The “handbook” is quite simple: most of the pages feature one or two madori-zu, or floor plans, each accompanied by a one-liner from the author. There are also several one-page short stories the author made up based on some particular floor plan or another, as well as a few interviews with famous or not-so-famous people on the subject of the floor plans in the book and/or floor plans in general.
All of the floor plans featured in the book supposedly represent apartments that actually exist and are (or have been) available for rent; even the monthly rent is given. Not all of them are that interesting, but some of them are pretty good. Here are a few random examples:
(Take a close look at the bottom of the last floor plan. Also, for those who require an explanation of the “unit bath,”click here.)
I’m going to avoid providing commentary for the floor plans above because I’m pretty sure they speak for themselves, but part of the popularity of the book seems to lie in the author’s (honestly rather hit-and-miss) witty one-liner commentary that accompanies each floor plan. A sequel was published by a different company in 2005, but according to the reviews I’ve seen, the general consensus seems to be that the first book is a classic and the second is rather forced.
To return to the subject of the original book, if you happen to pick up a copy, make sure to try removing the cover and spreading it out. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.