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My House in Kitahiyama

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Note: I had some concerns earlier about posting this house tour on the internet. But by now, enough time has passed since these pictures were taken, enough things about the house have changed, and enough people have come and gone, that I think it’s OK.

My house in Kitahiyama

My house and car in Kitahiyama. The car is a Mitsubishi Pajero Mini.

Photo Tour of a Japanese House

This is the house in Kitahiyama where I lived from 2004 to 2006 and again from 2008 to 2009. These pictures were all taken between August 2004 and July 2006.

The house was built in 1995 (I think), and is part of a group of houses which are owned by the town, and used mostly by teachers at the local elementary and junior high schools.

Since the residents of my house only lived there for a couple years each, it doesn’t contain the lifetime’s worth of belongings that you would normally find in someone’s house. It is also missing some traditional Japanese items such as a Buddhist family altar and a kotatsu (low heated table with a blanket around it, used in winter). But other than that, I think the style is pretty typical of what you will find in a small house in Japan.

We’ll start our tour with a look at the outside of the house.

In this photo you can see four of the houses in the group. Mine is the one in the foreground. As you can see, there is plenty of space for parking around here. That’s one of the benefits of living in a small town. The big tank by the front door holds kerosene for the heating stove. The white object attached to the side of the house by the windows is a satellite dish.

House in Kitahiyama from the east

House in Kitahiyama, view from the southeast

Here is a view of the house from the southwest. The building on the far right with the red roof is the old Kitahiyama Elementary School gym, which has since been torn down and replaced with a new one.

House in Kitahiyama from the southwest

House in Kitahiyama from the southwest

And here is what the house looked like during my first winter in Kitahiyama.

Front of house - winter

Front of house - winter

Side of house - winter

Side of house - winter

Now that we’ve seen the outside, let’s go in.

The entryway inside the front door is called a genkan. This is where you take your shoes off before going inside. Notice that it is on a slightly lower level than the rest of the house. You take of your shoes here and then go through a second door to get to the main living area.

Genkan

House entrance (genkan)

Between the front door and the doorway leading into the main part of the house, there are two small rooms on the right. The first one, on the same level as the concrete floor in the above photo, is a storage room for things like a bicycle, tires, garden tools, and other items that are used outside. The second room is a toilet, and is on the raised wooden floor, in the “no outside shoes allowed” area. In a Japanese house, the toilet is usually kept separate from the main living area.

Storage room

Storage room

Toilet room

Toilet room

The bicycle in the storage room belongs to the town. Nobody knows who the tires belong to. There are shelves on the wall on the left side of the room (not visible in this photo). In the toilet room there is a shelf above the door for toilet paper and cleaning supplies, and… a toilet. That’s all – just a toilet. After using it, you have to go to another room to wash your hands. When you flush the toilet, the water comes out of that thing sticking up on top, drops through a hole in the lid, and fills up the tank. It is possible to use this water to wash your hands, but it’s very difficult to do it without splashing all over.

Going past the toilet room and through the inside door, you enter the living room. Most of the furniture and appliances that you see belong to the Board of Education.

Living room

Living room

Living room from kitchen

Living room, seen from the kitchen

Heating stove

Heating stove

Here is a closeup of the heating stove in the corner of the living room. Most houses in Japan do not have a central heating system. Instead, they use kerosene stoves like this one. This isn’t quite as 19th century as it sounds. This is a computer-controlled programmable stove. The fuel comes from an outside tank, and the air intake and exhaust are connected directly to the outside, so the burning fuel doesn’t come into contact with the indoor air at all.

I had some doubts at first as to how well this stove would work, but it did a pretty good job of keeping the whole house warm in the winter.

Genkan from living room

Looking toward the front door from the living room. On the left you can see the laundry room. The purple banner hanging over the doorway is a souvenir from the 50th anniversary of Kitahiyama's incorporation as a town. When I moved out, the town office was going to throw it away. So I rescued it and took it with me.

Laundry and bath room

Another view of the laundry room and beyond it, the bath/shower room.

Next is the kitchen. The cupboards are not visible in the photo, but they are on the wall above the sink. At the far end on the left you can see a gas stove with two burners and a small compartment underneath for grilling fish. There is no oven. As of this writing, I have never seen a Japanese house or apartment that has an oven. On the right hand side is a combination microwave/toaster oven which is good for baking small things like cookies or a small to medium size pie. If you want to cook something much bigger than that, you will need to borrow the kitchen at the community center.

Kitchen

Here is a closeup of the microwave/conventional oven/toaster oven combo. On top of it is a toaster. The photo on the right is the water heater. When you need hot water, you need to push a button, then wait until it beeps and the light turns green. That gives you enough hot water for a few minutes and while you are using that, it heats up additional water as it is flowing through the pipes, and its internal computer tries to guess how much you are going to need.

Microwave/toaster oven combo

Combination microwave, conventional oven, and toaster oven. Sitting on top of it is a toaster. The water heater is right above it.

Water heater

Water heater

Did you notice the trap door in the floor at the far end of the kitchen, below the window? It leads to a crawl space underneath the house. I stuck my camera into the hole and snapped a picture. As you can see, the house does not have a basement. The floor is supported by wooden pillars resting on foundation stones. Come to think of it, as of this writing I have never seen a house in Japan that has a basement. I’m sure there are some, but they seem to be pretty rare.

Trap door

Trap door in the kitchen.

Under the house

Under the house

From the front door, if you enter the living room and turn left, you will see the large room below. It’s pretty empty because I didn’t have very much to put in it. I used it mainly for drying my laundry, since the house has a washing machine but no dryer. On the left is a large closet with sliding doors, and you can see the phone on a table on the right. The floor is covered with tatami mats. Tatami mats are made of straw tightly woven together. They are green when they are new but as time goes by, they gradually turn brown. All Japanese houses and apartments that I’ve seen so far have at least one tatami room. This house has three. In advertisements for houses and apartments, the size of the rooms is often given in mats – the number of standard-size tatami mats it would take to cover it. This is a six-mat room. I decided to lift up one of the mats and see what’s under it.

Big tatami room

Large tatami room

Under the tatami mat

Under the tatami mat

As you enter the house from the front door, you will see two rooms at the far end of the living room – a small room on the left and a larger bedroom on the right. The small room on the left has a desk for a computer, and is where most of the teaching materials are kept.

Computer room
On the left below is a closeup of the floor in the computer room. On the right is the south wall of the computer room. The inner window has thin glass and is made to resemble the old-style Japanese paper windows. The outer window has double-paned glass and is very good at keeping out the cold in winter.

Floor

Tatami floor

Bookcase and window

Bookcase and window

Last but not least, here is the bedroom. The bed is actually a portable fold-up cot. There are futons in the house too, in case you want to sleep Japanese-style. On the right you can see a dresser and a wardrobe. The bedroom also has a large closet, with plenty of storage space.

Bedroom

Bedroom

Bedroom closet

Bedroom closet

And that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this tour of my house in Japan.

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Written by hobara09

2011-02-21 at 7:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized