EFETokyo

In Japanese society, where consumerism has become almost a national obsession, an increasing number of people are opting away from materialism and embracing a minimalist lifestyle, which they claim provides them with enormous freedom.

Fumio Sasaki has just 20 items of clothing in his closet, with an electric toothbrush and a vacuum cleaner among the possessions in his tiny apartment.

His apartment, measuring 20 sq. meters (215 sq. feet), has no trace of everyday things, such as chairs, a desk or even a bed.

"I don't need them. I have the essentials," he told EFE.

Two years ago, Fumio began practicing a life philosophy that calls on people to do away with material possessions and get richer through their experiences, a lifestyle that is attracting an increasing number of people in Japan.

Books, clothing and furniture have disappeared from his house. At the age of 36, he does not need to worry about arranging his things in order, or comparing his possessions to those of others.

"I was deeply affected by the freedom this lifestyle offers you," the publishing house employee in Tokyo, one of the world's most fast-paced cities, said.

"There is a certain freedom when all you need to put are 15 things in your backpack," he said, referring to the "extreme minimalism" of American Andrew Hyde, who one day decided to sell all his possessions (except 15 objects) and tour 42 countries.

Motivated by Hyde's ideas, Fumio has a backpack in which he carries a MacBook Air, Wi-Fi cell phone, Kindle e-reader, a book and a battery charger, as well as socks and some underwear.

"With just this many things, I can work anywhere, I have sufficient entertainment and I can travel any time I want," he said.

While Fumio's approach to minimalism borders on extreme austerity, he says that each person has his own idea of minimalism and "it is not just about having few things in your house, it is about feeling that what you have is absolutely essential for you."

Elisa Sasaki, for her part, said minimalism was "a tool for focusing on the important things."

Growing up in luxury, the 37-year-old Elisa had always opted for a simple lifestyle in her twenties, but the turning point in her life came when she traveled abroad to study and survived one month with only a small bag.

As a result, she drastically reduced her possessions last year and her closet was left with 20 items of clothing and six pairs of shoes, while her room turned into a plain open space.

"Possessing things increases your responsibility to maintain them. Hence, it is important to carefully choose your belongings. The time you save from having to arrange lesser things can be used for doing the things you like," Elisa said.

The surge in minimalist tendencies is also being fueled by smaller living spaces in Japanese cities, with the most extreme example being Tokyo, where the dwellings of single people are only around 20 sq. meters.

A sign of the growing interest in minimalism can be seen in book shops, such as the Sanseido Bookstore outlet in Tokyo's Yurakucho district, where special sections are dedicated to the topic of minimalism.

Fumio has written a book on his philosophy of life, titled "For Us Material Things Are No Longer Necessary," which has already sold more than 150,000 copies in Japan.

"Initially, I thought my book was designed to be read in a city like Tokyo, where apartments usually have a reduced size and life is more solitary, but I was wrong - there are readers across the country," the author said.