In addition to the answer about apartments below, I would add that space is at a premium in most major cities and their suburbs.
According to Wikipedia, about 73% of the land available in Japan could be considered mountainous. Take away another large percentage for farming and agriculture. And what you have left is for living and business, etc.
While some areas of Japan are not too densely populated, such as the very rural prefectures of Shimane and Tottori, other areas are incredibly densely populated, such as parts of Tokyo with other 6,000 people per square kilometer. (Los Angeles, for comparison, is about 3,000 people per square kilometer)
So houses tend to be smaller to save space, and very few have front or backyards. Where I grew up in Texas, every third house had its swimming pool in the backyard - this astonishes my students when I tell them about it.
Are Japanese houses small? Like [too] so many things this answer must start with, “it depends.”
This question has caused me to go about and count the number of tatami mats in my house. I stopped at over 100, and that’s not counting the second floor, which is virtually unused. I also did not include several rooms without tatami mats, nor did I include the kitchen, bath, or hallways.
The mats are 90cm x 180cm, so doing the math.... er... I’ll let someone else do that. Anything over two digits gives me a headache. Anyhoo, as you might guess, not all Japanese houses are small.
Here’s a portion of the front of my house in VERY rural Japan.
It looks a bit different when it snows.
Yes, they are. When I first met my husband, he lived in a four jo apartment. I was shocked when he told me it had a shared toilet, and he used a public bath. He said he could do everything from turning on the stereo to turning on the stove without moving. I later learned that this was a widespread occurrence among young unmarried men. When he met me, I had a small, by my standards as someone from the states, one-bedroom apartment eight jo bedroom, four jo living/dining with a small kitchen and bath/toilet with a separate room in which to bathe. He thought I was well off, which I guess I was, comparatively speaking.
Hey Jadon, I think you mean Japanese apartments, houses are pretty standard over here, from 100 - 200 sqm usually. Apartments can be brutally small, and many don't have bathrooms, toilet yes, but any bathroom and some don't have a kitchen. Why? After WW2, many Japanese started living a minimalistic lifestyle, and it lingered until now. Space is also small, like in Tokyo, the largest city in the world, there is not much space, and we even have what is called capsule hotels where you live in an almost a coffin, you can't stand up in it. But modern Japan these things are changing.
The Japanese have long endured crowded cities and scarce living space, with homes so humble a scornful European official once branded them rabbit hutches.
But in recent years, Japanese architects have turned necessity into a virtue, vying to design different and visually stunning houses on remarkably narrow pieces of land. In the process, they are also redefining the rules of Residential Remodeling Services.
Few Americans would consider a parking-space-sized lot as an adequate site to build a house. But in Japan, homes are rising on odd parcels of land, some as tiny as 300 square feet.
Yet the term "house" doesn't do justice to these eye-catching architectural gems, fashioned from a high-tech palette of materials like glittering glass cubes, fiber-reinforced plastic, and super-thin membranes of steel.
More With Less
The need to do more with less space has sparked a boom in house designs that are as playful and witty as they are livable. One of Japan's leading designers of Kyosho jutaku, or ultra-small homes, is Tokyo architect Yasuhiro Yamashita.