The first thing I noticed when going into my Japanese host’s house was the height of the doors. Or rather, the lack of height.
Even though I’m quite tall at 6′ 3″ (192cm) I’ve rarely come across doors before that are too low for me. However I was unable to go through any door in the Japanese house without ducking down, because all the doorframes were only slightly higher than my nose.
Of course I often forgot to duck and smacked my head off the frame. This happened at least 5 times per day, to the constant amusement of everyone else in the house.
Here are some other differences compared to western houses:
Almost all the inside walls were thin – not made of paper but a kind of thick cardboard that you would probably fall through if you put your weight on. Most of the doors were sliding, and also made out of the same thin material. Even the outside walls were quite thin – I expect it would be quite cold in winter because there didn’t seem to be much insulation.
The bath was smaller, but a lot deeper than western baths. It was only used for a relaxing soak after washing the body in the shower beforehand. The shower was fixed onto the wall near the floor, rather than at head-height and instead of standing to use the shower, you use it while sitting on a small stool.
The kitchen was almost the same as a western kitchen, the only difference being the lack of an oven. Most food is cooked on a gas hob, and meals that need to be cooked in an oven are not common.
The toilet was probably the most unusual part of the house. Most people have heard about the electronic toilets in Japan, but they really have to be seen to be believed. Aswell as the heated seat and various “cleaning sprays”, this one even had buttons to automatically move the lid and seat up and down. Sadly I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures of it…