I saw an article last week about NY’s Mayor Bloomberg starting a competition to develop 30-square-metre apartments in New York city. Great!, I thought. Affordable housing for people who don’t need much space!
And then I had a little giggle about the cries of, “Thirty square metres??!?? Is that fit for human habitation??” (and the fact that it was a UK newspaper doing the crying and we all know pommies live in cardboard-box-sized houses, made me giggle even more.)
Just for the record, I’ve lived with another person in 33-square-metres (which also included the balcony space for hanging out your washing and futon and all the thickness of the concrete walls so the living space was more like 28 square-metres). And the person I was living with had a.lot.of.shit.
Because he was a man.
And men, I’ve learned, like to hoard things because it makes them feel immortal.
(At least, that’s my theory anyway.)
Of course, I was living in Yokohama at the time of the 33m², but in the ten and a half years I lived in Japan, I never lived anywhere that was bigger than 40 square metres. Actually, I don’t think I would have known what to do if I had more than 2 rooms to live in!
It’s quite possible to have a whole family living in 40m² in Japan (particularly Tokyo) but I’m sure most people would interject, “Yeah, but that’s Japan! You can’t expect Australians or New Yorkers to live like that!”
Well, actually you can. And you’d be surprised how uncomplicated your life can be when you don’t have so much stuff (because we all know, the more space you have, the more stuff you accumulate).
I’ve talked a little about housing in Japan before in my quirky japan series, but just as a recap, here’s a nice ‘one room’ studio apartment in a suburb of Tokyo that you can rent for 100,000 yen per month:
It’s 18m². You’ve got your bath & toilet, kitchenette, storage space, a shoe box (SB), balcony, two windows and 7.5 tatami mats worth of space (with wooden flooring boards). Here’s a quick vid of what something similar actually looks like inside:
A great deal of Tokyo’s 40-odd million people (at least most of the single ones and quite a few of the couples) would live in something similar to this. It’s more than habitable.
Honestly, us folk here living in the lands of space aplenty, have no idea what can be achieved in a small space with proper use of furniture that multitasks and good storage solutions. Oh, and don’t forget that a nice bit of danshari will work wonders.
I suppose the difference between say, Perth, where I live and Tokyo is that most people here spend a lot of time in their house. They do things at home, people entertain at home, weekends are often spent at home, whereas in Tokyo you go out. You meet people out, you eat out, you find all your entertainment out. Your house is really nothing more than a place to sleep and a place to store your stuff.
I miss those days sometimes.