How much space do you need at least if you want to live comfortably by yourself?
Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism once calculated a “minimum living area level”, and the results showed that in order to enjoy a “healthy and educated life”, a single person should live in a room of more than 25 square meters, and the standard for two people living together is 30 square meters. More than square meters.
Shinobu Yoshii, a Japanese-Chinese writer, suspects that this standard is a bit too high. In 2017, she moved back to Tokyo from Beijing and lived in a room with an area of only eight square meters. It took five years in a flash.
Eight square meters is specifically referred to as “four and a half” in Japanese, and its size is equivalent to the area of four and a half tatami mats. It is preferred by single people with little income and living in poverty. Even the landlord thinks so. When Yoshii Shinobu first moved into Basqm, the landlord said to her earnestly, “Work hard.”
But she was not in a hurry to move out, nor did she plan to buy a house. “Because the feeling of actually living in it is not so miserable,” she wrote in “Tokyo Eight Square Meters” (published in 2023), a collection of essays written around eight square meters of life.
Living alone, eight square meters is a very economical choice. If I don’t have a refrigerator, I will give up hoarding and only buy ingredients that can be digested within two days; if I can’t do laundry, I often go to an independent laundry shop near my home; I go to the Sento to bathe, and chatting with the proprietress keeps her mentally healthy. Those inconveniences in life gave her a lot of opportunities to go out of the house and explore the city as a house girl.
Instead of relying on review websites, when she walks into a tea shop or a certain soba noodle shop in her spare time, she can always chat with the owner naturally, and they become friends after going back and forth. Later, sometimes even if she was just passing by, she would walk into the small shop and say a few words, so she was often asked, “Is it easy for you to establish contact with people?”
She also likes to visit exhibitions, watch movies, and travel around. The omitted part just happened to be transferred to “entertainment expenses”. When she was working in a curry shop, she bought a snow scene in Vladivostok taken by a colleague and hung it on the eight-square-meter wall. One summer, she deliberately flew to Vladivostok to avoid the heat, and said with a smile that if it was not eight square meters, how could she stand on the beach of Vladivostok early in the morning drinking coffee.
Sometimes after traveling or “lying flat” at her parents’ house for a few days, she began to worry about whether she would not adapt to the cramped room of eight square meters, but whenever she returned to Tokyo and opened the wooden door of the room, she immediately adapted up.
Flow has been throughout most of her life. Counting it down, she changed more than 30 residences before moving into the eight square meters alone. Student apartments in Chengdu, farms in southern France, rough houses in Beijing, commercial centers in Manila, etc., life is like a rolling stone.
As a result, she became more and more aware of her needs for housing. Clean, good ventilation and lighting, not too noisy around, convenient transportation, you can cook by yourself. “Actually, there are not many conditions that are so simple.” She remembered that when she first stepped into the eight-square-meter house, there were glass windows on the east and south sides of the house, and the room looked bright and spacious. “It was a sense of freedom from material constraints.” So the agent next to him said, “Actually, this room is not that small.”
It is Tokyo’s “bigness” that makes her willing to live in an eight-square-meter hut with incomplete facilities. “Endless exhibitions and movies, large and small libraries and their perfect query systems, unique sento, tea shops suitable for human observation, railway and air routes that allow you to escape reality, and quite a few Temporary positions.” She records in detail the daily routines that make up her life.
Back in Tokyo is her first time living alone after a long time. In “Tokyo Eight Square Meters”, she wrote this proposition, “How do single women in their forties who return to China after leaving Japan for twenty years find their own place and meaning of existence?”
what a person’s life can be like
Back in Tokyo, the new residence has not yet been determined, Yoshii Shinobu first found a part-time job in a curry shop.
I can’t say any special reasons, but I just feel that I need a place to get in touch with others besides writing manuscripts. “I don’t just want to meet more people, I hope to find a sense of belonging in this city. A certain place accepts me.” After leaving Tokyo for more than 20 years, she has very few friends here.
The curry tastes good, and the interior decoration style is as simple and friendly as the owner’s personality. They also provide working meals before get off work. After a simple interview, she worked as a temporary worker. She only shows up at a fixed time every week to serve dishes, wash dishes or collect money. “This place accepts me. I have what I should do there.” The gesture may be It is a little clumsy, but it is her method of embedding into urban life in a down-to-earth manner and reconnecting with Tokyo. The place of residence is irrelevant. “Even if you live in an expensive hotel ,
it is meaningless. You have nothing to do with the city.”
On the outskirts of Tokyo, another is in Ibaraki Prefecture. Later, I found that I was too used to the rhythm of the metropolis, and I was greedy for the culture and human relations there, so I made up my mind to go back to the bustling urban area, so I don’t have to worry about missing the last train.
Finding a home is another opportunity to take stock of your situation. After a few brief sentences to express her needs, she got into the same car with the intermediary she had just met. Orientation, cleanliness or lighting, in addition to those common demands, single women have to pay special attention to safety issues, for example, “Don’t hang underwear and other intimate clothing outside.” The single male friends around her seem to have never concern. She declined the “single-family” house that the intermediary helped her find, and the other party expressed understanding and took the initiative to chat with her about the theft of a single friend’s rental house, muttering in a low voice, “Living alone in Tokyo is still a bit hard for women.” Because of the
facilities Not perfect, she often has to step out of the house. At first, every time she went to Sento, she always took her dirty clothes with her, and washed her clothes after taking a shower. Later, she found that under the same price, independent laundry shops took longer——”These two minutes are very important , the thicker socks can’t be dried thoroughly”—then only went to the laundry room instead. According to her experience, 8 o’clock in the morning is the peak time of the laundry room. “There are all kinds of people in the laundry room. It is difficult to tell what kind of life the other party is living from their clothes.”
Once she met an aunt in the laundry room, who was also single. The two discussed for a while whether it was more cost-effective to go to the laundry room or buy a washing machine. Then the aunt asked, “Do you live alone? Are you not married?” She realized that The other party was obviously more interested in the later topics.
Such inquiries are rare. Most people are polite, following the polite and restrained Japanese way of socializing, and rarely dig into the bottom line of private life, and she doesn’t often bring it up on her own initiative. Only occasionally, at night after working in a curry shop, when colleagues share the leftover ingredients of the day, she is often asked by colleagues why she doesn’t take more, and then she mentions that she lives in an eight-square-meter house, because there is no refrigerator, and she cannot Bring too much.