Planned obsolescence

Moving house is a pain in the ass, but it can also be a rush. Basically, you shlep your entire life to a new abode and in the process assess that life in concentrated form. Inevitably, you are forced to pick and choose what you want to keep from it and what you want to discard. Some things you get rid of simply because you want to get rid of them, and some things you get rid of simply because you have to.

Yesterday we threw away two perfectly good heaters because we can’t use them in our new apartment. We also can’t sell tor even give them away, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that it was somehow planned to be this way. The heaters are made and sold by Tokyo Gas. Unlike standard gas heaters, which directly convert “city gas” piped into your home into heat, these draw hot water from your boiler (or, to use the redundant Americanism “hot water heater”). In that way they function in much the same way that baseboard heating does, except for one very significant difference. Baseboard heating is built into a house or apartment, and is generally designed in such a way that it doesn’t get in the way. These water heaters, on the other hand, are stand-alone boxes that do get in the way since they connect to wall outlets via thick hoses. Ideally, Tokyo Gas wants you to buy one for every room in your apartment, and priced at between ¥28,000 and ¥45,000, they can add up to quite an investment. Read More

Go West

Potential buyers inspect land for sale in Fujino, western Tokyo

Two weeks ago we were at the UR office in Yaesu helping some friends get around the application process and asked the employee about availability. Though there was no ulterior motive behind the question, the woman volunteered that a lot of residents in UR high-rises in the waterfront area were moving out after the earthquake. We were slightly taken aback: Only a semi-public organization like UR would admit to potential renters that people were anxious to leave their properties.

Upon further investigation, we found that the story is a bit more complicated, at least when it comes to buying and selling property. According to various news reports, there has been a notable increase in interest in the Musashino daichi, or plateau, which covers parts of Western Tokyo and Western Saitama Prefecture. This is considered stable land, meaning no risk of liquefaction. The waterfront, of course, is all built on landfill, but there are many other areas located inland that suffered soggy ground after the Mar. 11 earthquake, such as Abiko in Chiba and Kuki in Eastern Saitama, communities that were built on ground that used to be swampland, rice paddies, or even ponds. Usually, you can determine the kind of land an area once was by consulting an old map. If the old name contains words that indicated water, like numa (marsh), then you might want to make sure your foundation is built on piles. In fact, a lot of developers change the names of such places so that people think they were built on solid rock (almost any subdivision with the word oka–hill–is a dead giveaway). Read More

Cheap fix

Here is a housing-related article we wrote for our sister blog at the Japan Times about a recent government study about reserve funds for condo repairs. It relates to a lot of the themes we have covered in this blog.