Despite being known as the office video game nerd here at RocketNews24, one of my secret passions is architecture. But not just any old architecture, oh no; the only thing that interests me is kyoushou juutaku micro homes where, either for the sake of the environment or out of financial necessity, houses are designed to make use of incredibly small or narrow spaces, at once cutting their carbon footprint and making use of land that would otherwise be left open or swallowed up by other, more grandiose properties.
With more than 70 percent of Japan’s total landmass unsuitable for building on account of sprawling forests and mountain ranges, the country’s urban population pay through the nose for real estate. In spite of this, many Japanese aspire to the typical Western ideal of home ownership, saving their money to buy homes much larger than they genuinely need, complete with plastic facades designed to look like bricks and mortar. Some, though, are shunning the notion entirely and are turning the act of simplifying both their lives and homes into a fine art, designing houses that are not just small but intelligent and stylish.
Come with us now as we take a look at just a few of Japan’s incredible micro homes.
- 1. Nada House Hyogo Prefecture
Building up when you can’t build out is nothing new, but when your home is built on an area of barely 36 square metres, you need to make every inch count.
Tall and slim with its rooms wrapped around a central shaft for light to pour in through, this house’s ground floor is dedicated to little more than a storage room and space for a single car. The living room, kitchen and dining areas can be found on the second floor while two modest bedrooms are up on the third. Despite having only a few windows at the front and rear of the property, light entering from above prevents the building from feeling claustrophobic.
▼ Sunlight on the dining table
▼ Watching the kids while cooking.
▼ Every nook and cranny used. You’ll need long arms to live here, though!
▼ Sometimes it pays to build up.
Photos: Toshiyuki Yano
- 2. Hori no Uchi House Suginami, Tokyo
The only plot of land you can afford that bit left over on the edge of a street? No problem! The Hori no Uchi house is built on a near-triangular plot of land measuring just 55 square metres, with the building taking up just 27.9 square metres of that. Tapering at one end to get the most of the awkward land-space it’s built on, this building is sandwiched between a road and a river embankment, and might otherwise have eventually become little more than a parking space had this house’s clever designers not come along.
With few windows, the property’s ground floor acts as a snug hideaway and sleeping area. The second floor, meanwhile, is completely open-plan and allows for plenty of light to enter into the communal living space, which comes complete with a small loft area where the little ones can play without getting under your feet.
- 3. The Garden House
Designed by Ryue Nishizawa in answer to clients’ desires to live in the centre of the city where land is at its most expensive, the Garden House appears at first to be little more than a series of small apartments. In fact, this four-storey building is a single residence, with a spiralling steel staircase climbing up through a wide hole cut through its centre. Greenery and glass can be found on every floor, and natural light makes the rooms feel larger while the outdoor plants placed towards the front of the property provide some much needed privacy.
▼ In true Japanese style, separate shoes must be worn in the indoor ‘garden’ area.
▼ Plants, glass and stairs as far as the eye can see!
Photos by Iwaan Baan
- 4. The Split Merchant’s House AKA ‘63.02’ Nakano, Tokyo
Named after the degree at which it faces the road, 63.02 is one of the most minimalist micro homes you’ll find in Japan. Architects Jo Nagasaka and Toshiharu Ono designed the house to fit into a very shallow plot, putting it on this unusual angle both to give the inhabitants an interesting view of the street and make the most of the limited space.
▼ Cool or just plain cold?
Photos: Takumi Ota
- 5. Moriyama House
Moriyama House may look a little like a shipping container home from the outside, but once you step indoors you’ll wonder whether you accidentally entered a modern art gallery.
Essentially a series of glass boxes within a steel shell, rooms are separated by a narrow indoor ‘rock garden’ speckled with potted plants and fed by the sunlight entering from above. The first floor contains a kitchen/dining room and a bathroom, while the second floor provides sleeping and additional living areas which look down on the centre of this tiny house. We’re not entirely sure how we’d feel about people always being able to see us using the bathroom, though…
▼Perhaps not the nicest view to have during dinner?
Photos: Suppose Design Office
- #6 Lucky Drop House Tokyo
Lucky Drop House is built on one of the thinnest plots of land ever: three meters at its widest and barely a metre its narrowest. As its name suggests, the house is designed to look like a ‘drop’ of water, tapering at the top, but we have to be honest and say that if we had to live here we might not feel especially lucky. Seriously impressive design nevertheless!
Photos: Atelier Tekuto
- #7 Near House Tokyo
The Near House is actually made up of two buildings: the extremely narrow “gate house” at the front and a larger “main house” at the rear, separated by a tiny garden. The unique design makes use of an ‘L’-shaped plot of land alongside and behind an existing residence. It may be unusual, but we have to admire the designer’s decision to make creative use of this tiny strip of land.
▼ Storage space is definitely not an issue.
▼ Inside the main house everything feels much more homely.
▼ Now they just need to buy some stuff to put in it!
Photos: Shigeo Ogawa
- #8 The House with the Big Gap Tokyo
Like something out of a platform video game, The House with the Big Gap stands on a plot of land measuring barely 30 square metres. Even so, its design manages to invite a little extra natural light into the building via a giant split that runs right the way through it, with walkways and flights of stairs in every single room. Take a look at the model below before checking out the interior photos and you’ll soon see what we mean when we say that this design is quirky.
▼ Two doors on each level are connected by walkways to the opposite side.
▼ Crossing sides.
- #9 Showa-cho House Osaka
Despite being situated in a town named after a period in Japanese history, Showa-cho House is ultra modern and very stylish. The house was designed under the philosophy of ‘a small house with a great view’ and is essentially a series of interconnected levels with a giant glass facade. The owner may wish to invest in some remote-controlled blinds though…
▼ Very narrow but surprisingly airy and bright.
Photos: Toshiyuki Yano
- #10 The Split House Tokyo
Undoubtedly the cutest in our collection today, this “Scandinavian-style” house gets its name from the fact that a small garden area sits between the front and back sections, dividing it into two. The two halves of the house mirror each other and are connected by a tiny wooden walkway (below). Putting the garden literally in the middle of the house means more light, which in turn makes a building nearly half the width of a standard house feel much less cramped.
Photos: Manuel Oka
By Western standards, some of these buildings may look like something you might wish you could build as a spectacular playhouse for your kids, but with a little creativity and clever life hacking it’s possible to live perfectly happily in a small home. Although the majority of these houses were designed so as to be as affordable as possible in heavily populated areas such as Tokyo and Osaka where land is sold at a premium, there’s nothing stopping those living in more rural areas taking a similar approach. After all, less land may mean a smaller home and less room for all your junk, but when we spend so much of our adult lives trying to save money to buy more new toys or pay off mortgages and other debt, perhaps it’s time we all started living a little simpler ?
Source: Naver Matome (Japanese)