Micro Apartments in Japan

What would you do if someone told you to throw away half of your closet? Or that you have to leave behind more than half of your belongings and live without them forever now?  Or that you would have to pick only one or two pieces of furniture to take with you when you move far away? Would’ve been easy if you didn’t have much stuff to begin with, right? “Owning less is better than organizing more” was very rightfully said by Josua Becker, founder and editor of the website called ‘Becoming Minimalist’, which teaches people the art of de-cluttering. That is partially the concept of living in a micro apartment!!


A micro apartment is an ultra efficient, self-contained apartment space. The latest trend in housing, they are arguably affordable, cosy, minimalistic and quite obviously – tiny. Originally for general purposes but now having been used for residence, they are also called micro flats.

A micro apartment comprises of a small sitting area, a sleeping space, bathroom and a kitchenette. A kitchenette is a small area, usually just a platform, used for holding small appliances, usually seen in dorms, offices and hotels. Unlike a traditional studio flat, residents may also have access to a communal kitchen and/or a communal bathroom/shower to save additional space inside their homes, patioand roof garden. Micro apartments are also multi storied.

Micro apartments are also used as storehouses when not being used as living spaces. Sometimes they are also used as indoor gardening areas.


The number of countries embarking on this journey of lifestyle spearheaded by this trend set through south- east Asian countries, especially Japan, is increasing day by day. North America and Europe are the leading countries

The whole idea of micro apartments was for people to live in a smaller, easier to maintain and affordable space all at the same time however increasing positive response and uplifted social status of certain people living in these apartments has caused such an uproar about this in such a way that it isn’t quite a commodity any more. It is an essence to gain popularity, both on and off social media in this era and to be able to feel good about themselves. That is why European countries and some American states sell these micro apartments at very high prices to appeal, not to the general public but to the people who can afford the pompous and costlier lifestyle, which is all glitter and glamour. The average rate, in North America, in and after 2010was $7800 per square meter. How the western countries have looked at this can be very concisely described by one word – urbanisation. Seattle and neighbouring states have issued a remarkable change in the way they have started to live. Of course some people had problems regarding how “different” their neighbourhood looked or how much had everything “changed”. People were seemingly distressed about these micro apartment colonies asking for private parking space and other amenities. When every other place houses the people in micro apartments alike, Boston has been leasing/renting their micro apartments only to students who require them. They usually construct buildings which adhere to the requirements of the students as best as they can.

A large part of old office-based buildings in UK are being renovated into apartment while keeping in mind the government stated laws for measurement of living spaces which are supposed to be more than 37 square meters. However, space is saved by making communal amenities like gym, kitchenettes, public baths, sitting areas, study halls, etc available for people.

Hong Kong is doing it’s best in terms of space efficiency where an architect, who goes by the name Gary Chang, makes houses with detachable or sliding walls which can be broken down and re-assembled which helps people who  live in the way of the train pathways.


Coming back to Japan – a country that has always seemed to be in favour of tiny living spaces, be it micro apartments, living capsule, sheltering PC booths; they are all about efficiency so it was no surprise when Japan caused the great boon of the worldwide trend. However, it can be said the thought process of the Japanese was lost in translation somewhere along the lines as the hype moved on. The Japanese are the most understanding and empathetic ethnic group of people to ever exist. They work around the lives of others’ so that they do not have any problems. No Japanese person is ever found talking loudly in trains as they stay quite for the people sleeping beside them; or no Japanese is ever found littering their surroundings as someone else might walk after them. Hence in a similar manner, they came up with the idea of micro apartments when the living spaces in their metropolitan cities was  decreasing at an alarming rate. They thought if people would take up more space than they actually need, it would cause problems to the other people too. Therefore, this idea of tiny living started. They believe if your room is clean and un-cluttered, you have nowhere to reflect upon but your inner state and that is beautiful thinking. They believe in ukiyo or living in the moment which tells us to enjoy the fullest of everything we have got to the very last bit, be it living spaces where you can’t fully stretch your legs out but hey, at least you can decorate it cutely!

Wabi-sabi or “Nothing lasts. Nothing is finished. Nothing is perfect” is a Japanese mantra that explains how everything is perishable at the end of the day and materialistic wealth is useless. Hence majority of the Japanese homes are made of degradable materials. They use wood, bamboo and paper for construction since it is easy to discard as well. Their floors are also made of mats. Another reason for this kind of a construction is the ever occurring earthquakes that Japan is subjected to. 


Micro apartments were originally made for busy office go-ers who rarely stay at home. Also those tiny apartments were tiny so that people living alone won’t feel as bad about their current loneliness as much as they would’ve in a spacious apartment. Often office workers seek living spaces near their work space to save transport money and these places fit right in between any metal jungle that’s out there. These apartments seem to be the best way to survive the harsh reality of the world for college students. It isn’t too much of a space to maintain, hence no further expenses.


Micro apartments help other industries and special artists and craftsmen that mostly people don’t bat an eye at. Often these spaces use foldable equipment or furniture. Making these workable utility pieces which fit everywhere is not an easy task and require special workers.



Minimalism is all about intentionality and not deprivation. That is the essence at it’s roots of this idea.  So sit back and look around, will you be able to survive without all the (useful or useless) clutter that you have managed to accumulate all this while? If the answer is yes, congratulation! You can start moving. If the answer is no, maybe you still seek material affection. As Vernon Howard rightfully said, “You have really succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.”


This Article is written by – Vidhi Tiwari

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