Most suburban houses in Japan are built by prefabricated systems, and thus they have quite similar appearances. The outdoor spaces around each house, however, are arranged differently so that they mirror the resident’s personal values and feelings (Marcus, 1995). The distinction between the domains of “front” and “back” seems to play a fundamental role in determining the layouts of such outdoor spaces as carports, yards, and gardens. Rapoport (1977) points out that “There is much evidence that people very clearly differentiate between front and back areas since very different symbolic values are attached to them.” He also notes that the physical expressions that symbolize front/back areas are very different across cultures.The present study was intended to give empirical support to the above argument. A survey of 74 houses in the suburbs of Tokyo investigated how the residents differentiated between front and back areas. Descriptions of the physical features of the outdoor spaces as well as residents’ responses to a questionnaire concerning their perception and use of those spaces were the data obtained by the survey. We first drew a rough plot plan of each site visited and asked the resident to point out the places where such activities as putting out garbage, drying laundry and chatting with neighbors occurred. A list of eighteen possible activities was prepared in advance and the item number of each activity written down on the plan according to where it occurred. We also probed for the resident’s perception of the spaces by asking which parts they preferred to show neighbors and which parts they kept hidden, which parts were thought of as front and which as back, and so on.In order to analyze the data obtained, the outdoor spaces around each house were divided into unit spaces according to such physical features as shape, height and type of ground covering materials. We extracted 541 unit spaces out of 71 houses; therefore the average number per house was 7.6 unit spaces. Each unit space was analyzed according to such physical and spatial features as size, location within the site, proximity to the street, accessibility to the interior of the house, and visibility from neighboring sites.Although about 30% of the unit spaces were not recognized as either, the rest were distinguished as front (38%) or back (32%). Proximity to the main thoroughfare and accessibility to the entrance and living room were some characteristics of the unit spaces that tended to be seen as “front”. On the other hand, the unit spaces seen as “back” tended to face a blank wall or a door to the kitchen. As for the relationship between the front/back distinction and residents’ use of the unit spaces, it seemed that such activities as displaying plants and flowers or chatting with neighbors occurred in the front while household activities and storage took place in the back. Residents seemed to care better for the front region since it is the part that communicates a public image. The back region was not necessarily a deserted place, however, but could be a favorite place for spending leisure time or conducting other private family activities. It is interesting to note that drying laundry, which is believed as a typical back-space activity, could be found equally in the front area according to this survey. This could be simply due to the limited space in the back area, but may also reflect the strong Japanese preference for drying clothing and Futons (Japanese mattresses) in a sunny place, which tends to be regarded as a front space.