Seasons and culture of Japan

Japanese Housing Complexes

In Japan, there are many buildings, of all sizes, which contain multiple dwelling units. They are called APA-TO (アパート), which means apartment, or MAN-SHION (マンション), which means condominium. There is no set definition for the difference between APA-TO and MAN-SHION; but, in general, APA-TO are made of wood or light-steel/concrete, while MAN-SHION are made with heavy, steel-reinforced concrete. Also, APA-TO buildings are normally two stories or less, while MAN-SHIONs are mostly contained in large, multi-story, high-rise buildings. Just like in the West, "apartment living" is different from dwelling in a detached single-family house. It is a combination of more anonymity along with less privacy. Houses in traditional areas are included in local neighborhood associations (CHO-NAI-KAI 町内会), which are sort of like American Home Owners' Associations, and residents are often contacted and invited to participate in local events (such as clean-ups or disaster training, etc.) This type of activity generally does not occur in rental APA-TOs or MAN-SHIONs. However, due to size limitations and construction characteristics, there is more emphasis on "avoid being a nuisance" to your neighbors (not just next door, but also above and below). APA-TOs and MAN-SHIONs have comparatively thin walls and floors, and that means that noises can "be heard" and therefore residents are careful to keep things reasonably quiet. Also, balconies are generally narrow and really intended for hang-drying clothes, so, having a barbecue, smoking, or talking on a phone while out on the balcony, all have the potential to be noticed (negatively) by neighbors. One thing which is soon sensed while living in Japan is how quiet the residential areas become at night. Also, in Japanese culture, entertaining and parties are done out at pubs, restaurants, and hotel halls, but not in private dwellings -- which helps to explain why things get so quiet after the sun sets. Many centuries ago, Japanese rulers made WA (和) "harmony" a law for all to follow. With so many people crowded together on the islands, it made sense for people to cooperate and be considerate of others, so efforts are made to preserve and maintain WA, and keep things smooth for society. We hope you will be able to live enjoyably and harmoniously in your Japanese apartment!

written by Goodfield

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