The Japanese Housing Catch-22

I’ve always thought it was strange that even with a shrinking population, Japan keeps building more and more new housing developments. Well, Japan is in a bit of a catch-22 when it comes to housing. Like the Japanese tradition of KFC at Christmas, I assume it is something to do with the might of the building industry. Houses in Japan, in general, aren’t built to last very long. The average house is destructed after 37 years, meaning they use cheap materials that don’t typically last. In addition, people generally don’t do much maintenance on their houses either, leading to such dire retention. This keeps those in the house-building industry very happy as it obviously keeps them employed, and at that in something that is in most cases the biggest purchase people will make in their lifetimes.

So, if you’re like me and you want to do your part, you go looking for a nice place to move into. And you look. And you find a place, but then you find out it’s on a lean and will take quite a chunk of money to fix. Or, you find a house that has insulation from the 80s, which in Japan may as well be insulation from the dawn of time. That’s the thing. You want to live in an old house, but if you’re going to be spending money fixing it up, you might as well build a new house. And for the Japanese, especially those here in rural Japan, they know that the house value will fall completely in 20 years, so they don’t see much point in building something for the long-long term (I’m talking more than the average 37 years, and closer to 100).

So, we’re left with a building stock that is not up to scratch in the slightest. Meaning people build new buildings, and those new buildings demand land. Land that could be taken from the houses that weren’t built up to scratch in the first place, or most likely, land that was previously used for cultivating rice.

Hence, our decision to not only build new, but build in a vacant lot, and build to last. And I’m hoping that I can change the thought patterns of those living here by doing so, for the sake of the environment, and the long-term benefit of society.



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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan

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