As you may know, each country around the world has unique housing and living spaces. For countries with a well preserved history such as Japan, we can also draw comparisons between recent versus traditional housing and how it has largely developed and changed over time.
Going all the way back to the Edo period (1600s to the 1800s), 70% of Japanese people had shops on the main street and then their residence on the back side only separated by a thin wall. Houses in both towns and rural areas had thatched roofs and sometimes mud walls.
From the end of the 1800s to the start of the 1900s Western culture began to be introduced to Japan, which of course impacted housing. Upper class and more privileged people would import materials to build Western-style buildings. These were often built next to their Japanese style houses to show high social status and entertain guests, and all the main living would occur in the traditional house.
Nowadays, there are lots of large concrete apartment-type housing complexes which are called マンション (mansion) in Japanese. This must not be confused with the English word mansion which often describes a much larger and lavish house! The typical urban housing now also consists of wooden houses that include Japanese style rooms, tiled roofs and porches.
Japanese living spaces are now also trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible to prevent global warming. Many houses are branded ‘energy-saving’ and utilise renewable energy. Some very modern housing is called IT for Internet of Things and includes artificial intelligence to control many functions such as communications, temperature control, lighting and more.
Something unique about Japanese housing is that due to the land in the city being very expensive, many tall but thin houses have been built recently. These are usually about three stories tall and help families have enough space to have all the necessary rooms without having to buy a huge amount of space to live on.
Additionally, Japanese people are often still well rooted in tradition and many houses include a たたみ (tatami) room with しょうじ (shoji) doors. Tatami is a floor made out of grass and rice straw and shoji is translucent paper sheets on a wooden frame. Some houses may also have a ぶつだん (butsudan), which is a small Buddhist altar that people use to worship their ancestors. These things are well liked and respected by most Japanese people.
On the other hand, people in Japan often also dislike the fact that most living spaces are very small. Many houses do not have a garden and even the largest houses would not have a pool like some do in Australia. Overall, most Japanese families would wish for more space to live in.