Japanese get cabin fever for the simple life

PICTURE- PERFECT: Mr Hiramatsu was inspired by his favourite picture book to build his 10 sq m cabin on the grounds of his home in Takashima.


    Jun 22, 2016

    Japanese get cabin fever for the simple life


    MORE people are building cabins in Japan, creating a space that align with their own taste where they can sleep on the weekends and pursue a minimalist lifestyle.

    Bookstore owner Kozo Hiramatsu, 60, has a 10 sq m cabin on the grounds of his home in Takashima, Shiga Prefecture.

    Built two years ago, it has a small entrance for animals to enter and leave, and a skylight for gazing at the stars.

    It was inspired by his favourite picture book, he said, adding that he did much of the work on the cabin, such as painting the walls.

    "I thought it'd be interesting if there really were cabins like the ones in picture books."

    "I feel calm when I go in, and have a feeling of being enveloped," said Mr Hiramatsu.

    According to SuMiKa, which brokers and sells cabins, some people build them on the premises of their homes as play areas for children.

    A growing interest in cabins seems to have arisen after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in 2008. Then, people in the United States rejected the mass consumption-oriented society and found meaning in living in tiny houses.

    The trend eventually came to Japan where having a cabin is now considered stylish.

    Last summer, 14,000 people attended the nine-day "cabin festival" at which SuMiKa exhibited 20 cabins ranging from 500,000 to 3,000,000 yen (S$6,420 to S$38,500).

    In response to growing demand, Ryohin Keikaku plans to sell cabins it has developed with designers.

    "In Japan, there has long been a tradition of people wanting to live in small hermitages such as retirement rooms," said Tomoki Kawashima of Kyoto Kacho University, a professor of Japanese modern architectural history.

    "The belief that 'the larger one's home, the better', which was common during periods of economic growth, is waning and the number of people who seek space that is small but emotionally rich appears to be increasing," he noted.

    Masami Onda, 49, has built a cabin at the foot of the Yatsugatake mountains in Hara, Nagano Prefecture.

    "Space is limited so I can't just bring anything inside. When I come here, I can get away from ordinary life and find myself," she said.

    On weekdays, she works for a company in Tokyo.

    She is also a climbing guide so she built the cabin two years ago as a base for climbing, with only a 10 sq m room and a loft.

    She uses a wood stove for heating and collects water in a tank.

    "I'm having fun challenging myself to find out how simply I can live," Ms Onda said.

    Kojiro Tomoeda, 58, representative director of Morish Country, the company that designed the cabin, said some people could fall in love with the simple lifestyle and move into the structure permanently.

    "A cabin is a haven where one can escape from the daily grind. As a place where one can go at any time, it gives you a different sense of satisfaction from travelling," he added.