Top 10 Key Features in a Traditional Japanese Home

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

rice paper doors and windows in traditional japanese home


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?

stepping stones in japan


3. Long Hallways with Sliding Wooden Doors

sliding doors in traditional japanese homes


4. Natural area for rocks and plants, maybe a small courtyard

nature within a japanese home concept


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.

efficient space in japanese home


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.

genkan foyer in tradtional japan home

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.

ryokan bedroom

8. Tatami Mat Flooring

tatami mat floors

9. Ofuro/Bathtub

A Japanese custom of soaking in a bath for relaxation usually after cleaning with a bucket of water or shower handle.

traditional bath

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.

small dishes in ryokan