Settling In (Tokyo’s Micro Apartments Are Smaller Than You Can Imagine)

Settling into a new environment can be quite a jarring yet exciting experience for many. It’s a whole new world, with a number of new endeavors and ventures to pursue. Tokyo being one of Japan’s most exciting cities is a great place to start a new life and expand your horizons.

When seeking out a place to live, however… Let’s be honest, that process is rarely simple. Unless you’re financially well off, it may take some time to find the right place, in the right area, and so forth.

You have to take so many factors into consideration and you might even find yourself going nuts over which wifi plan won’t cost an arm and a leg. 

Tokyo City Skyline

The idea of a micro-apartment seems to solve all of your problems. It is cheaper, relatively small but in a cozy way, and will still allow for you to live in a prime Tokyo location.

The bare necessities are working and minimalistic, with a certain standard of cleanliness and functionality instilled. 

To get a better idea of what it would be like to live in a micro-apartment, and what you can expect in general, the following questions must be asked as a new resident to Tokyo:

Apartment Rental Signage In Tokyo
  • What is a Japanese Micro Apartment?
  • What does a Japanese Micro Apartment Provide?
  • What is it like to live in a Japanese Micro Apartment?
  • Why do micro-apartments exist? What is their purpose? 

In this article, we will be addressing all your potential questions and concerns through insights, data, and documentation of what it is like to live in a micro-apartment from the perspective of a foreigner

After reading the following information you will have a better understanding of what a micro-apartment is, what it provides, what it is like to live inside of one, and why they exist overall…

What is a Japanese Micro Apartment?

A Japanese micro-apartment is just as it sounds. 

A Japanese micro-apartment is an apartment that is considerably smaller than the ones we are accustomed to. They still have the basics; a means of cooking, sink, a bathroom, minimal storage space, and one or two pieces of furniture (beds or couches).

Even so, Tokyo’s micro-apartments are smaller than you think!  Let’s get down to the specificities: 50 to 100 square feet is the average size for these micro-apartments. 

It is less expensive to live in a smaller apartment as you would guess, so it is great for people that need to cut down on overall expenses.

If you intend on living alone or with a small pet, you’ll find that the functionality of a micro-apartment is not only practical but considerably enjoyable. 

What does a Japanese Micro Apartment Provide?

It provides you with the opportunity to save money on rent, leading you to invest money in prospects and education for example. It is found that micro-apartments in Japan provide the bare necessities to the tenant in a minimalist and clear fashion. 

Many appreciate the simplicity of their mini living spaces and find that the practicality and utilitarian focus of their everyday essentials encourage a logical and peaceful cycle. 

As we partake in the number of mundane activities that we must complete in order to survive, to have to clean up a mass amount of counter space or organize clothing so thoroughly to have a neat room is quite the waste of time.

The following are the traits of a common Japanese Micro Apartment:

  • Mini Kitchen (Kitchenette)
  • Kitchen Sink
  • Bathroom: compact with the toilet sink and bathtub being relatively close together
  • A slender closet or two 
  • Space for a twin-sized bed (a double bed or queen size bed might fit depending on what you put in your apartment and how big it is to begin with.
  • A window or small balcony

Time is valuable. Why not cut down on the amount of time you spend cleaning by signing for a micro-apartment?

If you are a single person who is only looking to either live on your own or with a small pet assuming your landlord allows it, this is perfect for you. (pets are often prohibited in Japanese apartments)

Virtual Tour Of A Tokyo Micro Apartment

Entrance (Genkan)

We first enter, with enough room for one person to enter, and swiftly focus on the slender closet. It’s enough space for the clothing and personal items of a single person.  

Bathroom (Unit Bath or Wetroom)

The bathroom is utilitarian, with just enough space for one to move between the tub/shower, sink, and toilet. It seems quite tight as when you sit down on the toilet your feet would be just an inch or two away from the tub. 

The showerhead that is available is too short for tall persons, and so, one has to sit down if they want to take a shower. Even so, it works and baths are just as any other one would be. Many proclaim that it is “very functional”. 

Kitchen (Kitchenette)

The kitchen is propped right against the wall in a sort of nook. There is one burner and a sink right next to it. Hence why residents often have only has one saucepan or a minimal amount of cookware.

The burner/hot plate is very convenient and modern; as it only turns on when a saucer is on the hot plate. 

There is one cabinet underneath the hot plate and another under the sink that poses as a mini pantry. Above the two, we see three cubbies that can be used to hold plates, mugs, and utensils.

Residents enjoy how practical and clean the mini kitchen is, as it truly gets the job done for most.

Right next to the quarter wall of the mini kitchen, we see a mini-fridge. It doubles the fridge as a counter as well when necessary. The trash bins are tucked in in an organized, linear fashion next to the fridge. 

Apartments have a clothing rack, a collapsible table, chair, and mirror all in front of the bed. This is where all of one’s personal cosmetological effects remain as well. 

To the left of the bedroom, we see a fantastic view of the city one lives in. evidently, This unit has a nice mini balcony. Out there we see that you can actually dry your clothes out on the balcony with the mini racks provided.

Convenient for those who cannot afford or do not wish to spend money on laundry. 

Bedroom (Often Micro Aparments Living Area Double As A Sleeping Area)

Finally, we see a delightfully comfortable twin bed, with memory foam, durable sheets, and a comfortable head pillow. Another slender closet sits right in front of the bed where one keeps jackets, books, and other items.

There is also a phone installed on the wall next to it in case you’d ever need to use it. 

Another appliance that should be noted is the fact that this unit is fortunate enough to have a washing machine of her own inside of the apartment.

It’s important to note that a lot of Japanese apartment complexes will have you pay extra or have you pay in a unit on a floor to wash your clothing, but that is not the case for this particular unit. 

Why do micro-apartments exist?

Micro apartments exist within Japan as well as some other Asian countries as a result of the compact space available for those who reside in this country.

How so? Japan is a small country with a population of 125.8 million people as of 2020. Needless to say, when there are that many people in a small land area, the housing becomes more compact in major cities

One of our closest references as Americans might be the state of New York. There are millions of people that live there, and as it becomes more and more popular and important for the economical processes of America, more people will be born in and/or seek residency in New York.

New York has thus become more populated and many cities (especially New York City) had to strategize to compensate as such, allowing for the concrete jungle we know and love today to maintain appropriate yet functional conditions for the people of the state. 

ABC News Story On Tokyo’s Micro Apartments and Homes

Japan has done the same, only with far less space and far more people per city. Micro apartments suit the lifestyle of the multitude of young or simply single individuals that live in Japan overall.

Apartment Listings Via Gaijinpot.com

As seen from the perspective of Megan Otnes, a lifestyle YouTuber and content creator, we get a wide-angle lens tour of her Japanese Micro Apartment. 

She resides in Shibuya, Tokyo, documented in march of 2020, and published this footage in March of 2021. 

What it is like to live in a Japanese Micro Apartment

MT Lee
My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.