Japan’s Creative, Ephemeral Homes
Lucy Alexander writes: Would you buy a house that you knew would lose its value as years passed? That you would never be able to sell? That you might have to pay to demolish?
In Japan, this is the willing choice of many houseowners. In Western countries, a home is typically an investment that most people expect to one day sell at a profit. In Japan, a house is a consumer good that rapidly depreciates in value, like a car. Because Japanese house hunters prize new construction, they will pay a premium for land, but build their own home on it.
“People have greater creative license to express their own taste because they don’t need to consider resale value. There is a deep-set ephemeral attitude to housing here.”
— Alastair Townsend, co-founder of Bakoko, a Tokyo architectural practice
This model has one happy side-effect: a flourishing of some of the world’s most wonderfully bizarre architecture. You can live in a nest of tangled staircases designed to represent the Internet (named S-House), or inside plastic walls shaped like a Gothic arch (called Lucky Drops)—and only be concerned that it pleases you.
“People have greater creative license to express their own taste because they don’t need to consider resale value,” said Alastair Townsend, co-founder of Bakoko, a Tokyo architectural practice. “There is a deep-set ephemeral attitude to housing here.”
Japan’s Ministry of Finance defines the “service life” of a wooden house (92% of all detached homes) as being 22 years, though many homeowners stretch their stay.
Architecture in Japan is big business, with 24 architects for every 10,000 people, compared with 3.4 in the U.S., says the International Union of Architects. And Japanese often show extreme deference to experts such as architects. “Sometimes the clients don’t feel empowered to question an architect’s design,” said Mr. Townsend.
One of Mr. Townsend’s clients, Chiyomi Okamoto, 53, worked closely with the firm on her home’s details. She wanted a house that felt comfortable to her and to her Australia-born husband, Joe Gayton, 58, an exports manager for the Victorian Government Business Office in Tokyo. Read the rest of this entry »
November 16, 2013 – TOKYO, JAPAN – A 5.5 magnitude earthquake hit eastern Japan on Saturday. Tremors were felt from inside Tokyo skyscrapers, and the city’s high-speed train service was halted as a precaution. The earthquake struck at 8:44 p.m. local time (11:44 a.m. GMT) at a depth of 63 kilometers (39 miles) in the Chiba prefecture which neighbors Tokyo, the US Geological Survey reported. The quake shook skyscrapers in the Japanese capital and temporarily halted the city’s high-speed train service, according to AFP. The trains soon resumed after a track inspection. Local broadcaster NHK assured that neither Tokyo’s Narita International Airport nor regional nuclear installations were affected by the earthquake. There were no reports of damage or casualties. It comes just one week after another 5.5 earthquake struck close to the capital, and three weeks after a major 7.3 magnitude quake sent small tsunamis to Japan’s northeast coast and prompted an evacuation at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.