Since I’ve started traveling to Japan, I’ve been so blessed with many opportunities meeting new people and understanding more about the Japanese culture. One such experience was in 2012 when I connected with several Japanese Christians living in Japan. We talked through their testimony of the Christian faith, the struggles and beauty of the Japanese culture. We’d meet to talk together in their home, oftentimes a traditional Japanese home. A place of comfort and familiarity is so helpful to communicate more easily about deeply personal topics like faith.
Meeting in their homes also opened my eyes to some common and not-so-common details inside traditional Japanese homes. Many of my friends don’t often get the opportunity to go to Japan, so I like to share my observations in the hopes of increasing understanding and inspiration towards the Japanese culture.
Looking at this list below, what are some features that surprised you? If you had to create a list of key features in a traditional home in your culture, what would your list look like?
What are the key features of a traditional Japanese home?
1. Rice Paper Doors and Windows
2. Natural Landscape with Stone, Moss, & Bamboo or other native trees
Did you know boars (a common predator in Japan) are known to disrupt the moss as they burrow their noses for grubs?
3. Long Hallways with Sliding Wooden Doors
4. Natural area for rocks and plants, maybe a small courtyard
5. Clean Lines for Pathways and Minimalistic Design
Not only clean lines but also an elimination of clutter. Even bathroom counters rarely have items on them outside a toothbrush hanging on the mirror.
6. Foyer/Genkan where shoes are kept before entering and exiting
Cleanliness is a high priority in Japan, and this custom upholds it by keeping shoes in the genkan.
7. Bedding with several layers that is folded and stored away during the day
It brings a whole new perspective to the chore, making your bed.
8. Tatami Mat Flooring
A Japanese custom of soaking in a bath for relaxation usually after cleaning with a bucket of water or shower handle.
10. Lots of small dishes of food for meals
There’s a Japanese saying about health. Roughly, it is said that healthy eating is a diet of at least 32 kinds of food each day.