Japanese Apartment Bathrooms Explained

Generally speaking, the main components of bathrooms in Japanese and western countries are the same. However, there are a few quirks of Japanese washrooms that you might want to be aware of if you’re thinking of moving to Japan.

This article will go over what to expect in a typical Japanese apartment bathroom.

Components of a bathroom in a typical Japanese apartment

  • Shower (シャワー)
  • Tub (風呂)
  • Vanity (洗面所)
  • Toilet (トイレ)
  • Washing machine space (洗濯機置き場)

Not all bathrooms are created equal, but you’ll generally see these features in a typical Japanese apartment washroom. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with these fixtures so you can describe to your real estate agent what you’re looking for in an apartment. The more information you give them, the better they’ll be able to introduce you to apartments that you’ll like!

Shower (シャワー)

There are different layouts that apartment showers tend to stick to. We’ll go over some of the more common variants that you’ll see on listings on our website.

Variation 1: Unit bath with bathtub/shower, sink, and toilet in one room

Example of a unit bathroom with shower, bath tub, sink, and toilet all in the same space. This is a common layout for studio apartments. Newer buildings tend to split up the toilet and washroom spaces, even in studio apartments. Photo: Real Estate Japan

A 1R studio apartment might use a unit bathroom setup in which the shower, tub, sink, and toilet are all located in the same waterproof room. This is great for saving space, but it can be a little awkward to have your toilet and washroom so close together. However, this type of space efficiency is commonly used in budget apartments. You may want to invest in a shower curtain to keep things tidy in a space like this.

Variation 2: Unit bath with only bathtub/shower and sink (toilet in a separate room)

The unit bathroom is a lot more comfortable if the toilet is removed from the equation. Photo: Real Estate Japan

Some unit bathrooms split the toilet into a different room, leaving the sink and the shower/tub in one room. Again, this is an arrangement that you’ll see more commonly in studio apartments.

Variation 3: Bathtub/shower only (sink and toilet separate)

This example of a washroom is typical of 1DK or 1LDK units. With the toilet and sink moved out of the washroom, you’re not confined to the bath tub space for taking showers. Photo: Real Estate Japan

1LDK and even some 1DK apartments tend to (but not always) have completely separate shower/tubs, sinks, and toilets. In these arrangements, it’s more common (but personal preference really!) to take a shower outside of the tub area and to use the tub if you are going to take a bath. You can pick up a tub cover (風呂ふた) to prevent unwanted splashes from ending up in the tub, and which can be used as more area for toiletries.

Variation 4: Shower only (no bathtub), toilet separate

This apartment built in 2017 saves space by not having a bath tub. Although rare, this space saving technique can be found in some studio apartments in Japan. Photo: Real Estate Japan

Although the tub is a pretty staple part of a typical Japanese apartment, there are some apartments that don’t even have a tub.

Tub (風呂)

The above section on the shower also covers a fair bit about the tub in Japanese apartments, but there are some specifics to mention as well.

Oidaki (追い炊き)

In more high-end apartments (and homes) you’ll generally have the function to reheat the bath to a preset temperature (追い炊き, oidaki). This is convenient for families with multiple people taking a bath, to keep the water comfortable enough over a longer period of time (and to be able to use bathwater multiple times to save on your water bill, for example). In lower-end apartments this feature is not included so you cannot re-heat bath water that you have left in the tub.

Bathroom ventilation/heating system

And while all bathrooms feature some sort of ventilation feature (a fan or a window) to allow for air circulation so the room doesn’t get moldy, there is a potentially very helpful feature that you can look for in an apartment’s bath ventilation system: heating. Since you’ll be air drying your laundry in Japan (very few apartments/homes will even have space for a dryer), a bath that has a combination of ventilation and heating can be used to dry your clothes pretty effectively in case the weather proves a bit damp or cold. For a little more info on how to deal with less-than-ideal conditions for drying laundry, read our tips on Dealing with Laundry During the Rainy Season in Japan!

Above is an example of a panel that will let you set your bath water heating time and temperature, also known as oidaki (追い炊き, おいだき). Photo: Real Estate Japan

This panel will control the ventilation and heating/drying functions of the bathroom. A very handy function to have in case it starts to rain! Photo: Real Estate Japan

Vanity (洗面所)

Again, depending on the space in your apartment, your vanity (洗面所, senmenjo) can take a few different forms. In smaller apartments it will be lumped in the unit bath area. Otherwise you’ll find it in the washroom area, typically. In some cases you might find it placed outside the washroom.

Example of a vanity in a recently built (2018) apartment. Photo: Real Estate Japan

Vanities will generally have some space for you to store hygiene/grooming products, but you might have to get creative if your vanity isn’t as accommodating.

Toilet (トイレ)

It’s not uncommon to find washlets and bidet functions included in apartments in Japan. These will have features such as heated seats and spray nozzles.

Toilets in Japan also tend to have a faucet above the reservoir (but not always, as seen in the above example). This design allows you to wash your hands without having to use additional water. There’s also a type of toilet cleaner/deodorizer product that fits neatly into this type of toilet faucet – recommended for those looking to keep their bathroom fresh.

Note the faucet above the reservoir in this toilet. Photo: Real Estate Japan

Washing machine space (洗濯機置き場)

If you’ve seen this curious looking plastic platform in apartment listings and wondered what it’s for – it’s the space for a washing machine. Photo: Real Estate Japan

Nowadays it seems like apartment planners are trying to move the washing machine into the washroom area, but older apartments might have washing machine hookups located outside even! It’s good to get in a habit of double check where the washing machine is located in apartment layouts so you can decide if it’s convenient for you.

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