So…you’re looking at rental or sales listings and you realize that some of the terms and acronyms are a bit different than what you might be used to. Well, consider this guide to be your secret decoder ring. We’re here to help!

If you’ve already been looking at listings here in Japan, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that terms like “three bedroom, two bath” don’t apply. Instead…you see things like “2SLDK 6/4.5J.” Here’s how it works:

L = Living Area

D = Dining Area

K = Kitchen

The proceeding number indicates the amount of rooms separate from the kitchen, living, and dining areas.

Other things you might see:

S = non-standard sized room (usually smaller than a typical Japanese bedroom). Often, this is a walk-in style closet or something similar.

GH = Guest House

R = Room (This is typically used when an apartment does not have a separate cooking or dining area from the main room. The most common example would be “1R.”)

Apato = apartment in a low-rise building…often older

Manshon = apartment or condo in a high-rise building (more than 3 floors)

“J” or “Jo” or “Jou” = unit of measurement based on the size of a tatami mat


Now, let’s take a look at size. Room sizes are typically measured in “jou.” One “jou” is the size of one tatami mat. Here’s the kicker. Tatami mats are not all the same size. They can very by location. In a highly populated area like Tokyo, mats are typically 1.76m x 0.88m. Elsewhere, the modern standard for a tatami mat is 180cm x 90cm. Standard bedroom size in Japan is 6 jou. To put things in perspective, an average bedroom in the United States is somewhere between 8 and 10 jou.


The other measurement you will see is square meters. Depending on the verbiage, it will either be the flooring size (common for apartment or condominium listings) or overall property size.

For review, let’s take a look at the example we gave early on: 2SLDK 6/4.5J. This listing details a residence with 2 rooms separate from the living, dining, and kitchen area. One of them is the size of 6 tatami mats while the other is a smaller one, the size of 4 and a half mats. There is also a non-standard size room. No size is given, and we can guess that it is probably a walk-in closet or some sort of storage alcove.

I should mention that in Japanese apartments, the living area is rarely a completely separate room from the dining and kitchen area. At most, there may be sliders that can section it off. Also, a counter or island is typically all that separates the cooking area from the eating area.

Now for the tough part…bathrooms. It is not common for apartments, or even houses, to have more than one bathroom. You’ll be able to ascertain the bathroom setup from the floor plan. The bathing area is usually separate from the toilet area. Exceptions to this might be a 1R or a business hotel room. In this case, a prefabricated bathroom containing everything is installed. The advantage to this setup is being able to clean easily. There is a drain in the floor and everything can get wet.

Let us know if you have any questions regarding apartment or housing listings in Japan. We’ll be happy to include the answers in this guide. Yes, things are different here. However, once you get to understand those differences, you’ll find that it all makes sense. Now, let’s find you a great place to live!