LWIF X EP4: What is an Average Japanese Apartment Like?

So, what IS an average Japanese apartment like? My daughter and I created a video tour of our apartment and I was surprised at the number of comments saying that the place was big (thrown in with a mix of contradictory comments saying it was small). What sparked my interest in creating a response video was this comment:


Was I misleading the world? Is my family living it up and I didn’t even realize it?

After a few days of thinking and a few hours of research, I’ve come to the conclusion that while we are very, very, well of in comparison to most of the inhabitants on earth, for a Tokyo family of four we are quite average. Average income with an above average apartment (マンシオン – mansion) size (but not really too above average for a family not living in the core of Tokyo). By the way, In Japan, apartments that have more than 3 stories and are made of concrete are usually called mansions.

What is the average income of people in Japan? You can follow the links below to see:

The thing about Tokyo and the 23 wards within it, is that at the core things get very expensive. Once you get a bit out of the core, it’s more affordable. Go figure. However, Tokyo’s 23 wards is that not big geographically, so by train you can’t get from one end to another in roughly an hour. No matter where you live in Tokyo’s 23 wards, you’re in decent commuting distance.

What exactly is the size of our apartment? It’s 70 square metres (753 square feet). It’s a 3LDK, which means 3 bedrooms, a living room, dining room, and a kitchen. It also has one bathing room, a sink/laundry room, and a toilet room. For a 3LDK this may be on the large side. I’ve found units that are from 10 square metres smaller to 10 square metres bigger. If you’re not living in the core of Tokyo, I don’t think the size of the 3LDK is especially large, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s larger than 3LDK units found closer to the centre of Tokyo.

If you want to search for apartment rentals in Japan, it’s very easy to do so online. What you will find, is that expat (read: English) sites are generally more expensive and are focused on the core of Tokyo. I did find one English site that seemed to have more “regular” person listings though. If you head on over to a Japanese site, you’ll find much more options at much better prices.

Here’s the links to the places I found in the video, which may or not be working depending on when you view this:

We were able to get our apartment through a real estate agent. This apartment was part of a rent stabilization / subsidy program, which you can read up about here. It’s in Japanese, but if you Google translate you can learn a bit. What I found interesting, was that it’s not for low income people; It’s for mid-income level people. There are special housing units for low-income people (and they’re not necessarily ghetto). I saw on TV how they’re building these huge new complexes for social housing. I’d love to take a look and see what those units are like.

Where I think some commenters and I may have been tripped up a bit, is in the use of the word apartment. In Canada, the term “apartment” is generally used for any place that was designed to be rented. The term “condo” is generally used for apartment buildings that are meant to be owned. Of course there are condo units that are actually townhouses and there are also condos that are rented out like apartments.

In Japan, the term “アパート”(Apāto) is an abbreviation of apartment. The term “マンシオン” (manshon) is from the English term mansion, but it usually describe a condo unit or a rental unit that is made from concrete and is at least three stories tall. There’s not a solid definition forマンシオン, but it’s generally of higher quality than anアパート. We live in a  マンシオン. I didn’t want to confuse any English speaking viewers by saying mansion, so we used the word apartment, as that’s what you’d call a rental unit in Canada. So, depending on whether you’re talking to an English speaker or a Japanese speaker, terminology can get mixed  up.

Here’s something I found in Wikipedia:

A one-room mansion (wan rūmu manshon ワンルームマンション) is a Japanese apartment style in which there is only one small room (10 m2 or 3.0 tsubo or 110 sq ft in many cases) and usually a compact bathroom. It is the functional equivalent of the Western-style studio apartment. These units are most often rented by single individuals due to their extremely small size; it is hard for more than one person to reside in them. Most of Japan’s city apartment blocks have rooms such as these although family units (around 60 to 90 m2 or 18 to 27 tsubo or 650 to 970 sq ft in size) are more common, especially in the suburbs.

I hope this clarifies things a bit about what an average Japanese apartment is like.

tldr; Japanese apartments designed for individuals are really small, while family units are bigger. Apartments get larger in size the farther they are from the centre of Tokyo.