamental needs. The minimal style suggests dwellers not accumulate furniture that they don’t need to keep their rooms as sparse and tidy as possible. There are some interesting gadgets or items specialized for this style of the house, such as futons (or pull-down beds), folding tables, hidden appliances. Most students and young professionals don’t own a television, since their smartphones or laptops are the better alternatives. They may even not need a fridge, claiming that the convenience store is their refrigerator.

Crazy Small Japanese Apartment Design

1. Micro 1R Small Japanese Apartment in Tokyo

Size: 8 – 12 square meters

In the word “1R”, R stands for Room. So it literally describes a one-room studio apartment, the smallest type of condo in Japan. A normal 1R apartment floor space ranges from 13-sqm to 20-sqm. If you can find an apartment that is smaller than 13-sqm, it is downright tiny even by Japanese standards.

Most of these apartment has a high ceiling to compromising for narrow, hall-like shape. There is usually a loft for sleeping purposes (plus a ladder to climb up) and a window to bring the light indoors. Lucky enough, you can find one with a balcony, though it is unlikely.

small Japanese apartment

There is usually a loft for sleeping purposes (plus a ladder to climb up).

Expect the kitchen to be too narrow to cook a hearty meal since there is hardly any space for food preparation. One solution is to use a chopping board the same size as the sink, keep the ingredients simple or eat out. Of course, the bathroom is unit one (shower and toilet). A smart way to design this wet room area is to have a basin that can cover the toilet when rotating.

Expect the kitchen to be too narrow to cook a hearty meal since there is hardly any space for food preparation.

To have a more realistic idea about the micro 1R apartments, refer to this housing tour video. It unveils the life of a young Australian traveler in Tokyo named Emma in her beloved 8-sqm condo, which costs her monthly ¥‎69,000 (US$600) including some utilities, for example, wifi.

2.      Nakagin Capsule Tower

Size: 10 sqm

Actually, the whole concept of crazy small Japanese apartments has appeared since 1972 when the Nakagin Capsule Tower was constructed. After 50 years, the building is still an iconic futuristic structure, symbolizing the Ginza district. From outside, the tower looks like a pile of randomly put washing machines. Indeed, each cube is a 10sqm (107-sqft) apartment.

From outside, the tower looks like a pile of randomly put washing machines.

The building architecture Kisho Kurokawa, a leading figure in the Metabolist movement, intends to make Nakagin a second home to wealthy businessmen or doctors who have to stay overnight near their workplaces. Of course, it aimed to attract residents who dream about fashionable nightlife in Ginza. In its prime time, there was even a team called “capsule ladies” to do secretarial services. Nowadays, most of the remaining occupied capsules serve as offices, others host foreigners especially those who work in the creative industries. Many salarymen also hire a room via Airbnb in case they miss the last train. The room has only basic functions. A big round window permanently seals and the bathroom is as small as that on the airplane. Up till now, the fitting hasn’t changed a bit, so you will see tape recorders and dial-up phones.

A big round window permanently seals and the bathroom is as small as that on the airplane.

Unfortunately, this remarkable architect is prone to demolition soon due to the wear-and-tear situation and the redevelopment scheme of the local authority. Furthermore, its experimental construction techniques of Nakagin really make it difficult for maintenance, such as plumbing or service lines. And not many people stay long-term or buy capsule Nakagin, claiming the room is small but the design doesn’t try to maximize the space use. So the crazy small apartment of Nakagin Capsule Tower is on the brink of disappearing and any keen visitors should be quick to make one last interesting stay here.

small Japanese apartment

The room has only basic functions.

3.      Ququri studio apartments

Size: 4.64 square meters to 9 square meters

Unlike Nakagin, a new and even smaller kind of Japanese apartment, Ququri is sold out in all its Tokyo branches (1,200 rooms in total). One huge plus point is Ququri branches are scattered in the busiest downtown areas including Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Ebisu. Young people love to stay near such entertainment hot spots. And it is also easier to catch a train to anywhere from Ququri so students and workers can lessen their commute time.

One huge plus point is Ququri branches are scattered in the busiest downtown areas including Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Ebisu.

A floorplan of Ququri 9-sqm apartment complex.

The real estate company behind the project, Spilytus is really proud of their design for Ququri line of apartments. Like most modern micro-apartment, Spilytus has a sleeping loft fitting a folded futon or compact mattress. Right under the loft are the compact fully-furnished kitchen, the area of the wet room separating by a corridor. Guess what? When I mention the area of the wet room, I mean there are 2 distinct rooms, a private toilet, and a shower. In no other small apartments, can you find such luxuries.

Right under the loft are the compact fully-furnished kitchen, bathroom, and toilet separating by a corridor.

And still, there is left a floor space for dwellers to put any other furniture according to their liking, ranging from desks, wardrobes, plants to yoga mats, weights. The builder manages to install an indoor washing machine hookup in every Ququri condo, while in most other small apartments, you have to leave it outside. It just seems Spilytus company found a way to hackspace.

small Japanese apartment

There is left a floor space for dwellers to put any other furniture according to dwellers’ liking

The Ququri rent costs from 50,000 yen (US$455) to 80,000 yen a month, depending on the neighborhoods. But that’s it. No more fees are charged, even key money or deposit, move-in fees, lease renewal fee, or internet, which totally can be up to four to five-month rent.

How to Live Big in a Small Japanese Apartment

In Tokyo, one of the biggest and most populous cities on earth, it is unavoidable to end up renting the tiniest apartment. Looking on the bright side, it is the most affordable and convenient option. Besides, you are not alone, many people not only survive living in such a compact space and they even thrive on a comfy life there. Here are some tips that help you do the same.

Here are 10 tips to make the most of a typical Tokyo apartment with small rooms, less space, and low ceilings.

Smart layout design

small Japanese apartment

We recommend finding a condo with a loft to increase the floor space and high ceilings, big windows, light-colored walls are plus points.

You must start with choosing the right micro-apartment. Not all 1R or 1K layouts are the same. Some have less space, a low ceiling which makes them look even smaller. We recommend finding a condo with a loft to increase the floor space and high ceilings, big windows, light-colored walls are plus points. Also, avoid apartments that lack space for washing machines if you want to lead a life with sanity. Storage space such as sizable wardrobes, genkan (entrance) or oshiire (closets for futon and bedding) is another factor to keep in mind.

Less is more

The smaller your apartment is, the less furniture you should try to put in. Some unnecessary items including chairs, tables, storage boxes can be eliminated. One piece of advice is to purchase only a few right-sized goods instead of a lot of small-sized items.

Get the right furniture

A set of coffee tables and zaisu (floor chairs without arms or legs

When mentioning right-sized goods, we also exclude the big, bulky items that will cost you a lot of space. Versatile or multi-functional furniture will be much wiser choices. For instance, Nitori, Muji, or many independent sellers offer chic foldaway tables and chairs that you can stow in the closet or on the balcony. Or you can buy a set of coffee tables and zaisu (floor chairs without arms or legs) which you can pull out to use anytime. Regarding the bed, buy a comfy futon comprising of Shikibuton (mattress) and kakebuton (duvet). The total set commonly costs between ¥5,000 and ¥30,000 in supermarkets.

Use your style to decorate

It doesn’t need to be an expensive makeover for your apartment. A mirror will be an effective investment to make the room feel spacious. Or spending a few hundred yen on postcards and art prints can still create a stylish impact. Adding and matching items such as pillows, carpets are not difficult. But use neutral light colors such as beige, or light grey, or cream which will make the room brighter and less busy or cluttered.

Keep the room clean and tidy

By spending a few minutes a day cleaning, you can maintain the living space sanctuary.

The small room usually gets dirty more quickly but at the same time, it takes no time to clean that mess. By spending a few minutes a day cleaning, you can maintain the living space sanctuary. Besides, the Japanese invent some creative tools to assist the cleaning task such as microfiber cleaning slippers or a pack of quirky, octopus-shaped sponges.

FAQs

Could You Live In A Place This Small!?

Yes. Even though, it can be annoying sometimes to make spaces this small (5-12 sqm) work for sleeping, cooking, eating, working out… But with patience and ingenuity, you can create a neat and well-organized apartment to lead a healthy and comfy life.

Does the wall in these small apartments soundproof?

Not just in the micro-apartments, a lot of normal apartments have thin walls, especially in wooden buildings. And wall made of insulation is a luxury in a high-end condo. But Japanese are usually cautious not to make the noise affecting the neighbors, so it would not be such a big deal. Keep in mind that you should do the same thing. Don’t play loud music, run your washing machine, throw parties too late or too early.

Who lives in the crazy small apartments?

Mostly students, fresh graduates,s or salarymen during their 20s or 30s.

About Yuu Sato

Yuu Hiasa has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.