Japanese Cultural Exploration: Why Do People Sit on the Floor Not on a Chair in Japan?


We may have overstayed on the floor

It’s only 150 years since chairs were introduced in Japan, as I wrote before. When I was a kid, there was a sofa set in the living room. Most of my family members, however, often sat on the floor, leaning against the sofa. Funnily enough, my dogs slept on the sofa, instead. I’m sure it’s not a style particular only to my family. When hanging out at my friends’ houses, like playing video games together, I found they did it in the same manner. The lifestyle of living on the floor may be printed in the DNA of Japanese people.

We can’t stay still even on the sofa

Of course, I don’t think so. It’s not such a biological issue. Simply, the space of sofas is too small for us. We, at home on the floor, return to nature: lying face-up or -down, sitting with the knees held or the legs crossed or straight-out, etc. One thing that is for sure is no one never sits up straight at home, though I’m hoping I’m not the only one who thinks like this. This back-to-nature movement may happen due to one of the advantages of our culture. In Japan, the floor is clean because we take off shoes inside the home. Even on the sofa, we subconsciously try to adjust sitting position in the same manner as that of our pre-chair era, feel cramped, and go back to the floor. I believe this would be the cause of our giving up relaxing on the sofa.

The sofa pulling Japanese people up from the floor

This is our time to work as a leading furniture maker in Japan, and we launched a sofa some years ago to salvage Japanese people from the floor. It’s MOLA. The designer explained it was not a sofa but a place where people can relax. The seat cushions are made to be bigger especially in the depth direction and softer by using a lot of feathers, compared with other our sofas. The irregular shape of each modular unit will provide a relaxing space. I think it’s something more than a sofa set, it’s more like a personal hideout where you can return to nature.


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.


Photo Credit: https://japanobjects.com/features/zabuton-cushion