Unsolid ground

One of the lesser known customs related to housing in Japan is the idea of owning a house on rented land. It’s less common today than it used to be but nevertheless common enough. Traditionally, leases on lots are about 50 years. A person can build a house on this land and have title to the structure, but the land is still owned by somebody else and the homeowner has to pay rent on it. Read More

You call that a meltdown?

Finance minister Shizuka Kamei has stopped giving lip service to the idea of a moratorium for housing loan defaulters. Could it have anything to do with the fact that back in the early 90s, when the housing policy that led to all the current foreclosures, he was in the Miyazawa cabinet and was instrumental in bringing it about? Probably not. Kamei sort of prides himself on the way he shoots from the hip. Read More

High times for some

Tokyo’s five big real estate companies released their midterm accounting figures last week. Mitsui, Sumitomo, Tokyu, and Nomura all reported increased sales for the past fiscal half-year, while Mitsubishi Jissho showed a decline. However, only three of the five predict that they will show a profit for the next half-year ending in March. The profits for the four all came from sales of high-end condos. Sales of lower-priced condos and office buildings remain very sluggish, like the economy itself. Read More

And then there was one

minowa2The Minowa Apartments, located in the shitamachi or old residential area of Tokyo, are currently being demolished. Built in 1928, the Minowa complex was one of 16 Dojunkai public apartment buildings constructed throughout Tokyo following the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. These structures were the first concrete-and-steel-bar collective housing buildings in Japan, and some historians consider them valuable cultural assets. The Minowa Apartments, for instance, survived the US firebombing of Tokyo in 1945 (though they were definitely damaged), and architects have often said they represent the best in terms of Japanese design ideas that were developed before the war. Read More