Home Truths, June

Here is this month’s Home Truths column in the Japan Times. Almost everything we discuss in the article we’ve already discussed in more detail somewhere on this blog, but this is a fairly concise overview of the whole cramped housing development issue. Since this is a situation that almost anyone who buys a house must contend with, we’d be grateful to hear comments from readers, especially those who have direct experience with the problem–if, in fact, it is a problem. We’ve sort of come to the conclusion it’s something you have to live with.


  1. james · June 5, 2012

    “Japan ranks number five in the world in terms of average floor area for single-family houses, ahead of even Australia, but there has been no comparable increase in residential land size.”

    This fact is very surprising, could you please provide your source for it? I’m interested to know what the ranking of countries is and their respective average floor areas.

    PS. I enjoy the blog.


  2. eurasiaendtoend · June 12, 2012

    Doesn’t it all come down to the fact the homes in Japan are seen as machines for living in? They should be as new as possible, as full of mod-cons as possible and as efficient as possible. I have never really heard anyone missing their old home or expressing nostalgia for the home they grew up in. Old is bad, unfashionable and out-of-date. To moderise a home or build extensions as people in my homeland, Ireland, would do would be seen as a waste of money. Better tear down and start from scratch. The earthquake of 2011 brought this home to me very strongly. Nothing in Japan is meant to last a long time.
    The land itself is seen as having value (or used to be seen as such) and the house on top of it should use the land as efficiently as possible to provide as much space for living in. The walls, however flimsy, are really the outer walls of a castle and everything and everybody beyond can be ignored. Inside is uchi and outside is soto (literally as well as figuratively). So cheek-by-jowl use of land is accepted.


  3. TokyoOctopus · June 18, 2012

    I haven’t seen a definitive source, but I did see this report: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/shortcuts/2012/may/16/architecture-housing recently which says “a 2007 Riba survey found the average floor space of a new dwelling in England and Wales was 76 sq m, against 81.5 sq m in Italy, 92 sq m in Japan and 115 sq m in Holland“. Not sure if that includes apartments as well, though.

    An unscientific anecdote, but I’ve been looking at a lot of new-build houses in Tokyo recently, and there’s not much below 85sqm available. I also recall someone telling me there’s some regulation – possibly local to the particular “ku”, which requires all new dwellings to have at least 80sqm.

    On to the cramped housing issue… yes it is a problem, and I’ve come to the conclusion a lot of people must be really really desparate to live in a house in Tokyo even if it means having a multitude of “surigarasu” windows overlooking your neighbour’s wall a metre or so away. I’m probably going to have to make a compromise somewhere though…


  4. markjamesdesign · May 9, 2013

    No problem with me- I love small spaces. don’t we all? think of that comforting feeling sitting in your seat on the Shinkansen- tiny beverage table and beverage of choice, someone you like, hopefully next to you, enough leg room, or your car- everything at hand. Its just about perspective. Tolstoy- How much land does a man need? Walden? We just purchased, if all goes well, a 68sqm house in Tokyo (Asagaya). The house is 34 years old. Sliver of garden, shared visual greenery between the neighbors, a room for all three of us, a car park (no car, will be a garden) , kitchen and separate living room. What else do you need? There are ways t design a space to have privacy and be close to neighbors- I suggest talking to an artistic architect or just take a look at what people are doing out there to get inspired


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