TIM BUNTING

KIWI YAMABUSHI

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On Building a house in Japan

The most technologically advanced place in the Japanese house is the toilet but besides the seat warmer, it’s not that useful.

Besides the toilet, western homes are much more advanced, for example fridges that have an ice dispenser or in my sister’s case, a TV and internet connection. Google home etc. is slowly making an appearance though.

The insulation standards are getting better but are still poor by world standards, even in areas where metres of snow fall annually, like where I live.

Most kitchens are what they call an ‘I’ shape. Basically a galley, or against one wall with the dining table right there. It’s uncommon to have an ‘L’ or ‘U’ shape kitchen like the one we want apparently, which is why they don’t have the benchtop we wanted in stock.

In general, people only focus on the inside of the house. The exterior is for parking cars and that’s about it (in modern times this is). In Japan, they don’t really do house parties. Normally you’d go out. I think this is something to do with modesty and not using housing to show off like we do in NZ.

Internal access isn’t common, although we live in snow country.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that Japanese people are completely fine with fluorescent lighting. I, however, cannot stand the sterility.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but en-suites are rare, practically non-existent.

Houses also don’t seem to prioritize the view that much. There are plenty of houses here that could have beautiful views of Mt. Chokai but don’t. See the point in focusing on the inside.

Japanese houses traditionally have a lowered entrance, so there’s a step up into the house. This is where the distinction between outside and inside comes into play. It’s also a huge reason why Japanese houses aren’t friendly for disabled people.

I’ve learned so much about building a house in Japan and we haven’t even started building yet!

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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 

tim@timbunting.com

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