Traditional Japanese homes are composed of wood and supported by wooden pillars, while modern homes feature Western-style rooms with timber floors and are frequently built with steel pillars. However, an increasing number of families in cities are residing in massive, ferro-concrete apartment structures.
The traditional Japanese house has three levels: the storage area (utai), the floor (tatami) and the ceiling (fusuma). The storage area is where the family keeps their possessions such as clothes and dishes. This area is also where the householder can be found working at his writing desk or sewing machine. The floor is made up of tightly packed straw mats which act as insulation against heat and cold, as well as providing a comfortable surface on which to walk. The ceiling is made of bamboo matting which allows airflow through the house.
In addition to these three main rooms, a Japanese home may have other facilities such as a kitchen, toilet, sauna, and music room. Most Japanese households now use gas for heating, but oil and coal are still used in some remote areas.
Modern apartments usually consist of several separate rooms each with its own bathroom and kitchen. Some have a living room, while others do not. They vary according to design and size, but most tend to be quite spacious. Apartments are often shared by more than one family, with each having their own entrance into the common corridor.
Timber and clay have been the primary building materials in Japanese home construction for hundreds of years. The structure is made of wood, while the walls are made of clay. In some cases, bamboo has been used instead.
In modern times, steel and concrete are also used for house construction. These materials are useful for large projects or when speed is important.
Traditional buildings in Japan are made of timber and often contain lots of rice straw, which is easy to get around and very durable. They are usually flat-roofed with the floors being raised about 10 centimeters (4 inches) off the ground.
Modern buildings are mostly made of steel or concrete, but there are still many Japanese homes built using timber or brick.
There are several types of houses in Japan, depending on how rich you are. If you can afford it, you can buy your own private villa called a "yukata". It will take up one quarter of an acre and cost millions of dollars. Or you can rent a room in a big apartment called "gohyakumae" or "genbaku-ten". This word means "eighteen rooms", because most apartments consist of two rows of nine rooms each.
In a typical Japanese home, there are no chairs or beds. You sit and sleep on the floor with the help of 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 item in a Japanese room is the tatami mat, which is used for everything from flooring to clothing. Mats are available in many colors and styles; however, they usually have a woven bamboo structure with a rubber backing that makes them easy to clean and durable enough for daily use.
The other major component of a Japanese room is the honjin. This is a central area where guests will be invited to sit and enjoy tea and food. It may be a separate room or it could be an open space within the house. However, it must have comfortable seating for everyone who visits it. A honjin should not be confused with a dining room because while you can eat your tea party dishes here, they are usually just meant as accent pieces. Nor should it be confused with a living room because this space is usually reserved for relaxing or sleeping.
Other common items in a Japanese room include a ceramic stove for cooking food on, a washbasin for washing hands, a hanging rack for clothes, and a tsukumogawa water spout for sprinkling water into the air during incense burning ceremonies.