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Living in Japan

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1. Posted by colrus (Budding Member 13 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Hi I am an Australian high school student. My mum is a member of this forum and she thought it would be a good way to find out some information for my Japanese school assignment. I hope someone will be able to answer my questions - I hope no one minds.

My questions are

1. In what type of housing would a single person working in Tokyo live?

2. What are the different types of housing in Japan and who lives there?

3. What are the relative sizes of Japanese and Australian houses.

4. What is a mother's job in a Japanese family? Does a mum stay at home or work? Do other family members have important roles?

I hope someone can help!
Thank you.

2. Posted by stevieh (Respected Member 615 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Wow, great questions Jessica. No-one will mind, as broadening the mind as far as other countries are concerned is what all travellers want to do!
I'm English and so my opinions are just that, so I guess you should hope for some Japanese answers (!) but I took my partner and kids to Japan a couple of years ago and soaked up the culture.

1. You wouldn't believe how crammed Tokyo is. Take Sydney or Melbourne and squeeze it like a sponge into your hands and you've an idea of living in Tokyo! Most people live in small apartments, which are very simple and clutter-free inside. I guess they'd have to be.
You can only own a car in Tokyo if you can prove you have the space to park it (there are some exceptions for very small cars)! They also have those automatic, mechanical multi-storey car parks which park their cars for them in as space-effiecient a way as possible.
For these reasons and also the fact that Japan is a very traditional society with strict social conduct, I would think it possible that many people stay at home until they get married - I can't be sure of this, but it strikes me as highly likely.

2. There are more traditional types of houses in the countryside, but Japan is very volcanic, so most people live around the coast - much like Australia but for a different reason. Again, things are very family oriented.

3. You will have guessed by now that Aussie homes are a fair bit bigger than Japanese ones! I've been to Australia too, and I would estimate they are at least twice as big, probably much more.

4. Again, a Japanese person would be best to confirm this, but I do know that the country is very traditional (old fashioned perhaps) and that women usually stay at home to look after the family. Some mothers might also work part time, for example in the local shops etc.
Married men are actually known in Japan as 'Salarymen', because all they do is work! Literally. They typically work from early in the morning until 8 at night, and then spend a few hours in the Karaoke Bars until 10 or 11. This is not really optional! It is seen as a bonding exercise with their colleagues and regarded as very important. I'm sure they enjoy it though!
They also get only 1 or 2 weeks holiday a year - a bit like in the USA. This sounds awful to most of us, and I don't think I could cope with it.

I don't know whether children have any kind of role, but they are probably better behaved than you would expect! The society wouldn't accept bad behaviour, so Tokyo is regarded as the safest large city in the world due to its extremely low crime rate. It is also the cleanest town or city you could possibly imagine, despite the crush!
Although teenagers of course do push it a bit and drive cars very fast in the hillsides, and they are all into music and gadgets like the rest of us.

Other Stuff:
It might also help to know that Japan is one of the most expensive countries to live in in the world. Food isn't too dear, or technology of course, but houses, cars and other living expenses are very high. But of course their wages will be higher to compensate.
Strange things: Look out for books by Josie Dew and her cycling trips around Japan - she points out that the concept of someone cycling around the country is completely alien to the Japanese - so much so that she made the national newspapers!
A downside of their strict society means that even today, 60 years on, survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic bombs are treated as outcasts in case they are still suffering from radiation sickness. Even children of survivors don't like to mention their parents in case no-one will marry them. Sad but true.

Phew! That should keep you going. Please feel free to ask some more!

3. Posted by kyk (Budding Member 8 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Although I certainly wouldn't say Stevieh is wrong in anything he said, I thought I could provide a bit of a broader perspective, because having lived two years in rural Japan, I can tell you there's a lot more to Japan than just Tokyo. (I've also spent time in Tokyo -- although I was born and raised in Canada, my parents are from there and I speak fluent Japanese. I've also lived in Australia.)

1. In what type of housing would a single person working in Tokyo live?

Stevie is right when he says it's usually a small apartment. But I'm not so sure about clutter-free. A lot of people have devised fairly ingenious ways to keep their clutter under control (under beds, on shelves, etc.) but I've also seen a lot of awfully cluttered apartments.

2. What are the different types of housing in Japan and who lives there?

There are more or less the same types of homes as in Australia -- flats, condos, townhouses, single detatched houses. Although the average size is no doubt smaller than in Oz, there are certainly fairly large examples of all of the above, particularly in the countryside. One difference, though, is that there's seldom much in the way of a yard. People might plant flowers or even a vegetable garden, but I've almost never seen much of a lawn in someone's backyard, even in rural areas. If people have a lot of space, they might have a rice paddy or an ornamental garden with flowers, rocks and maybe even a pond, but lawns they tend to save for parks.

Most people live with their families, or alone. Living with roommates is virtually unheard of. It's not considered unusual or strange for adult children to live with their parents, even if they're 40 or 50. Traditionally, the eldest son continued to live with his parents all his life, and his wife moved in with them, and of course their children would also live with them. This is still common today, although it's not always the case, and the one who lives with the parents is no longer necessarily the eldest son.

3. What are the relative sizes of Japanese and Australian houses.

Usually Australian houses are bigger, but certainly not always. Many rural Japanese homes are huge, sometimes twice the size of a small starter bungalow in an Australian inner suburb. Even in cities, houses aren't necessarily all that small. My grandmother's house in Tokyo is only slightly smaller than my parents' house in Canada, except that my grandmother doesn't have a basement. Japanese houses almost never have basements, although they're more likely to have a second floor. Bungalows are rare in Japan, even in the countryside. Therefore my parents' bungalow in Canada probably takes up twice the land area of my grandmother's house in Tokyo, although the total indoor space is comparable.

4. What is a mother's job in a Japanese family? Does a mum stay at home or work? Do other family members have important roles?

I wouldn't contradict anything Stevie said, but I would add that there certainly ARE Japanese mothers who work full-time in fulfilling professional careers, whether they're single or married. Usually, though, they're be mothers who have a lot of external support, often from their own parents or in-laws. In fact, the parents/mother might live with the grandparents, who take on the role of primary childcare providers. While there are day-care centres, they usually have more limited hours than ones in Australia. Non-family babysitters are relatively rare, live-in nannies virtually unheard of.

Percentage-wise, though, there are a lot more stay-at-home mothers in Japan than in Australia. Also a lot more more stay-at-home wives who don't even have children.

By the way, although Stevie's description of "salarymen" definitely holds true in urban areas, it's not as much so in rural areas. There, the man of the family might work "only" until 6 or 7 p.m. most nights, with quasi-compulsory after-work socializing limited to perhaps once or twice a week.