What’s in a Tokyo home?

Did I mention that we live in a mansion in Tokyo? Now I know what you may be thinking — a mansion like Beverly Hills with big gardens and golden gates and swimming pools and marble floors? I wish! The short answer is NO. Such a thing does not exist in Japan! In Japan the word ‘mansion’ is the strange term used to describe a sort of bigger multi-room condo, as opposed to a typical tiny one-room apartments or studios much like the one I lived in when I worked here as a humble English teacher. In fact, we are very lucky to be able to rent this place, because we are getting it for cheap from a family member whose parents used to live here but died over six months ago and haven’t been able to find new tenants. Otherwise we would not be able to afford mansion living in one of the most expensive cities in the world!

So, what’s in a Tokyo mansion? Well there’s the kitchen…

Gets a bit crowded in there!


Then there’s the living room, next to a nice balcony…



Then my favourite is the tatami room. Tatami are the floor mats made of rice straw. The size is standardised and usually rooms are designed to fit a certain number of tatami. For example, this tatami room where we sleep has six tatami — and is the same size as my first tiny apartment, believe it or not! In today’s Japanese homes usually only one room has tatami, but in the real old fashioned houses I’ve visited in Japan, particularly in the countryside, there are huge rooms and hallways covered with tatami. Tatami are very expensive, with usually one mat costing over US $150. However tatami last a long time so as considered a good investment for a new home. The tatami we have here is brand spanking new and the smell is extraordinary and fragrant. I really love opening the sliding doors at night and being greeted by the scent of fresh tatami.


Tatami room, with sliding doors separating it from the living room


There are two small rooms at the back of the mansion, but they are nothing really to write home about, and only accommodate a single bed. Right now they are both full of junk and boxes so I won’t bother to show a picture.

So that’s the grand tour of our Tokyo mansion!

7 thoughts on “What’s in a Tokyo home?

  1. i have an urge to smell tatami now.
    I’ve always loved the whole sliding doors between rooms look. I saw someone make a sliding door in their studio flat to separate the bedroom and living space – and they made it out of Ikea cupboards. It was pretty amazing looking.

  2. Yes, we sleep in the tatami room on futons! The smell is just so wonderful. By the way, futons are not couches. In Japan futons are roll-up beds to save on space. Not sure why in the west futons are either couches or blankets??

  3. That kitchen is remarkably similar in size and design to the kitchen in our first apartment here in Morocco (except yours is much prettier looking). The apartment we live in now, though, has an open living/dining/kitchen area, which is much more pleasant, I think, when one’s kitchen space is…well…limited. And, since I’m from the American west, I probably judge most “foreign” kitchen space as “limited.”

  4. Well I definitely miss having a huge kitchen with a REAL oven for baking chickens and lasagnas and so on! We have a small 3-burner stove and a toaster oven which of course is very limited. But I suppose baking is not such a huge thing in Asia… not in the land where rice is eaten every day! Is it the same in Morocco, or do you have an oven?

  5. I think futons became couches in the U.S. because they’re so much cheaper than real couches.

    Poor college students had futons all the time because it was hip and way cheaper than a good mattress set, and if they were wealthy enough they’d buy a frame that folded it up into a couch (or pick one up on a corner that somebody got rid of). Then people would only use them as a couch and not a mattress. I’ve never heard them called blankets though.

    NOw I want to smell tatami!

  6. Our oven is one step up from a toaster oven. I’m thankful for it even though it’s nothing compared to ovens back home.

    Bread seems to be eaten for every meal here, but fresh bread can be purchased quite cheaply at almost any store. And the traditional way of baking bread is in communal ovens, not personal ovens at home…

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