Less is more as Japanese minimalist movement grows

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Japan's Growing 'Less is More' Trend

TOKYO, June 20 (Reuters) - Fumio Sasaki's one-room Tokyo apartment is so stark friends liken it to an interrogation room. He owns three shirts, four pairs of trousers, four pairs of socks and a meager scattering of various other items.

Money isn't the issue. The 36-year-old editor has made a conscious lifestyle choice, joining a growing number of Japanese deciding that less is more.

Influenced by the spare esthetic of Japan's traditional Zen Buddhism, these minimalists buck the norm in a fervently consumerist society by dramatically paring back their possessions.

Sasaki, once a passionate collector of books, CDs and DVDs, became tired of keeping up with trends two years ago.

"I kept thinking about what I did not own, what was missing," he said.

Take a look inside the homes of Japan's minimalists:

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Japanese minimalist movement
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Japanese minimalist movement
Utensils lie in a kitchen drawer in the home of minimalist Saeko Kushibiki in Fujisawa, south of Tokyo, Japan, March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Minimalist Naoki Numahata talks to his two-and-a-half year old daughter Ei in their living-room in Tokyo, Japan, March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Minimalist Saeko Kushibiki stores away her futon mattress in her apartment in Fujisawa, south of Tokyo, Japan, March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A kettle sits on a cooker in the kitchen of minimalist Saeko Kushibiki in Fujisawa, south of Tokyo, Japan, March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Two-and-a-half year old Ei, the daughter of minimalist Naoki Numahata, sits in the family living-room in Tokyo, Japan, March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A kitchen counter is seen in the apartment of minimalist Naoki Numahata in Tokyo, Japan, March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Books sit on a bookshelf in the home of minimalist Naoki Numahata in Tokyo, Japan, March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
An open kitchen drawer is seen in the apartment of minimalist Naoki Numahata in Tokyo, Japan, March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Toothbrushes are seen in the bathroom of the apartment of minimalist Naoki Numahata in Tokyo, Japan, March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A sponge hangs in the home of minimalist Katsuya Toyoda in Tokyo, Japan, March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Toys belonging to two-and-a-half year old Ei, the daughter of minimalist Naoki Numahata, are scattered across the floor in her family's living-room in Tokyo, Japan, March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A razor and toothbrush lie in the home of minimalist Katsuya Toyoda in Tokyo, Japan, March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
The contents of the fridge is seen at the home of minimalist Katsuya Toyoda in Tokyo, Japan, March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Minimalist Katsuya Toyoda demonstrates how he sleeps in his room in Tokyo, Japan, March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A yoga mat and shorts are seen in the room of minimalist Katsuya Toyoda in Tokyo, Japan, March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Belongings lie in a drawer in the home of minimalist Katsuya Toyoda in Tokyo, Japan, March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Clothes hang in the wardrobe of minimalist Katsuya Toyoda in Tokyo, Japan, March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Kitchen utensils hang in the home of minimalist Katsuya Toyoda in Tokyo, Japan, March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
The bathroom cupboard of minimalist Fumio Sasaki is seen in Tokyo, Japan, February 19, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A tray lies on a table in the living room of minimalist Katsuya Toyoda in Tokyo, Japan, March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A laptop belonging to minimalist Fumio Sasaki sits on his desk in Tokyo, Japan, February 19, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "MINIMALISM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Minimalist Fumio Sasaki uses a wet wipe to clean the floor in his room in Tokyo, Japan, February 19, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A living room window is seen in the home of minimalist Saeko Kushibiki in Fujisawa, south of Tokyo, Japan, March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Soap sits in a dish at the home of minimalist Saeko Kushibiki in Fujisawa, south of Tokyo, Japan, March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Glasses and spices sit on a shelf in the apartment of minimalist Saeko Kushibiki in Fujisawa, south of Tokyo, Japan, March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Minimalist Saeko Kushibiki demonstrates where she reads in her room in Fujisawa, south of Tokyo, Japan, March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Clothes hang in a wardrobe in the home of minimalist Saeko Kushibiki in Fujisawa, south of Tokyo, Japan, March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Glasses and cups sit on a shelf in the apartment of minimalist Saeko Kushibiki in Fujisawa, south of Tokyo, Japan, March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
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He spent the next year selling possessions or giving them to friends.

"Spending less time on cleaning or shopping means I have more time to spend with friends, go out, or travel on my days off. I have become a lot more active," he said.

Others welcome the chance to own only things they truly like - a philosophy also applied by Mari Kondo, a consultant whose "KonMari" organizational methods have swept the United States.

"It's not that I had more things than the average person, but that didn't mean that I valued or liked everything I owned," said Katsuya Toyoda, an online publication editor who has only one table and one futon in his 22-square-meter apartment.

"I became a minimalist so I could let things I truly liked surface in my life."

Inspiration for Japan's minimalists came from the United States, where early adherents included Steve Jobs.

Definitions vary, because the goal is not just decluttering but re-evaluating what posessions mean, to gain something else - in Sasaki's case, time to travel.

Just how many there are is unclear, but Sasaki and others believe there are thousands of hard-core minimalists, with possibly thousands more interested.

Some say minimalism is actually not foreign but a natural outgrowth of Zen Buddhism and its stripped-down world view.

"In the west, making a space complete means placing something there," said Naoki Numahata, 41, a freelance writer.

"But with tea ceremonies, or Zen, things are left incomplete on purpose to let the person's imagination make that space complete."

Minimalists also argue that having fewer possessions is eminently practical in Japan, which is regularly shaken by earthquakes.

In 2011, a 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami killed nearly 20,000 people and led to many re-evaluating possessions, Sasaki said.

"Thirty to 50 percent of earthquake injuries occur through falling objects," he said, gesturing around his apartment.

"But in this room, you don't have that concern."

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