Ready to kick off 2024 with a new vibe for your (new) Japanese apartment? As we step into the Year of the Dragon, let’s harness that fiery energy and infuse it into your home decor. New year, new me, new home – let’s make it happen, y’all! In my latest blog post, I’m sharing 10 tips to make your Japanese apartment kid and dog-friendly.
10 Tips To Make Your Japanese Apartment Kid and Dog-Friendly
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Throughout this post, I’ll be sharing my favorite interior goods stores, Amazon Japan picks, and Daiso must-haves that are absolute game-changers. It’s all about finding that sweet spot between minimalism and cozy vibes because who says simplicity can’t be stylish?
But, before I get into all of that, I want to start with my apartment layout so you get an idea of what I was working with.
Japanese Apartment Layout: 1LDK, 2K, or 2LDK?
My apartment search as a single mom in Tokyo focused on the following layouts: 1LDK, 2K, and 2LDK. Add a dog into the mix, and I knew I was in for a challenge, but it all paid off in the end.
What’s the difference when it comes to 1LDK, 2K, and 2LDK apartments in Japan?
Basically, it all comes down to the kitchen space!
A 1LDK has one large room and a kitchen that’s just as large. Think 8 tatami mats or more. On the other hand, a 2K apartment has two bedrooms, and a kitchen that’s less than 4.5 tatami mats. Likewise, a 2LDK apartment has 2 bedrooms, and a large kitchen/living room space.
After 6 years of us sharing a Japanese bedroom and co-sleeping on a futon, I
wanted needed an apartment with at LEAST two rooms, with actual flooring suitable for beds.
Which brings us to my first tip on how to make your Japanese apartment kid and dog-friendly:
1. Choose Kid & Pet-Friendly Flooring
A large portion of the initial fees for your Japanese apartment no doubt includes a deposit, known as shikikin (敷金). It’s usually the equivalent of one month’s rent, and if you have a pet, you’re looking at 2 or even 3 month’s rent.
This deposit is supposed to cover basic wear and tear as well as cleaning and repair when you move out. So, make things easier on yourself and kid(s) by choosing an apartment with suitable flooring.
Tatami floors require ventilation and cleaning. So, choose an apartment with easy-to-clean and scratch-resistant wooden flooring, furo-ringu (フローリング) to handle the wear and tear from both kids and dogs. This will make daily cleaning and maintenance much easier on you!
2. Go For Minimalist Interior Design
Minimalist is more than a trendy buzz word. It’s a lifestyle with roots in Japanese culture. It’s not about the absence of colors, but rather simplicity – the fewer things, the better!
When it comes to minimalist interior design, the more floor area you have, the more spacious a room will feel. Here’s how to make it happen:
3. Create Dedicated Relax & Play Area(s)
Designate a specific area in your Japanese apartment as a play zone for kids and dogs. Use rugs, soft cushions, and child-friendly furniture to make it a safe and comfortable space for all.
For example, if you opt for an apartment with a 1LDK layout, give your child(ren) the bedroom, and take the living room.
Buy a single size kakebuton (掛け布団), pillow(s), bedsheets, and add a two seater sofa bed (above) or loft bed for the “living room.” Remove the kakebuton to turn the bed into a “sofa” when it’s not being used for sleep.
Purchase a bunk bed or “system bed” (above) to create more floor space for the kids’ bedrooms.
For school-aged kids, establish a well-lit study area that blocks the view of distractions like the bed and/or play areas in order to improve motivation.
4. Invest in Storage Solutions
Keep clutter at bay by investing in storage solutions like baskets, bins, and organizers. Low beds are great for young kids, and you can pair them with flat boxes that slide right under the bed.
In our case, I went for the low bed option and bought a mattress bed (above) for Miss M.
I also asked her to pick out her own bed sheets to really drive home the idea that she is now responsible for her own “big girl” room!
I also got her the 500 yen Daiso version of these Iris Ohyama wire storage baskets so she can keep her room organized. (They match her Cinamoroll bedsheets!)
Racks are also a great storage solution when making the most of small spaces:
I got this slim shoe rack for the genkan, or entrance, which also doubles as a storage space for dog walking essentials. I opted for plastic to lessen the potential for injuries.
Likewise, when it comes to storage solutions, choose furniture that doubles as storage.
5. Secure Furniture and Electronics
As recent events have unfortunately shown us, Japan is prone to natural disasters. Child-proof and dog-proof your apartment by securing heavy furniture and electronics to the walls to prevent accidents or injuries. Use safety straps, anchors, and adhesives to keep things in place.
In our case, since I had a very strict budget, I didn’t buy a TV and bulky stand for my new Japanese apartment. Instead, I bought a compact projector during Black Friday that fits neatly into a drawer when not in use. (Also, a projector + white wall + movie nights is a fantastic way to entertain your family on a budget!)
I also made sure that nothing in our apartment stands taller than me (156cm). Don’t forget to have an emergency bag on hand!
6. Use Cleaning Wipes and Non-Toxic Products
However, I prefer cleaning sheets over liquids. This ensures that even if they are explored by curious kids or pets, they won’t pose (much) harm. They’re readily available at Daiso, but some of my favorites are from the Japanese brand LEC (レック):
7. Install Safety Gates & Dog Crates
Use safety gates to restrict access to certain areas of your apartment. This is particularly helpful to create pet-free zones or to keep young children away from potentially dangerous areas, especially the balcony.
Just as kids need designated play spaces and adults need designated “me” spaces, pets also need their own territory!
For my dog, a 12 year old Shiba Inu, I decided to upgrade his crate by choosing a stylish wooden dog house (above) that doubles as furniture.
On top is where I store his food dish, kibble container, and other dog essentials, along with picture frames and our goldfish tank and cleaning supplies! It took me nearly 2 hours to assemble the darn thing, but it was worth it.
8. Create a Safe Balcony or Outdoor Space
If your Japanese apartment has a balcony or outdoor space, ensure it is safe for both kids and dogs.
If you’re a single woman living alone or with children, you don’t want to advertise that fact to the entire neighborhood. So, hang your laundry indoors whenever possible.
Better yet, pick up some men’s clothing at a second hand store and add it to your laundry in order to thwart stalkers and other unsavory characters.
Another safety tip: Consider going the extra step and create a “virtual boyfriend” to address your Amazon packages and other deliveries!
9. Provide Interactive Toys
As COVID has taught us, staying at home in a Tokyo apartment ain’t easy! Keep your sanity and kids and pets entertained with interactive toys. This not only promotes play but also helps expend energy, reducing the chances of restlessness and mischief.
You can’t go wrong with analog fun like LEGO, dolls, puzzles, but don’t forget educational apps and interactive toys! We’re living in Japan, after all, so try something high-tech, kawaii, and portable like Punirunes (above) or Cubits!
10. Establish Routine Cleaning Habits
Establish a regular cleaning routine to keep the apartment fresh and hygienic.
Daily vacuuming, dusting, and mopping will help maintain a clean and healthy living environment for your family and pets. Designate chores for your little ones, too! My daughter had a school assignment where she did chores for a week (washing dishes), and she’s continued with it in our new apartment.
As a bonus, when you get your kid(s) involved in housework, it lessens the workload for you AND helps them on their path to becoming independent!
After all, they’re expected to clean their classroom at school, so why should cleaning their own room/house be any different?
A few more cleaning tips: Invest in a quality vacuum cleaner. I miss our old Dyson, but it’s not in my budget! I got a cordless Iris Ohyama one instead. It’s lightweight and easy to use, so that my daughter can clean her own room, too.
I also recommend getting a hybrid air purifier and humidifier to clean the air and keep winter dryness at bay.
Again, our old Plasmacluster is way out of my budget, so I went for the Iris Ohyama version (above). It’s literally ¼ of the price of the Plasmacluster, so I “splurged” on the one with the wood grain cover.
The filter and water compartment needs to be cleaned monthly, but it’s amazing to see how much dust and pet hair that thing sucks out of the air!
Recap: 10 Tips To Make Your Japanese Apartment Kid and Dog-Friendly
Transforming your Japanese apartment into kid and dog friendly living space involves a blend of practicality, creativity, and a commitment to safety.
By choosing an apartment with pet-friendly flooring, creating dedicated play areas, and securing furniture, you’re laying the foundation for a harmonious living space.
Storage solutions not only contribute to tidiness but also ease the inevitable messes that come with active children and playful pets.
Embracing non-toxic cleaning supplies ensures a safe and healthy environment for exploration, and installing safety gates establishes boundaries that protect both little ones and furry friends. Interactive toys keep everyone entertained, while routine cleaning habits maintain a healthy atmosphere.
Ultimately, these thoughtful adjustments not only enhance the functionality of your living space but also contribute to the well-being and happiness of your family. Here’s to creating a Japanese apartment that truly feels like home for everyone!
For more in shopping in Japan for babies, toddlers, and kids, check out these posts: