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Japan’s Build-It-Small Culture

There are many reasons for building a small house, but in Japan, it’s a matter of necessity. Land is expensive, especially in urban areas which lack spacious low cost housing.

During the “bubble economy” of the 1980s it was common to see marble mansions but those are now faded memories as the boom in small housing has become the rage.

Japan’s small homes of today are simple yet elegant. The floor space and lot size are surprisingly small. The materials are economical and modest yet satisfying. Talented architects are working with homeowners focusing on the essentials – within very limited quarters they’re creating beauty. Many of the small homes produced are notable for their design and innovations in lighting, materials selection, storage, and space allocation.

The interest and passion for these small, well-designed homes are filtering into architectural journals, televisions programs, and popular magazines.

The philosophy behind the humble abode is that you can have a richer life from simpler means because you’ve chosen to live in a smaller home not in spite of the fact that it is small. People become brainwashed into thinking that a small home is for the poor unfortunate types. This kind of thinking isn’t thinking. A small home that is well designed and carefully planned and built as a matter of conscious preference is far from substandard or poor.

Recently there has been a global surge of interest in the small-house lifestyle and Japan is leading the way. There’s been a sudden increase in articles, books, and documentaries all exploring the small house and its possibilities. The Japanese media have been obsessed with small houses as is apparent with television specials that run weekly. New books on the subject sprout up daily and a new press started up that specializes in small houses and is dedicated to showing new trends and innovative ideas.

The small house boom in well-designed compact houses is also due to the informative and intelligent coverage that appears in lifestyle and fashion magazines. The media coverage has done such a good job that the mindset is now a house has to be small if it’s to show great design sense.

Japanese prefabricated home manufacturers have known for years that 1,100 square feet or less caters to all walks of life and not just to the budget-minded market.


Japanese Architecture

An Account of my Hut, an essay by Kamo no Chomei. Written in the 13th century while living a serene life in his 10-foot country cottage: http://www.humanistictexts.org/kamo.htm

Traditional Style Homes of Japan

Bubble Economy

Book – The Very Small Home: Japanese Ideals for Living Well in Limited Space: http://www.landliving.com/articles/0000000581.aspx

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