Japan’s Top 20 “Reform” Wishlist

When a typical Japanese house reaches 30 years of age, it’s considered dangerous and likely to fall down. I think this is more of a myth than reality, but it’s a common belief that has led to a huge industry of “reform”.

This holds particular interest for me because I live in one of those houses and there are only 12 years left before it supposedly implodes!

Here, I count down the top 20 most desired “reforms” according to a rather dated Japanese Goo ranking.

20. Waterproofing

If you live in a wooden house, the last thing you want is water getting in. Painting the walls and fixing leaks in the roof is the 20th most desired “reform” in Japan.

19. Roof

Fix the leaks, replace the tiles, heck, just replace the entire roof!

18. No more steps

Replacing steps with slopes and making other changes to accommodate the elderly ranks at #18.

17. Outer walls

Instead of painting the walls, you can choose a nice design and stick news walls over your old walls! Apparently they hold all kinds of benefits such as retaining warmth, no cracking, no leaking, and they look pretty, too.

16. Lighting equipment

Brighten up the place with some fancy new lights!

15. The garden

Considering how few people have gardens of any significant size, it may be surprising to find “garden” at number 15 on the list of most desired “reforms”.

14. Sash fixtures

These are the fixtures that hold window panes in place. I’d never even thought about it before, but they must be popular!

13. Living room

The Japanese “living” is the most used room in the house. Who wouldn’t want to dress it up a bit?

12. Change the locks

Fear of intruders has encouraged the Japanese population to change their locks. Security has been almost non-existent in Japanese homes until recently, but that’s all changing now.

11. Floors

Renovating your floors, and under them, can help combat termite infestation, improve ventilation, and even offer secret storage space!

10. Interior

Fancy a spot of decorating? I think this means completely renewing the furniture, carpets, curtains and all the rest of it.

9. Heating and cooling

Install a full air-conditioning ventilation system, improve insulation, or just buying some thicker windows. Whatever you do, your home should be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer… in theory.

8. Earthquake protection

Perhaps not surprisingly in a country with more earthquakes than the rest of the world put together, making your house earthquake-resistant is a top priority for many people.

7. “All Denka”

This is a popular new option for home owners, and I suspect it would rank much higher than #7 if the survey was taken today. “All Denka” means converting your house to run solely from electricity. This is something I plan to do, but I’ll be going for the solar powered option when it becomes more affordable.

6. Sound insulation

The walls in Japanese houses are paper thin, so it’s no surprise that soundproofiing is high on the “reform” list.

5. Layout

Changing the layout of you house pretty much means rebuilding it on the inside, leaving just the outer shell in its original state. You see this a fair bit on that TV show where a construction crew come and reform someone’s house on a shoestring budget.

4. Toilet

There are still a lot of old homes with a Japanese-style one, but even those with a western-style toilet might want to upgrade to one of the latest auto-flushing, bum-washing, perfume-spaying, remotely controlled, super computers toilets.

3. Washbasin

The high ranking for a washbasin “reform” must be partly due to its price. A fancy Japanese washbasin is really a vanity unit -  a wardrobe-high unit that includes a sink, mirror, cabinets, toothbrush rack, plug sockets and lighting. The word “reform” is associated with expensive, but these washbasins are an exception to the rule.

2. Kitchen

Every Japanese housewife’s dream is to have an “all-denka system kitchen”. If you believe the advertising, this is a kitchen that is all electric, space-saving, self-cleaning, with an auto-refilling fridge. Okay, not quite, but it gets pretty close.

1. Bathroom

At the top of the reform wishlist is the bathroom. I can only assume this is because of all the mold that builds up if you don’t clean the walls thoroughly. It must be something to do with Japan’s climate because mold gets between all the tiles and getting rid of it is the obsession of every housewife.

Those are the twenty most desired home “reforms” in Japan. What would you like to “reform” most in your home?

If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!

14 thoughts on “Japan’s Top 20 “Reform” Wishlist

  1. Pingback: www.japansoc.com
  2. AAah Nick I have done everything on your list to my house but the only problem is the fact that I now have to tear it all down soon because I only have 3 years left before my 30 years is up!!!!

    1. I can’t say that you have to rebuild, but 30 years is considered the lifetime of a Japanese house… here we go, I’ve found an article on this very subject on Economist.com:

      Homes in Japan last for only 30 years. The government wants to change that.

  3. I love DIY! If I ever have a house again, it’ll be an older one so I can do a lot of reforming; The most fun part of buying a house for me.

  4. Owning a home is nice but it sure can be a headache! Kind of makes you wonder if it’s better to rent.

    1. I feel that house ownership could be a good idea if you have a family and know you’ll be in the same city for 20 years. Otherwise renting is the way to go so you can have the ultimate freedom of mobility.

  5. Gosh Nick. You are worrying me now. Have you really only got 12 years left? You had better start on your reforming it soon.

  6. I thought “new neighbors” would have made the list. I realize that it’s not something you can find advertized in the newspaper, but I’m sure a few of the local Yaks down at the Pachinko Palor have some sort of a “new neighbor re-fit” that you can sign up for.

    I live in a condo with downstairs neighbors who sometimes like to exercise their dog on the balacony at 3 am.

  7. Heating and cooling – Yeah I’m quite surprised that people don’t have central heating and cooling. Apartments should come with central air, and on a side note… their own light fixtures.

  8. My house was 30 yrs old when the hanshin quake hit- no probs whatsoever!
    Think of the 30yr limit as car shaken – the car makers pay the gov. to impose rules so you’ll consider buying a new car instead of fixing what you’ve got. But houses were built substandard to begin with – no insulation, cheap plywood flooring, single pane windows, etc.

    If your serious about rebuilding your house talk with an American, Canadian, or European carpenter….they know how a house should be built!!

    NOT with a J carpenter or house reform company!!! Their only in it for the money!!!!!

    Take a look at Fine Homebuilding magazine, or search the net for other publications, articles, how-to’s to get a better idea of what you can do to improve your house.

    Good luck and happy reforming 🙂

    An old house owner and reformer.

  9. The locks thing really gets me. Japan does not have a crime problem. I guess this is coming from the influence of the western fear of being robbed or attacked by terrorist.

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