Japanese Home Decor – Top 10 items to experience Japan from home

Why leave all the Japan in Japan? Traditional Japanese interior design is characterised by minimalist understatement, the use of muted tones and the delicate interplay of light and shade.
Contemporary Japanese design tends to either build on this aesthetic, or flamboyantly rebel against – most notably in ultra colorful, kawai cute cultural explosions.

With this in mind, our top 10 elements for creating the perfect Japanese Home Decor aesthetic in your home:

  1. Japanese Lighting
  2. Japanese Wall Art
  3. Plants and Vases
  4. Noren
  5. A Japanese Bath
  6. Japanese Cushions (Zabuton)
  7. Japanese Blinds
  8. Japanese Curtains
  9. Kotatsu
  10. Japanese Cabinets

#1

Japanese Lighting

japanese home decor

There is no single change you can make in a room that more instantly transforms the overall feel than changing the lighting. 

Indeed, Junichiro Tanizaki’s classic book “In Praise of Shadows” is completely devoted to the subject of light and shade in Japanese aesthetics.

"I often stand in front of the shoji and stare at the bright but not dazzling light coming through the paper.

If you liken the Japanese-style tatami room to a sumi-e ink picture, the shoji would form the lightest part of composition Toko-no-ma alcove the darkest. "

Junichiro Tanizaki

from "In Praise of Shadows"
view book

Japanese interiors are characterised by subtle, moody lighting. Here’s some examples of Japanese lamps and shoji lamps that can help brighten up, in an understated way, a room that is lacking something.
Strictly speaking, a “Shoji” refers to a sliding door with washi paper on it. The term “Shoji lamp” has become synonymous with lights that are made in a similar style to these doors, out of wood and paper or modern materials that reflect this aesthetic. We have a whole section highlighting (see what we did there) our favourite
Japanese Shoji Lights here.

Examples of Japanese Lights & Shoji Lamps Available Online

Look for more Japanese lighting options

#2

Japanese Wall Art

Toko-No-Ma with Japanese Wall Scroll

Traditional Japanese living rooms feature a set-back recess area called a Toko-No-Ma that usually features some kind of Japanese Wall Scroll and/or Ikebana flower arrangement. The scrolls traditionally feature calligraphy or artworks, most charactistially in the style of a sumi-e black ink.
Traditionally, these were one of a kind artworks, often by artists of renown.
Today, good quality representations can be found that achieve a similar effect at very reasonable prices.

We have a page devoted to Japanese scrolls here featuring pictures such as these:

Japanese Posters

Another option is go for something a little less traditional. There are some great Japanese posters around including Japanese movie posters for Western or Japanese movies, or posters for popular anime such as those produced by Studio Ghibli (of which we’ve got a gallery here).

We have a page devoted to Japanese wall art here and Studio Ghibli Poster here.

Japanese poster for classic French film Amelie
Japanese 2001: A Space Odyssey poster
Frances Ha Japanese Poster

#3

Japanese Vases and Greenery

A modern Japanese cafe with shrubbery

Japanese design has a masterful knack of blending the outer world with the innder world and has had a huge influence on the open plan, outside-inside design of modern houses around the world. 

On the larger end of the scale, Japanese houses famously use sliding doors to open up whole sides of a room to the garden. They even have the concept of Shakkei or 借景 meaning “borrowed landscape”, which describes the concept of framing a distant feature, such as a mountain or tree, so that it looks like it is somehow actually part of a room. In this way, the vista becomes endless. 

 

Famous "Borrowed landscape" at Entsuji temple in Kyoto

There is also the idea of the Nakaniwa (中庭)meaning “inside garden”, which describes a garden that exists in a smaller inner quadrangle in the middle of the house.

A more easily executable way to bring the garden inside is to use pot plants and vases. Using indoor shrubbery is tremendously popular in Japan.

We have a post outlining Japanese Vases here. Popular choices include Japanese Cloisonne Vases, Peacock Vases, porcelaine and roughly textured ceramics.

A fantastic & easy way to get a little green into the house is to make a Japanese style Kokedama moss ball. These are really the most space-saving plants that you can use. Basically little balls of soil wrapped in moss, the moss cover becomes the vessel which holds the plant in place. This means you don’t need a pot. You can either hang them from the roof or put them on a small plate. Put them on a dining table, suspend them over a balcony, add a little green to a bathroom. 

 

Japan is one of the highest populations in one of the smallest areas on the planet, and as such they have become masters in the efficient use of tight spaces. If you’re trying to beautify a confined apartment or living area, there’s no better lead to follow!

To make things even easier, you could use a premade kit such as this one:

#4

Noren Hangings

Noren Japanese curtain hangings are striking pieces that can turn a doorway into an entrance. Check out our guide here.

#5

Japanese Bathes and Soaking Tubs

It’s hard to go back to a long, shallow Western style bath once you’ve gone deep, both literally and figuratively, into a Japanese bath. It’s one of the few contexts where “up to your neck in it” is a good thing. A great thing even. We think it’s such a great thing that we wrote a whole post all about our favorite Japanese bathes and soaking tubs here.  

#6

Japanese Zabuton Cushions

Japanese people love a little bit of floor time. And they’ve figured out to make both comfy and aesthetically pleasing through the use of the zabuton sitting floor cushion

Watch this space, more to come!

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Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts doing a Masters Degree, have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1). I’ve written songs in Japanese and have released several albums through Tokyo label Majikick Records.

ピータージョセフヘッドです。4年間京都市立芸大の大学院として日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

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