Understanding the Layouts of Japanese Apartments

When relocating to Japan, either for school or work, you have to look for accommodations. Now you find yourself searching online for housing and apartments and faced with a plethora of confusing terminology. What are 1R, 1DK, and 3LDK? Can I afford to live in a “mansion”? The size of the room is shown in tatami but what does that even mean?

Most listings will be posted in “numbers + letters” to describe the number of rooms and space available in an accommodation. Knowing what the abbreviations stand for will help you navigate Japanese floor plans and survive apartment hunting in Japan.

What is the difference between a Mansion and an Apartment?

マンション(manshon) is not “the mansion” we know in the Western world. In Japan, it  is a multi-family residential building which is at least three stories high. It is a concrete apartment or condominium complex and if it is over five floors high, it will have an elevator (EV) and the contemporary ones even boast a main entranceway and auto-lock doors.

An apartment or アパート(apaato) is a two-story multi-unit residential building made of wood and iron. Each unit is smaller in size compared to a マンションmanshon.

Need to Know Abbreviations

# (1,2,3~) : The number represents how many bedrooms are in a house or apartment. Sometimes floor plans will use the term 寝室 (shinshitsu) for bedroom.

R: R is a studio room (one room ワンルーム) serving as the bedroom, kitchen, dining, and living room.

K: K stands for the Kitchen. A 1K apartment will usually have the kitchen area in the hallway which consists of a one or two burner stove, a small sink, and an area for a fridge.

D:The dining area where there is a space big enough for a dining table. Make sure you double-check for space. It could mean a 6-chair dining table or for two.

L: The living room is where there is room for a sofa, a low table, and a television.

S: This is a service or storage room or 納戸(nando). Not all homes have one.    This room is quite small and usually do not have an air-conditioner nor windows.

Contrary to Western design, the dining and living rooms in Japan may not be in separate rooms. They can be in one large room with the designated dining area is adjacent to the kitchen.


Japanese Room Sizes

Now comes the tricky part. Most apartment listings will illustrate their room size measurements in tatami size. 畳 means tatami or jou (J) as the tatami counter. Tatami is the traditional woven straw mat which is about 180 x 90 cm or 1.6 square meters but the size varies depending on the region.

Note that many new buildings have wooden floors or carpet and do not use tatami floors but will still use the tatami measurement.

Other Useful Vocabulary

Floor or 階(kai)

Entrance or 玄関(genkan)

Shoe storage/box (SB) or シューズボックス (shuzubokkusu) and sometimes shown as 下駄箱(getabako)

Room or 室(shitsu)

Japanese-style room or 和室(washitsu)

Western-style room or 洋室(youshitsu)

Japanese-style closet or 押入れ(oshi ire)

Western-style closet or 物入れ(mono ire) 

Sink and Vanity or 洗面(senmen)

Laundry room or 脱衣室(datsuishitsu)

Balcony or バルコニー(barukonii)

Bathroom or 浴室(yokushitsu)  (bathtub and shower area) and Toilet or トイレ(toire)  can be located in separate rooms or located in the same are termed UB for unit bath. WC can also stand for water closet, which also means toilet.

Finding Accommodation in Japan (Apartment? Guest house? UR?)Moving to a new country is taxing enough and looking for accommodati...