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Japanese Apartment Layouts: Terms and Meanings

Confused about Japanese apartment layout terminology? Here's a quick run down.

By 5 min read 5

One of the first things you’ll have to familiarize yourself with when apartment hunting in Japan is the unique terminology used to describe Japanese apartment layouts. On GaijinPot apartments, we offer apartments across Japan to suit your needs.

Each unit is listed with numbers and letters to help prospective tenants understand the size. However, the actual apartment size must be understood beyond these numbers and letters using tatami mat (traditional woven straw mat) sizing. This article will review the basics of understanding standard Japanese apartment layouts and types.

Japanese Apartments Explained

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How would you describe this kind of apartment?

Knowing the exact apartment layout you want can speed up your apartment-hunting process. As much as possible, it’s important to make an in-person visit to double-check if the size and layout work for your lifestyle and budget.

  • 1, 2, 3 for Number of Rooms
    • The numbers indicate the rooms inside the apartment, not necessarily bedrooms. For example, a 1R stands for a one-room or studio apartment.
  • L for Living Area
    • L denotes the living room or where you’ll place your couch, television and so on.
  • D for Dining Area
    • If your apartment has a “dining area,” it’ll have enough space for a dining table and some chairs. You’ll rarely find separate rooms with doors between your living/dining rooms and kitchen.
  • K for Kitchen
    • A kitchen will most probably be located right next to the living and dining spaces, which together form a central living area.
  • S for Service or Storage Room
    • The defining measurements of S rooms are not standardized, so sizes can range from narrow storage spaces to large enough for spare bedrooms.
  • RF for Roof Floor
    • A Roof Floor can also be referred to as a mezzanine. It is not counted as living space and is meant for extra storage. One benefit is that you can turn it into a sleeping area, but it can be hot during summer.

Common Apartment Layouts

1DK apartment layout example.

Here are some of the most common layouts when apartment hunting. Factors like building age, management fees and extra facilities can greatly influence the move-in costs and overall rent.

1R

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

“R” refers to Room, which means that there is only one room from which 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. The majority of these types of apartments will have little to no storage. There’s just enough space for basic furniture and not much else.

  • Average size: 13 to 20 square meters of floor space
  • Recommended for: Singles, people on a tight budget

1K or 1DK

1K apartment layout example.

In big cities like Tokyo, you’ll often find places advertised as just “number” + K or DK, meaning that the apartment has no living space but just a kitchen or dining kitchen. These spaces are obviously smaller; in a 1K, 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 have one burner and a sink with a small cupboard underneath.

  • Average size: 13 to 25 square meters for 1K and 25 to 35 square meters for 1DK
  • Recommended for: Singles, people who want a bit more separation between their kitchen and bedroom

1LDK

1LDK apartment layout example.

A 1LDK means this apartment has a living, dining, and kitchen area with one bedroom and a separate toilet/bathroom. A 2LDK implies two bedrooms plus the living, dining and kitchen; a 3LDK would indicate three rooms. Usually, the kitchen is partly separated from the living and dining areas by a breakfast bar, wall divide, or laminate or vinyl flooring area.

  • Average size: 30 to 40 square meters
  • Recommended for: Couples or young families

1SLDK

1SLDK apartment layout example.

The S in 1SLDK usually indicates a small area that serves as a walk-in closet. The defining measurements of S rooms are not standardized, so their size can range from a narrow storage space to one large enough for a small spare bedroom. In this case, a 1SLDK might actually represent a 2LDK, where the S can be made into another room once you’ve moved in.

  • Average size: 40 square meters and up
  • Recommended for: Couples, young families, people who work from home

Japanese Room Measurements

Beyond apartment layouts, there’s another way that apartments are measured in Japan.

Tatami Counter

Standard tatami mat size examples.

じょう (jou) is the size of one tatami mat and is approximately 180 x 90 cm or 1.62 square meters, but this varies by region. In cities like Tokyo, tatami mats are generally smaller at 1.76 m X 0.88 m. The counter is abbreviated to just “J” and measures a single room. 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 6J, though this would be considered small in Western homes.

Nowadays, renters prefer apartments without tatami as they are harder to maintain. Many newer builds won’t have tatami mats, but they may still use the measurement for wooden or carpeted flooring rooms.

Types of Japanese Apartments

Here are the types of apartments you’ll find in Japan.

Apartments (アパート)

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A cost-effective way to live in more central parts of town.

Apartments, or apaato, are usually older, low-rise buildings made of wood or lightweight steel. They are a cost-effective way to live in more central parts of town, but they aren’t as sturdy as a mansion (we’ll get to that in a bit). Popular among students and fresh grads, renting an apartment is one of the cheapest housing options.

Pros: 

  • Lower building management fee
  • Affordable overall rent

Cons:

  • Might not have an elevator (mostly walkups)
  • Poor soundproofing

Mansion (マンション)

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Usually, a mansion is any building taller than three levels.

Manshon comes from the English “mansion” but doesn’t mean quite the same thing. Although initially a marketing term for new builds that were more spacious and luxurious, the term has basically come to mean an apartment in any building taller than three stories. Note that you can find crusty old mansions just as renewed luxury apartments. However, high-rise mansion buildings are more likely to have better facilities or be part of a larger complex, including a playground, gyms and a reception desk.

Pros:

  • Better insulation
  • Better earthquake protection

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • More neighbors

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.

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  • 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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