A typical western style kitchen houses all of the amenities that a person or family could need. Not only that but it gives enough room to accommodate people of most sizes and is usually separated from other rooms of the house. Japanese apartments tend to go in a different direction to use space as efficiently as possible. In a Japanese house, the kitchen is usually connected to a small dining room area for the family, and it can be the same for some larger apartments. Other apartments, however, have extremely small kitchens that try to use as little space as possible. This leads to very small cooking spaces which makes residents get creative with how they use it. Thinking smaller and trying to reduce the space needed to prep food is key.
Small Size for big Meals
When thinking about a typical Japanese apartment kitchen always go smaller than the initial idea:
- The sink is only about a foot across and it isn’t very deep either. *Counter space is extremely limited and will fill up fast with seasonings and spices.
- Some apartments come with single stove burners. Stoves can be electric or gas, with some electric stoves being IH versions. These stoves can only use IH pots and pans or they won’t heat.
- Storage space is also limited and leaves little space to hold more than a few days worth of food.
- Sometimes there is only enough room for a small refrigerator or a mini-fridge, so it will constrict what you can hold.
*There may not be any kitchen drawers available as well.
Learning how to use space in new ways can will help alleviate some of the problems associated with smaller kitchens. There are other times where the kitchen and the living room are in the same room. It is the best way to make the most of such small living spaces. The rooms will come with a burner and sink tucked it the corner of the room. It takes a little thinking to get it situated correctly but it can be done with great results.
Using Space Wisely
Having such a restricted area forces residents to think of new ways to store, cook, and prepare foods. If that is the case, a crockpot can take advantage of the area provided. It can cook easy meals, hold food for a while, and can be stored away easily. Meal prep is very easy when using this as well. You can cook large amounts of food that can be frozen for later. Toaster ovens come in wide varieties of sizes and designs. It becomes easy to find one that can fit the small space allowed. Small appliances are what people usually use as there is usually no oven and only space for cooking for one person. There are ways to use the sink or washing machine as more counter space as well. Buying food daily instead of weekly helps out a lot too. Most apartments have grocery stores near them, or near the stations. Picking up something every day is easy and convenient this way. It can ensure the smallest amount of space is used in the kitchen.
To no surprise, everything will most likely have Japanese labels. Taking the time to learn what those kanji mean will help make it easier, and safer, to cook and use your kitchen appliances. The easiest way is to use a translation app and label each one, or just study the kanji so you can read it anytime. There are videos on the internet that can show a more in-depth view of small kitchen space in Japan as well. It will be tedious at first, but it will open every kitchen when it becomes second nature. Be careful to do the same for the rest of the apartment, too. It not only makes cooking easier but general living. It never hurts to learn more about the new country you are living in either.
Because kitchen space is so restrictive most people figure out the cheapest restaurants nearby and frequent them. Cooking can be a hassle sometimes after work, and the clean-up can take up more time than desired. Eating out every now and then can help keep residents out of having to go through the trouble of prepping a meal. There are a ton of cheap options at grocery stores, and they all usually have bakeries in them that sell relatively cheap meals. Combine them with the cheaper smaller restaurants and a typical meal can end up costing 800 yen. With the new 10% tax, it may be easier to get take out since it lowers the price by 2%. Not only does this give food options, but it also allows for a better understanding of the surrounding area.
Finding what works best for an apartment will take some time. Some may cook exclusively at home after tailoring the kitchen to their liking. Others may skip cramped cooking altogether and go for the cheap restaurants and konbini meals. Any choice can work as long as a plan is devised and implemented. Some people will be surprised at what they could make in time.