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What do Japanese Apartment Layout Terms Mean?

Confused about the layout terminology of Japanese apartments. Here's a quick guide to the terminology.

By 5 min read

One of the challenges of searching for property in Japan is the unique terminology used to define the size, space, and conditions of a place. Look on GaijinPot’s apartment listings for example and you’ll notice that most places are listed as “number + letters” based on what kind of rooms there are in addition to having information about the overall size.

Things can get pretty cryptic so it’s a good idea to know what the abbreviations mean when you start looking; the list below covers some of the most common and makes an excellent list of underhand Scrabble words (if you’re counting acronyms).

Japanese Room Layouts

L, D and K meaning

Stands for “Living,” “Kitchen” and “Dining” which makes up the heart of a Japanese apartment and will usually be an open-plan area of all of these combined. You’ll rarely find separate rooms with doors between your living/dining rooms and kitchen. Most apartments (and even houses) are built around a central living area that encompasses where you cook, eat and play—known as the LDK.

1LDK layout

1LDK apartment layout example.

The number that comes before the acronym means the number of rooms separate from the LDK (basically the number of bedrooms). So a 1LDK would mean an apartment that has a living, dining and kitchen area with one bedroom as well as a separate toilet/bathroom. A 2LDK would mean that there are two bedrooms plus the living dining, kitchen part, a 3LDK would indicate three bedrooms and so on. Usually, the kitchen is part-separated from the living and dining area by a breakfast bar, wall divide or area of laminate or vinyl flooring.

1K or 1DK layout

1DK apartment layout example.
1K apartment layout example.

Often in big cities like Tokyo, you’ll find places that are advertised as just “number” + K or DK, meaning that the apartment has no living space as such but just a kitchen, or dining and kitchen. These spaces are obviously smaller; in a 1K usually, the kitchen is separated from the main room as in a DK or LDK but will be tucked away near the entrance leading to the main room. 1K kitchens often consist of one burner and a sink with a small cupboard underneath.

1R layout

Typical 1R apartment, with a mezzanine floor, layout example.

This is the coziest kind of apartment you can find where R refers to Room and means that there is only one room from where the kitchen and bathroom are directly accessed. Generally, there will be a door to the bathroom, but you’ll often find the toilet inside the unit bath to save space. It is not uncommon to find a mezzanine or loft floor in a 1R apartment in Japan. However, beware that even though you’re given extra space, it can be extremely hot up there in the summer!

1SLDK layout

1SLDK apartment layout example.

The S variously stands for “storage room,” “service room” or “free room” and usually indicates a small area that serves as a walk-in closet. The defining measurements of S rooms are not standardized so the size can range from a narrow storage space to one large enough for a small spare bedroom. In this case a 3SLDK might actually represent a 4LDK where the S can be made into another room once you’ve moved in.

Japanese 
Room Size Measurements

jou, the tatami counter

jou is the size of one tatami mat (traditional woven straw mat) and is approximately 180 x 90 cm or 1.62 square meters but this varies by region. In cities like Tokyo where space is limited, tatami mats are generally smaller at 1.76 m X 0.88 m. Often the counter ~jou will be abbreviated to just “J” and is used to measure a single room.

Standard tatami mat size examples.

So a 5.5J means that the room is the size of five and a half tatami mats. A standard sized bedroom in Japan is about 6J, though this would be considered small in western homes.

Recently, a lot of young Japanese renters now prefer apartments without tatami as it’s harder to take care of. Many newer builds won’t have tatami mats at all but they may still use the measurement for rooms with wooden or carpeted flooring.

Bonus tips if you have a tatami room in your apartment

Tatami mats are not made for heavy furniture and especially not things you have to move pretty often such as chairs, etc. Replacing a tatami mat can be extremely expensive depending on the degree of degradation, the shape and the style of your mats (from ¥10,000 per mat if it’s superficial degradation). One way to avoid this is by transforming your tatami room into a 洋室—youshitsu (western-style room)—by using a ウッドカーペット (literally, wood carpet). They come in every size of tatami mat and are easily cuttable and washable.

Pimp your tatami room.

You can find yours on Rakuten or Amazon along with other essential items for your new apartment.

アパート vs マンション

アパートapaato are usually apartments found in older, low-rise buildings made of wood or lightweight steel. マンション manshon comes from the English “mansion” but doesn’t mean quite the same thing. Although originally マンション manshon was a marketing term for new builds that were more spacious and luxurious, the term has basically come to mean an apartment in any building that’s taller than three stories. You can find crusty old マンション manshon just as you can find renewed, luxury アパートapaato, although high-rise マンション manshon  buildings are more likely to have better facilities or be part of a larger complex including a playground, gyms and a reception desk.

For more information on apartments and listings, check out the GaijinPot Japan 101 section about housing in Japan. For a peek inside a typical Japanese apartment, check out this YouTube video.

  • esiosan says:

    It would be great if the writer would give examples and drawings of how these apartments are likely to look like.

  • Micky Brunetti says:

    Very useful information.

    I really hate the way they use the acronym LDK.
    Most of the time there is no space to setup a dining AND living area.
    And it remove completely the sense of what they call a DK.
    So when you see mentioned xLDK, don’t get fool. You won’t have space for a dinning table and a sofa.
    When looking for an apartment I usually look for an extra room which will be a Japanese room next to the say LDK and use as the living room.

  • MARK ALLEN says:

    IS 1R TYPE IS OK FOR OFFICE USE FOR GETTING VISA

  • Mikey says:

    I think you forgot L for loft – where you have a bunk-bed type sleeping area stashed up and away… I have also seen it spelt with an “R” as in “roft”

  • Kristine Kawada says:

    Very informative. Thank you.

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