Tokyo's big idea: Can micro-homes offer housing solution?

spc one square meter japan tokyo_00015127
spc one square meter japan tokyo_00015127

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    Tokyo: Living large in a micro-house

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Tokyo: Living large in a micro-house 03:25

Story highlights

  • An increasing number of residents are turning to creatively designed micro-homes in Tokyo
  • Land is expensive in the Japanese capital ensuring more people have to do more with less if they want a property

(CNN)Tokyo is one of the biggest, most exciting, and most densely populated cities in the world.

Some 13 million people call the sprawling Japanese capital home while many more commute there every day from the surrounding metropolitan area.
    But in this Far Eastern land of high-rises and housing blocks, finding space to build your own home is a challenge -- especially if you're on a budget.
    For engineer Minoru Ota, a micro-house provided the answer.
    Ota's dream home is a contemporary concrete cubicle built on a tiny patch of just 26 square meters (280 square feet) -- roughly the size of two parking spaces.
    Yet what this tiny house lacks in floor area, it more than makes up for with creative surprises.
    "It is not that I wanted to make a small house from the beginning," Ota explained. "I wanted to live in the city center and our budget was limited. So it ended up as this small house."
    "But there are lots of tricks ... so I do not feel the space is limited in living here."
    Floors are bare concrete with gaps on both sides, allowing natural light from the sky window to reach through each of the three floors.
    A completely open bathroom next to the entrance gives a spacious feel -- although with just a curtain for privacy it may not suit the bashful or self-conscious.
    There's also no room for a sofa in the main living space, which doubles as both a dining room and kitchen.
    Fortunately, Ota and his wife, Aki, embrace a minimalist lifestyle. "After living here, I do not need a big house," Ota continued. "I have everything I need.... What I would do in a big house? I cannot imagine."

    The Tokyo effect

    Land in Tokyo cost an average of $1,000 per square foot in 2015. That's up 5.8% from the previous year, according to the Tochidai real estate data website.
    Recent surges in construction costs and decades-long economic stagnation are also not helping those who want to build a home.
    As a result, many of those who do are choosing to take the micro option favored by the likes of Ota.
    Sanyon Yamagishi is one such individual. She's in the process of building a 30-square-meter (322 square-foot) house with her husband on a small plot of land near central Tokyo.
    Although her other half initially thought the area was too small to build a house, she states that the structure is "comfortable" and "enough for me."
    The man designing the home, architect Denso Sugiura, says he has designed 137 micro-homes in the past 20 years.
    Sugiura also notes that women are often the driving force behind Japan's surging number of micro-houses.
    "As more women have jobs, they prefer to live closer to their office. They (have) begun to bring family homes closer to city center," he said.
    Yamagishi wants her living room, dining space and kitchen on the sunny second floor. The basement will be a combined bedroom and music room.
    Multi-purpose spaces are key, says the architect.
    "Even with bad conditions, we can make a small house liveable with tricks," he said. "For instance, even in a small shadowy plot, we can get the light from (directly above)."
    For Yamagishi, Ota and a growing number of Japanese micro-home owners, less really is more.
    Take a look at some of the micro homes springing up in Tokyo by playing the video atop the page.