Have you ever been invited to visit a 和室 (washitsu)? In this post, we will walk you through the traditional and common words used for Japanese rooms in the house so that you won’t ever feel the need to scratch your head and wonder what a tatami room is and how it is different in a Western room (yep, there’s a huge difference!). But, if you are up for that, then let the learning begin!
Whenever we think about an apartment or a house in general, what usually comes to mind are the common areas like the bedroom, kitchen, dining room, bathroom, and living room. However, there is so much to that in the Japanese culture to the point that they have very specific rooms that we usually see from animes or when reading manga. And the best part of it all? All those paper-covered doors and wooden bases still exist today and are known as a “traditional Japanese-Style” room.
Features Of Traditional Japanese Rooms
As you enter Japanese houses and blurt out a loud ただいま (Tadaima) when your back from work or school, you won’t be just opening the door to enter the house right away. Instead, you will first enter what we call a 玄関 (Genkan) which refers to the entrance of the home. Even if the design of those is traditional or modern, almost every Japanese house has a genkan where you store dirty shoes and wear a special type of slipper. This is an important part of the house for the locals since the Japanese do not wear shoes inside. Typically, the locals wear スリッパ (Surripa) or basic slippers.
Once you have changed your footwear, you will notice that the flooring will be different as it is usually made of tatami mats. Tatami mats refer to straw mats that are woven and edged with wooden trim or embroidered ribbon. This type of floor material is important to traditional Japanese rooms (also called washitsu) since it has a grass-like scent and is deemed a good interior insulator during summer and wintertime. There are Japanese houses that use tatami flooring throughout the house, but modern ones only use it for a special tatami room.
A tatami room/ tatami area is important in Japanese homes since it is where the locals conduct tea ceremonies, entertain visitors, and hold religious activities. Historically the design of these rooms stemmed from the Muromachi Period and has served multiple purposes. If you think that the room is already cool enough, then you will even be surprised that the doors leading to this room are also very unique. In fact, there are three basic types of door known:
- Western-style door (the door that we probably are used to)
- 襖 (Fusuma, sliding doors and room walls (dividers) with paper coverings. The paper are usually hand-painted or include Japanese calligraphy)
- 障子 (Shoji, this is the most common door among traditional Japanese houses as it is made of wooden doors with plain washi paper between the wooden panels)
Once you are inside the traditional Japanese room, you will instantly see the uniformity in the colors used in the houses. Compared to Western houses that make use of bursting hues, the walls of Japanese homes make use of white or beige only and are not really keen on adding wall decorations. So if you are planning to give home warming gifts, then you might want to skip it and look for food items instead. Japan instilled an excellent level of patriotism among its citizens, so most of the placed items in the 床の間 (Tokonoma, raised alcove) are simple stuff like Japanese scrolls (for painting or calligraphy) and fresh ornaments.
Since the tatami room is an all-around type of area, this is also where the locals sometimes allow their guests to sleep. It is common in Japan to use the tatami on its own to sleep on the floor, but you can also use a 布団 (Futon) which acts like a regular mattress. The only difference is that futons are versatile and can be used for sitting, too as there are foldable versions.
If you are just going to be staying in the Japanese-style room for a quick time or just visiting, the locals will provide you with a 座布団 (Zabuton) a special type of cushion used for kneeling or sitting instead of the regular chairs. And if the season is cold, the traditional Japanese rooms will have kotatsu furniture, which is technically a charcoal heater where you can put your legs under.
Vocabulary For Japanese Rooms In The House
Now that we have an idea about the features of a traditional Japanese house let us now move on and give you a vocabulary list for some of the translations of the places inside the house. Please note that we will only focus on the most common ones you can see in Japanese homes, which is why you won’t find other translations here for specialty rooms popular in Western homes.
|Balcony||ベランダ / 縁側||Beranda / Engawa|
As you probably noticed above, we have one translation for the bathroom and toilet, and that is because it is usually separate in the Japanese houses- one room for the toilet and one room for the bathtub and shower area. Also, please do lower your expectations when it comes to the Japanese house kitchen because it is usually much, much smaller than the Western design.
As we reach the end of this post, we hope that you have learned all of the basic information and the common vocabulary for the parts of a Japanese house. However, suppose you’d like to learn more about how the Japanese language works. In that case, we highly recommend that you read out other related posts like how to greet using Japanese, the basic sentence structure, and how to introduce yourself.
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