You surely know Tokyo’s modern skyscrapers and traditional temples, but how do regular Japanese houses look? One that a regular Japanese family lives in?
While you’re free to indulge in Japan’s bathing culture at hot springs, discover ancient arts at old theaters, or bask in colorful pop culture at Akihabara, but day to day life in traditional a Japanese home stays hidden from the vast majority of travelers.

Currently, we’re living in a time in which those old houses gradually disappear to be replaced with modern apartment buildings and the likes, especially in and around Tokyo. While the West boasts a great many buildings made from stone, Japanese houses are traditionally made out of wood, so rebuilding and renovating has to be done once every generation, as a general rule of thumb. While some Japanese houses exist that are well over 100 years old, most of them are said to have a lifespan of between 30 and 50 years. Having a traditional-style home made from wood isn’t only a lengthy process; it is also more expensive due to the skill of the carpenters required. Instead, more and more single-family houses are built from modern construction materials like steel and concrete.
When we think about traditional Japanese houses, we immediately imagine tatami, the straw mats that are so characteristic of traditional Japanese living. It’s also common knowledge that it’s common to take one’s shoes off when entering a home in Japan, and that rooms are separated by sliding doors and paper walls.
This leads to a couple of questions: do you not hear everything through those paper walls? How to sit correctly on the tatami—is that really relaxing? It seems so different from what we’re used to. Living in such a traditional house is hard to imagine. Because of that, we took our shoes off and visited such a home ourselves, asking the charming inhabitants everything you ever wanted to know about life in a traditional Japanese house!
The house we visited is about 40 years old and stands in Japan’s Hokuriku region. That’s the coastal area in the northwestern part of Honshu, the biggest of Japan’s main islands. Because of its location along the Sea of Japan, Hokuriku is known for its excellent seafood, rice, and sake breweries. Nature is lush, and there’s plenty of snow during winter. Now, let’s take a look at the unique architecture of a traditional Japanese house and how daily life is like!

1. Ima and Chanoma – The Living Room of a Japanese House

This room is called ima and is the living room of a Japanese house. This is …

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