Aside from the entrance area (genkan, Xuan Guan), kitchen, bathroom, and toilet, each room in a typical Japanese house has no specific purpose. A living room, dining room, study, or bedroom can be in any room. There must be space for a couch in the living room, but there are usually other ways to sit down besides using it as a chair. For example, there might be chairs around the table in the dining room or bookshelves in the study.
Living rooms are used for relaxing after a long day at work or playing with your children. You can watch television here or just hang out with friends. In Japan, most people sleep in separate bedrooms instead of sharing rooms with another person. Even if they do share rooms, the beds are usually separated by curtains or boxes filled with clothes so that each person has their own private space.
There are two types of Japanese rooms: tsukiya and ryokan. A tsukiya is a shared room where you sleep on a sofa bed or mattress on the floor. Your belongings will likely go into a chest or closet. The owner of the home will arrange guests' schedules by requesting them to pay per night, which varies depending on the length of stay. A ryokan is a private room with its own bathroom inside a large house owned by a traditional Japanese hotel.
The majority of Japanese people still live in traditional single-family homes, although some also live in more contemporary, Western-style houses and flats. The hallways have wood floors, but the remainder of the home has thick straw mats called tatami that cover the floors. A new trend is for people to replace the matting with carpet or vinyl tiles.
In Japan, there are many different ways to arrange rooms. Some families may have a formal dining room, while others may have one where all the family eats together in front of the TV. Still other families might have separate bedrooms for their children. Parents usually share a room if they want to keep the cost down.
Traditional Japanese houses had only one floor with a small balcony or patio area above it. The interior walls were mostly made up of shoji screen doors that could be opened to let in fresh air or closed to keep out insects or the rain. The roof was typically flat, made of tile or shingles. Underneath it all you would find a bathroom, kitchen, and toilet room. There might be a separate entryway called a "honjin" which used to be only for men but now can be for either gender.
When Tokyo was built from scratch after World War II, many skyscrapers were erected. But most Japanese cities consist mainly of old buildings in some areas, while others have modern housing developments with apartments built right into the hills.
In a typical Japanese home, there are no chairs or beds. You sit on the floor and sleep on cushions and futon bedding. Before Western-style houses became popular, Japanese rooms were divided by sliding paper screens called shoji or fusuma rather than doors and windows. The most important thing about a Japanese room is that it has the right amount of space for its occupants.
There are several different types of shoji, but the three most common ones are rice paper, bamboo, and wood. Rice paper shoji are thin and transparent, which allows light into the room while still giving people privacy. Bamboo shoji are thicker and offer more protection from wind and rain. Wood shoji are the most decorative and serve as an outer wall as well as an inner one. They often have painted designs on them or lacquer finishes that protect the wood from moisture. All over Japan you will see shoji with color, design, and writing. Some are simple, some are detailed; some are plain, others are highly decorated. But they all serve the same purpose - to divide up space in a way that's convenient for living together while still being attractive.
A shoji screen doesn't stay put like a door does. When someone wants to go from one area of the house to another, they open a series of shoji panels, usually with a knob at the end of each panel.
In my limited experience with the interiors of modern Japanese houses, sliding panels are mainly restricted to the tatami room and closets, but some houses are still created that take use of their outstanding versatility. Western-inspired dwellings are uncommon, but not entirely missing.
Even if they are used only for storage, sliding doors are an important part of any house. They can be used to create a connection between two different rooms, to let in some air or keep out some noise. Or they can be closed completely, like in the case of the tatami room, where you roll up the mats when you want to get inside.
Also interesting is the fact that most Japanese houses don't have a garage. The reason is probably the lack of space: all those cars need to be able to fit! So drivers usually park on the street, under the shade of a tree or next to a bus stop. Some cities have parking facilities, but they are called "car parks" and they are expensive!
Modern Japanese houses tend to be made out of concrete or steel, with wood used only as a decorative element. But even if they are built using other materials, their design will often include some kind of wood element, from the furniture to the fixtures. This is because Japan is one of the world's leading producers of wood products.
In contrast to residences in much of Europe, including major cities like London and Paris, Japanese dwellings in major cities rarely include a garden (AmE = yard). By Western standards, the architecture is extremely conventional. The majority of new houses and apartment buildings are constructed of concrete. Sometimes these concrete structures are covered with wood or plastic panels.
Even in older neighborhoods, you will usually find that the gardens have been replaced by parking lots. As you can see from this picture, people in Japan prefer to use public spaces instead. These are the so-called "community baths" which were once common in urban areas; they included a large pool for swimming as well as rooms for relaxing after a hard day's work.
In more rural areas, especially if there are no community baths nearby, people often have small gardens with flowers and trees. But even here, you will usually find those growing on sale in nurseries or planted by private individuals.
The reason why most Japanese homes don't have any kind of outdoor space is because Japanese society is based around the idea of moe (or "moeness") - the belief that natural beauty is important for happiness. There are many references to this in literature and art history; it's also what makes shopping at malls or going to theme parks so enjoyable for many Japanese people.