An extremely opinionated list of things I love about life in Japan based on other places I’ve lived (Hong Kong and London) as a Chinese Canadian…in recent years, as a “digital nomad” too.
I will miss that defined space at the door that demarcates the sacred clean space that is the home. Yes, my heart skips a beat when someone tramples past the doorway with their — heaven-forbid – street shoes. Yes, I will shriek, “Shoes!”
Tatami is a way of living. This flooring comes with a distinct smell, grained texture on the bare feet, exacting visual measurements of room size, and a way of living that is close to the ground, compact, and flexible. In the winter, the floor is warm; in the summer, cool.
Before rooms had central heating, everyone huddled around the kotatsu, heaters under a table with a thick blanket on top to trap the heat. As a result, your cold feet are kept warm as you lounge in the living / dining room all day reading the newspaper, napping, and eating. Residential places usually don’t have central heating and in the rural areas, kotatsu is still the best heat source.
On a related note, electric futons and blankets are the best inventions. They do the job of keeping you warm to get a good night sleep while saving energy (really, why would you need to heat an entire room given that your body is under a blanket)?
When my sister and I moved out of our flat in Koto-ku, we mailed one of our futons back to Vancouver as my bed when I visit. Despite being deceptively thin, futon are just the right combination of soft and firm for a good night’s sleep. In the morning, they’re easier to put away than a bed is to make.
Firstly, that the toilet is its own separate room so no-one has to rush out of the shower. Then, the efficient use of water by placing a spout above the toilet for washing your hands. Also, in homes without central heating, heated toilets totally make sense.
Separate toilet slippers. I still accidentally take off my slippers when entering a washroom in someone’s home.
6. O-furo – The Honourable Bath
What I’ll miss even more is the separation between the bath + shower and sink. The bath section, separated by a closed door, often comes encased in plastic, meaning that no matter how steamy it gets, you don’t have to worry about mould or odd corners with condensation. The changing room and sink outside remain dry.
7. Home accessories that make sense
Power bars with flexible plugs so that you can push the furniture right against them. Stackable boxes and compartments. Tables with folding legs. Just take a walk through Muji for ideas.
Sitting pillows. For the low tables and floors. Actually, everything low is about good. Any room instantly becomes bigger.
9. Enclosed Walkways
A feature of traditional houses, these walkways can be opened in warm weather for you to just sit outside from the comfort of your home as you sip your cup of coffee or tea beside you. They also make a lovely thud when you walk.
Everything about their kitchens — the knife rack under the sink, the gas stove with a compartment for toast, the deep sinks with a combined metal (or generally easy-clean) countertop, the tripple mesh catchers for food.
11. Sliding doors
They take up less space. And I quite like the sound of sliding doors. Even better are the silent ones made with excellent wood and fine craftsmanship.
Thanks for reading! Check out the other 100+ things I’ll miss about Japan!