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Buntaro

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I lived in a Japanese one-room apartment (yo jou han) (よじょうはん) (四畳半) for five years. There was no shower or bathtub, so I had to go the local bathhouse (sentou) (せんとう) (銭湯) every night.

A sento is not a vacation bathhouse at a ryokan or minshuku. It is a bathhouse in a city that people can go to everyday during the year. (My sento was closed once a week on Mondays, so on Mondays I had to go to a sento that was farther away.)




For a foreigner, going to a sento is quite a cultural experience. Here is a video that is very authentic in showing what it is like.

 
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Buntaro

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You may have noticed the way Japanese people sit with their legs tucked under them. This way of sitting is called seiza (せいざ) (正座) which literally means "the correct or proper way to sit" (If you are new to Japan and have never tired sitting seiza-style on a tatami foor, I can tell you from experience it gets pretty painful pretty quickly. (Most Japanese people have been sitting seiza-style their entire life, so they are used to it.)

The main thing about seiza is that the tops of your feet lie flat on the floor.

Practicing seiza will allow you a chance to learn and practice a new vocabulary term: Ashi ga shibirete imasu. (あし が しびれています。) (足が痺れています。) "My leg has fallen asleep and is numb."

Here is a video (that is nothing more than a photo formatted into a video) that shows a group of ladies sitting seiza-style while doing tea ceremony.




Here is how to lower yourself into the seiza position — first kneel on one knee and then the other. (The video also shows you how to go into a full-blown seiza bow, including the proper hand position.)

 

mdchachi

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This way of sitting is called seiza (せいざ) (正座)
Forced seiza -- similar to waterboarding -- is also considered to be a form of torture by law. ;)

Per this 2019 article
A welfare ministry panel said Tuesday that forcing children to sit for long periods of time in the formal Japanese seiza style will be recognized as a morally unacceptable form of punishment under a new law that will enter into force in April.
 

Buntaro

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There are two types of Japanese inns: a ryokan and a minshuku.

A minshuku (みんしゅく) (民宿) is a private residence usually run by a local family, where meal and sleeping service are provided in a 'private home'. They are run by the family who owns the house. (Most likely there is no front-lobby counter at a minshuku.) You eat your meals with the family who owns the minshuku. You are literally a guest in a private home.

Here is a video of a minshuku in northern Japan (Akita). In this video, the minshuku does not even provide bath services, so the guests have to go to a local sento to take a bath, then drive back to the minshuku. Another cool thing about this minshuku is the guests have the opportunity to help make dinner (and learn a little about Japanese cooking in the family's own 'kitchen').

 

Buntaro

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A ryokan (りょかん) (旅館) is not a mom-and-pop business where you sit down in the evening and have dinner with the owners. It is a full-service hotel, sometimes a very large building, owned by a company and run like a business.

Look at the opulence of this ryokan at 0:22 in the video:




This ryokan has a large western-style restaurant area (seemingly for people who prefer to sit and eat at a western-style table) at 12:27 in the video.

 

Buntaro

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Many ryokan have an onsen (おんせん) (温泉) which is a hot-spring bath. Most onsen pools are outdoors. (At a luxurious onsen ryokan, you may even have your own private onsen pool in your room, with the onsen water brought into your room via pipes.) The source of the hot water is geothermal water bubbling up from underground. There are about 28,000 onsen pools and about 3,000 onsen resorts in Japan. Take a look at the very hot water flowing naturally up to the surface at 1:43.

 
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The answer is that many Japanese homes are just too small, so space has to be used in more than one way. One room is used as a bedroom, a living room, a student's study space, etc. One room has to be 'multi-purpose'.
Is it me or it became the normal in the rest of the world, this "area economy" thing is a lot common now

Wondering if even in this Japan was a pioneer lol
 

Buntaro

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Is it me or it became the normal in the rest of the world, this "area economy" thing is a lot common now

Actually, I think just the opposite is happening; I think more and more people are setting up 四畳半 with dedicated space for a desk, a bed, etc. Take a look at this video. The main thing in this video is that the bed is a 'bunk bed' style, which leaves a lot more room for a dedicated spot for a desk, etc. Another thing is that people in Japan are tending to rent larger apartments, which gives them more room to dedicate space to a bed, desk, etc. (The video is in Japanese with no English subtitles.)

 
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Buntaro

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I previously mentioned oshi ire (おしいれ) (押入れ) which is a Japanese-style 'closet' in a tatami room. (The various pieces of futon bedding are stored in an 押入れ.) 押入れ literally means to push open and put something in. The door is pushed along a sliding slot in the floor, then you can put things in (or take things out of) an 押入れ. In this video, watch the lady at 0:54 open an 押入れ, pull the various pieces of futon bedding out, then lay them out on the floor.

(I have to admit I lived a style called mannendoko (まんねんどこ) (万年床), which means to "leave the futon on the floor for ten thousand years" — I just left the futon on the floor everyday and never put it away into the 押入れ!)

 
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Buntaro

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When it is cold outside (and many houses in Japan don't have central heating), many Japanese families use a kotatsu. It is a low-lying table with a electric heater attached to the bottom of the table. A large 'blanket' is thrown over the table. Then another table-like board is placed on top of the blanket, giving the family a table top they can place things on. People sit at the kotatsu, scoot their legs under the table, tuck the blanket edge around their legs, and enjoy doing things such as eating Mandarin oranges (みかん) (蜜柑).



Here is a one of Chika-sensei's English/Japanese videos, where she tells the history of kotatsu.

 
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Actually, I think just the opposite is happening; I think more and more people are setting up 四畳半 with dedicated space for a desk, a bed, etc. Take a look at this video. The main thing in this video is that the bed is a 'bunk bed' style, which leaves a lot more room for a dedicated spot for a desk, etc. Another thing is that people in Japan are tending to rent larger apartments, which gives them more room to dedicate space to a bed, desk, etc. (The video is in Japanese with no English subtitles.)


I know, I meant speaking of the country technically ""starting"" the trend ages ago, as nowadays the trends probably changed, Japan is probably having more space for bigger apartments as the country is less overcrowded, while in a big part in the world the countries have faced overpopulation, which I believe is a reason for smaller apartments etc

But it all is my impression, of course I could be missing out something
 

Buntaro

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Japan is probably having more space for bigger apartments as the country is less overcrowded

I think there are two factors that have caused Japanese people to not be willing to live in a 四畳半 any more. One is that Japanese people are more willing to spend the money required for a larger and 'modern' home. They also want things like their own refrigerator, washing machine, bath tub, etc. Regarding this, we have to look at history. After WWII, many Japanese people were very poor. Many Japanese people practically starved for many years after the war ended. They simply did not have the money to get larger apartments. Japan was a poor country until the 1960's, then the economic miracle really took off. The 1960's was the time of the Tokyo Olympics and the building of the Bullet Train (しんかんせん) (新幹線), seen by many as symbols of the new, economically strong Japan. The fast economic rise continued up to the late 1980's, when many people finally had the money to afford something better than a 'rabbit hutch' (as 四畳半 are sometimes referred to) to live in.

The other factor was the building of high-rise, steel-constructed apartment buildings. Before this, many Japanese people lived in small wooden buildings with small apartments. But then high-rise apartment buildings gave builders the chance to build bigger apartments with bigger rooms, space for bath tubs in bathrooms, etc.

I feel these two factors finally gave Japanese people the opportunity to finally live in a 'modern' way, not needing to go to coin laundries and sentos any more, and not needing to raise a family in one room any more. (Can you imagine living in a high-rise apartment building and still needing to go to a sento every night with your family?)
 
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A genkan (げんかん) (玄関) is the front entrance area for a Japanese house (apartment, school, etc.). The level of the house is usually higher than the ground level, so we have to step up from the genkan area to the house area.

The big part of using a genkan is taking our shoes off after coming in the door and before stepping up to the house level (then putting on slippers). And don't forget to 'arrange' your shoes after taking them off — put them close together, next to the step-up edge, pointing towards the door. Take a look at how the shoes are neatly arranged at 0:59, and how there are also slippers are placed so a person can easily transition from shoes to slippers.




Even schools have genkan. Take a look at a genkan at a school, which is basically an area within which to change from your outdoor shoes to your indoor shoes/slippers. Take a look from 2:43.

 

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Japanese toilet (This topic may not be appropriate for all readers.)

When I first went to Japan, I was totally unprepared to find 'squat toilets'. As a matter of fact, when I first arrived in Japan, I totally refused to use the one at my apartment, preferring to wait until I got to school, where they had a western-style toilet.

A squat toilet is not much more than a hole in the floor. You squat over the toilet and do your business.

As a matter of fact, when using a public toilet in Japan, I have gotten to the point where I greatly prefer using a 'Japanese-style toilet' because no physical contact is made with the toilet (as opposed to a western-style toilet).

 

Buntaro

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Continuing on with the theme of removing shoes at a genkan, visiting people's houses can require a lot of putting shoes on and taking them off. One thing I saw in Japan was people who wore regular sneakers that had their laces tied, but the person had smashed down the backs of their sneakers, which made putting shoes on and taking them off very easy. It was rare to see them, but I did see them. Another style I saw once or twice in Japan was sneakers constructed with no back. I didn't find a video on this, but here is a website that sells such sneakers. (Take a look at example #4, Puma Carina Slim Mules.)

 

Buntaro

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Geta (げた) (下駄), sometimes called Japanese wooden clogs, are a type of footwear that is sometimes seen in Japan. I think they are most commonly seen when they are worn by Sumo wrestlers. I think some people also wear them in the summer when they wear yukata (summer kimono) while going to watch fireworks.

I remember the time I wore geta to the train station and walked up and down the stairs clop, clop, clop to the train platform, then got on the train. I did get some weird side-stairs!

Here is a video showing someone walking in geta. Take a look from 4:14.




Here is something quite strange, a guy running on a treadmill in geta.

 

Buntaro

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If you want to wear geta but it's cold outside and you need to wear socks, what do you do? Wear Japanese sox with a toe-slot built in, called tabi (たび) (足袋). Here is a video on the making of tabi. You can see a woman walking in tabi and 'wooden sandals' from 5:21.

 

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I remember the time I wore geta to the train station and walked up and down the stairs clop, clop, clop to the train platform, then got on the train. I did get some weird side-stairs!
What else were you wearing? yukata? jeans?
 

Buntaro

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I was just wearing regular street clothes. It was on a Saturday.

~~~~~

While I was looking for videos of tabi, I came across this video of sumo wrestlers (sumoutori) (すもうとり) (相撲取り) entering a wrestling venue from cars and taxis. This video gives you an idea just how big these guys are.

 

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Here are some tabi boots. I only saw them being worn by men working at construction sites, but here is a video of a man climbing Mt. Fuji in tabi boots. Take a look from 0:41. (In Japanese only, no English subtitles.) Note how he wears tabi sox inside the tabi boots.

 

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Japanese-style umbrellas (wagasa) (わがさ) (和傘) are an important part of Japanese culture.

Take a look at a shop that makes wagasa, at 5:48 into the video:




Here is a shop in Fukuoka that makes wagasa.

 
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