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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Japanese houses compared to European ones

    As a North-Western European, I can't help but notice numerous differences between the European houses I am used to and Japanese ones. Here is a list of them.

    Construction

    - Japanese houses don't have cellars or basements. It is apparently prohibited by laws. What a waste of space in crowded cities like Tokyo. No wine cellar, no additional place to store food, but since they don't normally have central heating, so they don't need a boiler.

    - Japanese houses have no attic or loft. That may also look like a waste of space, but actually, they are often built on 3 floors instead of 2, so the attic is just an additional floor right under the roof (which means freezing in winter and stifling in summer).

    - Many new Japanese houses have flat roofs with a terrace on the top. This is a creative gain of space - convenient to dry the laundry. As it rains much less in Tokyo than anywhere in Northern Europe, that's fine.

    - Walls are thin (about 10cm) and hollow. It's almsot possible to detroy them with a kick or a small hammer. That is because of earthquakes and gives a feeling of "paper house" to the habitations. This is in sharp contrast to the European stone or brick walls thickened by an additional layer of thermic insulation (glass fiber...) and plaster, which Japanese houses almost never have. I was personally used to 1m deep stone walls that would not be destroyed by a sledgehammer or a poweful gun. Double-glazing is also rare in private Japanese houses.

    - As I mentioned above, central heating is uncommon and so is floor heating (I suppose that this is because they have wooden floors everywhere instead of tiled floors, so cold on the feet in winter). Japanese heat themselves mostly with portable "gas heaters", not fixed electric or fuel radiators.

    - European houses don't usually have air conditioning, because summer aren't hot enough in the North and are very dry in the South, so that the shade and thick walls are enough to keep it cool inside. All Japanese houses (except in Hokkaido ?) have air conditioning in almsot every room, as it would be unbearable during the muggy summer without it.

    - Windows and doors normally open by sliding, especially in slighlty older (can't be very old in Japan) or traditional buildings. Window frames don't have partition in the the middle (just contours).

    Rooms and utilities

    - On top of the lack of cellar and loft, Japanese houses very rarely or never have pantry or larder (I admit it is getting unusual in Europe too), study room (probably only big houses anyway), utility room, garage or ball room (no I am kidding on this one ).

    - Japanese washing machines open from the top rather than from the side.

    - Japanese rarely have a dishwasher or tumble dryer (eventhough they make the 2 in 1 models with washing machines now, if space is an issue).

    - The bathroom is usually small because it is limited to the bath and shower space, without "dry ground", nor furnitures (for the towels, soap, cosmetics...) or sink to brush your teeth, make up or shave. Everything is outside the bathroom, sometimes on another floor (eg. on the landing beteen 2 rooms or next to the entrance hall).

    Outside

    - Japanese houses in big cities very rarely have a garden (AmE = yard), contrarily to houses even in London.

    - The architecture is very standardised, all in concrete, and only the colour of the fakes bricks or painting differentiate them. This is true from the Northern tip of Hokkaido all the way through the 3000km down the Southern reaches of Kyushu. Needless to say that European architecture vary not only by geographical region but equally inside a same city of village, due to the quick evolution of styles in time.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Apr 22, 2004 at 19:14.

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