All the necessities for a simple life – and very little else – can be crammed into the nine square feet of a Ququri micro-apartment in Tokyo, less than half the size of an average studio in a city known for tiny residences.
More than 37 million people live in the Tokyo metropolitan area, making the megalopolis the largest concentration of humanity on Earth.
And since Japan’s era of rapid economic growth in the late 1950s attracted millions more people to the capital, space has been very scarce. Microflats are an increasingly popular answer to that problem.
To get a taste of micro-apartment living, I spent the night in a Ququri in the Wakaba district of Shinjuku in central Tokyo. Like most Ququri properties, but unlike most of the other budget accommodations in the city, it’s located in an upscale part of town. A few minutes’ walk away is an extensive green area that houses the Akasaka Palace State Guest House, which hosts visiting foreign leaders and dignitaries, and one of the Imperial Residences.
While the ultra-compact flat may not be fit for a king, the high ceiling and large window give it a more spacious feel than the first view of a short and extremely narrow hallway suggests upon opening the front door.
Very little space has been wasted in the design and the high ceiling provides a mezzanine sleeping platform, accessed by a steep ladder, which sits atop the tiny shower cubicle, tiny toilet and hallway kitchenette.
All the necessities for a simple life – and very little else – can be crammed into the 9 square feet of a Ququri micro-apartment in Tokyo, less than half the size of an average studio in the city (shower cubicle in a Tokyo micro-apartment apartment, left in the photo, desk space on the right)
To get a taste of micro-apartment life, I spent the night in a Ququri in the Wakaba district of Shinjuku in central Tokyo, writes Gavin Blair
Very little space has been wasted in the design, and the high ceiling creates a mezzanine sleeping platform, accessed by a steep ladder, which sits atop the tiny shower cubicle, tiny toilet and hallway kitchenette
At six feet tall, I’m a few inches taller than the average Japanese. Nevertheless, I could stretch my legs without any problem and I just had room to sit up in bed.
Some residents roll out their futon and sleep in the main room, repurposing the small loft for storage, video games, or even a workout space.
There are no cupboards in the apartments, but there is a relatively spacious shoe cupboard by the door. With only one hob available, I decided against trying to cook in the kitchenette, which is uncomfortably close to the toilet for my taste. I opted for noodles and a bun bought from the local supermarket instead.
Most people living in microflats are in their twenties or early thirties, many of whom have moved to Tokyo for work or study. Ququri Apartments are managed and developed by Spilytus, a company founded by CEO Keisuke Nakama in 2012. He was only 24 years old when he started the company, a few years after moving from Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s main islands, to Tokyo had come. .
Nakama had rented an apartment about an hour outside Tokyo because it was cheaper, but found that he did little there but sleep after working long hours as a young salaryman followed by a long journey home. The experience inspired him to create a new style of youth accommodation in central parts of Japan’s sprawling capital.
Most people living in microflats (pictured) are in their twenties or early thirties, many of them having moved to Tokyo for work or study
Some residents roll out their futon and sleep in the main room, repurposing the small loft for storage, video games or even a workout room
A resident of Ququri sits in their small sleeping quarters while they watch television
Like many houses and apartments in Japan, Ququri are mainly made of wood, which means that sound penetrates through the walls
A bird’s eye view of a resident working on his laptop in a Ququri microflat in Tokyo, Japan
The floor plans for a floor of Ququri micro-apartments in Tokyo, Japan
Floor plans for a Ququri micro-apartment in Tokyo, which has a very limited floor space
Rental prices are the equivalent of £300 to £480 per month, depending on location and what floor the flat is on. In addition to reasonable rental prices, no deposit or ‘key money’ is required. The latter is essentially a gift to landlords, usually amounting to a month’s rent, which is a holdover from the post-war years when housing was chronically scarce due to wartime devastation.
Like many houses and apartments in Japan, Ququri are mainly made of wood, which means that sound penetrates through the walls. This occasionally causes problems between residents and the company has recently started building concrete Ququri.
Spilytus’ business model is to partner with wealthy investors, buy identifying land and develop the blocks of micro flats. The investors buy the development and collect the rent, while the company receives a service fee from the residents.
The average rental period is just over two years, after which residents often move to a larger home.
A resident sits on a cushion in their micro-apartment in Tokyo as he completes some work on his laptop and watches television
A woman watches sports on TV from the sleeping area of her micro-apartment in Tokyo
Bird’s-eye view of a man at his desk in his Ququri micro-apartment in Tokyo. The sleeping area is elevated and accessible via a ladder
While a Ququri wouldn’t make an ideal home for someone with claustrophobia, as a place to lay your head at the end of a busy day, it’s more than functional. Despite my concerns about having enough space to fully stretch out on the futon and the thinness of the walls, I enjoyed a good night’s sleep. The only noise I heard elsewhere on the block was like a neighbor climbing the ladder to his sleeping platform. As for outside disturbances, the neighborhood is quiet and there are no major roads nearby.
If I was in my twenties and had just moved to Tokyo, there would definitely be worse options than a reasonably priced, albeit small, flat near the center of the city.
The popularity of the Ququri really speaks for itself: of the approximately 1,500 microflats currently under management, only one or two are currently vacant.