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The Tiny Life: How to Build Your Home, Stay Online, and See the World for $250 a Month

Without giving up your gadgets or satellite TV.

In 2009, Netaro, a Japanese philosophy student, built a tiny solar-powered house with his bare hands for $1,000. Then he whipped together an even tinier solar-powered mobile-house for $130. He then set about carting the little domicile around the country, dragging it behind his motorcycle at 15 miles per hour. In 2011, in the aftermath of the devastating tsunami, Netaro generated a little buzz for his resilient, anti-materialist lifestyle. Now, two years later, eyebrow-raising images of his compact moto-mobile home are again circulating round the blogosphere:


Forsaking only space, Netaro lives what appears to be a fairly comfortable life. Most modern amenities remain at his fingertips: he's got a laptop, internet, satellite TV, transportation, and electricity to keep it all going. Yet the man's estimated monthly living expenses are $250.

His permanent dwelling is a crude shelter Netaro built himself—he has no formal training in carpentry; he just hammered away until it was done. Then he bought a 300-watt solar system to provide the juice.

The above ingredients allow Netaro to go about his B-life, which is lived, refreshingly, with few discernible ideological or self-promotional undercurrents. In a moment wherein the minimalist "less stuff" ethos is trendy among luxury designers and urbanists, Netaro is showing us the everyman effort, the true-blue DIY. This is no "low-impact man" stunt tailor-made for the memoir market, nor is it some grand statement about the need to conserve resources.

No, here's Netaro's manifesto, as much as you can call it that: "my lifestyle … makes the building cost ($1,000) and living cost ($200/month including everything) very low, and enables me to just lie around as long as I like. I call it B-Life."

He is, he claims, quite happy with his arrangement. Here's the rest of his semi-festo:

We see around and find every house too gorgeous. Are they all palaces of royal blood? Houses work enough just by protecting ourselves from the weather. We can't extend our lives to 1000 years by possessing a $1,000,000 house. B-Life is Babyish life; it is executable for everyone through trial and error.
B-Life is Basic life; it is minimum necessary.
B-Life is Beginning life; it starts everything. One's starting point must be made by own.


There are obviously plenty of folks, especially philosophy student sort of folks, who move off-grid and adopt a transient, freewheeling lifestyle. But it's nice to see a project like this a) freed from hippie-ish ideological bondage that smothers so many of these efforts stateside, and b) executed so honestly. Dude just wants to laze about, without giving up his laptop or TV or putting a strain on society. And such a life is possible.

Netaro pays all his taxes, is far from Ludditic, and has no interest in shunning society. Here's how he says his living expenses break down.

  • Building cost: $1000 (for house), $1000 (for 300W photovoltaic power generation system)
  • Utilities: no electricity supplying (photovoltaic power generation), no water supplying (drawing by myself near the house), bathroom (handmade), no shower room (a public bathhouse), internet (mobile datacard), drainage (handmade)
  • Living cost: $250/month ($100 for food expense, $50 for taxes, $50 for communication expense, $50 for others)

Pretty doable.

I'm not sure what Netaro's been up to for the last two years. I've reached out to him to try to find out, and I'll update if I hear back. But his tiny B-life has, at the very least, taken him on travels across Japan, kept him busy reading and writing, and allowed him to enjoy, simultaneously, the great outdoors and pretty consistent internet and cable TV access. Not bad for $3,000 a year.