I knew that space was at a premium in Tokyo, but I had no idea of the impact of this on the population’s everyday habits until I visited the city myself.
My host family of three was very welcoming. On the first night we slept in the traditional way: four to a thin futon laid directly onto the sitting room floor.
The next evening my jet-lag caught up with me and I asked if I could be excused from the restaurant dinner and retire to bed early. My hosts happily agreed to my request, and set up a single futon for me in the sitting room. That night they would sleep ‘western-style’ in their own bedrooms on the floor above.
I went upstairs to find the bathroom so that I could wash before bed. Here there were just two tiny bedrooms off a short corridor crammed with aquatic plants.
The little girl in her bedroom explained that the family couldn’t afford to rent a place with a bathroom. This was the reason for eating out every evening: to use the restaurant facilities immediately before bed.