What do Japanese Apartment Layout Terms Mean?
By Rebecca Quin
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 as well as 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).
Stands for Living, Kitchen and Dining room 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 Go – known as the LDK.
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, Kitchen area with 1 bedroom as well as a separate toilet/bathroom. A 2LDK would mean that there are 2 bedrooms plus the Living Dining, Kitchen part, a 3LDK would indicate 3 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
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 1 burner and a sink with a small cupboard underneath.
This is the coziest kind of apartment you can find where R refers to Room and means that there is literally only one room from where the kitchen and bathroom are directly accessed. Generally there will be a door to the bathroom, unless you’re looking at this apartment which is definitely not suitable for timid tinklers.
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.
Room Size Measurements
Jo 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 ‘-Jo’ will be abbreviated to just ‘J’ and is used to measure a single room.
So a 5.5J means that the room is the size of 5 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.
Apato vs Manshon
Apatos are usually apartments found in older, low-rise buildings made of wood or lightweight steel. Manshon comes from the English ‘mansion’ but doesn’t mean quite the same thing. Although originally ‘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 3 stories. You can find crusty old manshons just as you can find renewed, luxury apatos, although high-rise 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 blog housing articles and when you’re ready to make an inquiry take a look at their apartments listings.