A New Black Friday Sale, and Questions about Housing in Japan
Black Friday is here, and J-List has…a new sale for you! Our awesome Black Friday and Cyber Instant Bulk Discount Sale gets you up to $40 off orders you make for the rest of November! Start shopping now!
Ever since the “All Your Base Are Belong To Us” video exploded our Hotmail accounts back in 2001, the Internet has been driven by memes. While memes are fun to share online, they often don’t translate well from country to country. You or I might be familiar with “Yo Dawg” or “I see you’re a man of culture as well” but Japanese would not, while most of us don’t know American comedian Atsugiri Jason and his famous line, “Why, Japanese people?!”, which every person from the age of eight to eighty here knows. One meme that does cross cultures nicely is “A Fistful of Yen” which seems kind of fitting for our big new sale…
I was watching the newest episode of Himouto! Umaru-chan the other day and realized that the room Umaru and her brother Taihei share might look unique to people living outside Japan. So I asked my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram followers if they had any questions on housing in Japan they’d like answered. Here’s what we came up with!
What are Japanese apartments like?
There are two types of apartments in Japan: apaato, referring to an apartment in a building made of wood, and mansion, a word that’s been redefined to refer to units in higher-end buildings made of steel and concrete. (This linguistic change causes Japanese people to perceive the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland differently from us.)
How big are rooms?
They can be smaller than you might be used to. There are words like “3LDK” which describes an apartment with three bedrooms and a large living-dining-kitchen. Umaru’s room is small, just a 1K, with one main room and a small kitchen and bath. Room sizes are always described by the number tatami mats that would fit in the room if it were a tatami room. The room Umaru and Taihei share would be about a 10-mat room.
How much is rent in Japan?
Housing in Japan can be surprisingly affordable, for a few reasons. The Japan Asset Bubble — during which all the land in Tokyo was worth more than all the land in the USA on paper — burst in 1991, leading to an economic hangover that made 2008-2009 look like a stroll in the park. The effects of that bubble are only just wearing off, and Tokyo land prices started rising for the first time in decades, partially because of the 2020 Olympics. (Remember that local salaries have also been held down by the bursting of the bubble.)
In Tokyo the average apartment goes for $900, though you can get that down to $450 if you’re willing to live farther from the train station or in an older building. In Gunma, 100 km north of Tokyo, it’s even cheaper, $400-500 for an apartment with 2-3 rooms. Two factors that keep housing cheap are, Japan builds tons of new housing every year, plus up to 20% of houses in Japan are empty, inherited from dead parents just not needed. These properties are hard to sell or redevelop, because who would want to live in a “used” house?
Can Someone Making Minimum Wage Afford to Live?
It’s definitely easier here than in many other places. The average part-time wage in Tokyo is 1000 yen/US$10.94/€9.25, at the current exchange rate, though you can earn more by doing jobs others don’t want to do. One thing I’m happy about is the number of women in Japan who are able to take five years off for child raising before returning to work, since it’s not impossible to get by on the husband’s salary alone. I consider this a major achievement of modern Japanese society.
Do Japanese really rebuild their houses every 20 years?
During the tail end of the Tokyo bubble it was fashionable to 立て直し (tear down your old house and replace it with a new one), as a way to show off your wealth. These days it’d be more common to “reform” (what the Japanese call remodel) your existing home to fit your changing needs. My house is 40 years old and has been “reformed” many times.
Got any more questions about housing in Japan? Talk to us on social media!
Our Black Friday and Cyber Instant Bulk Discount Sale is live! Here’s how it works: through the end of November, get $5 off $40 or more, $20 off $100 or more, or $40 off $200 or more. Make a big order of awesome figures, traditional items, snacks of “naughty products” and save.