Category: A Few Things About Housing

  • Featured in The Wall Street Journal

    Featured in The Wall Street Journal

    The Wall Street Journal recently published an article summarizing my observations about the economics that stimulate Japan’s eccentric residential architecture. In addition to featuring my work, the correspondent – Lucy Alexander – also interviewed our clients. The Onjuku Surf Shack certainly isn’t as unconventional as S-House, a curious see-thru split level home designed by Yuusuke…

  • Follow-up to Freakonomics: What about Financing?

    Follow-up to Freakonomics: What about Financing?

    I listen to a lot of podcasts. They keep me in touch with what’s happening in the US and UK. I recently suggested to the team at WNYC’s Freakonomics Radio that they look into Japan’s weird housing economics. They liked the idea and did some research. You can listen to the episode below. I’m impressed by…

  • CNN Interview on Japanese Residential Architecture

    The CNN interview I gave last week has aired as a part of a piece on Japanese residential architecture (I show up around 1:00 in). The crew got in touch after reading the ArchDaily article and they contacted the owners of some of the homes pictured to arrange access and interviews. Sou Fujimoto was also…

  • Map of Tokyo Residential Architecture

    I was contacted by a number of news outlets after I published my recent article explaining Japan’s crazy housing economics and how I think they facilitate experimental residential architecture. Since many people seem keen to see or photograph these in-person (or via streetview), I have assembled a map that catalogs some interesting examples of Tokyo…

  • Why Japan is Crazy About Housing

    Why Japan is Crazy About Housing

    The following article about Japanese housing economics and how they motivate Japan’s penchant for experimental architecture first appeared on ArchDaily, where it quickly became one of their most popular articles. Unfortunately, copyright restrictions prevent me from including here the photography that accompanied the original article. In architectural magazines and websites, like ArchDaily, we see a steady stream…

  • Sudare Screens and Blinds

    Sudare Screens and Blinds

    It’s been some time since I posted about the differences between Japanese and Western housing and how they could constructively borrow these traits from one another. To revie the series (and this blog), I’ve written a short appreciation of an easily overlooked, yet ever present, feature of Japanese townscapes… In his 1933 essay In Praise of Shadows Jun’ichirō Tanizaki…

  • OM Solar – Japan’s Passive Building Standard

    OM Solar – Japan’s Passive Building Standard

    Over 25,000 OM Solar homes have been built in Japan within the last 20-30 years. This figure would appear to put the system’s popularity on par with Europe’s Passive House (Passivhaus) standard. Yet, the OM Solar method is unique and seems almost unknown outside of Japan.

  • Windowless Homes

    Windowless Homes

    Recently, there has been a crop of modern Japanese homes without windows. Open to the sky, they are daylit by skylights and open courtyards. These internal spaces offer brighter living conditions than typical homebuilder homes with their familiar pitched tiled roofs and small windows veiled by net curtains. However, the lack of any view to…

  • Before After ビフォーアフター

    My last article mentioned a popular Japanese television series called “Before After”. In the cultural wasteland of Japanese television, dominated by cult-celebrity panel variety shows, it stands out as one of the few gems worth watching. Despite being a show ostensibly dedicated to home improvement, it might also be one Japanese TV’s most emotional…

  • DIY in Japan

    Most Japanese families are resigned to living in the homes that the marketplace offers. If they are unhappy living in them, they rarely seem to do much about it. Quality of life in Japanese homes could be remarkably improved if their owners took matters into their own hands…

  • Roof Gardens

    A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Muji’s attempt to resolve their customers’ desire for green space whilst maximizing their development’s density (and profitability). Today, I am covering an alternative solution to Japan’s lack of green space.

  • The Genkan

    The Genkan

    As we all know, shoes are removed upon entering the Japanese home. Behind every front door, a small sunken patch of tile or exposed concrete, called a genkan, is dedicated to this ritual. This area is something between a porch and a glorified doormat, yet it occupies an integral place within the Japanese home.

  • Green Spaces in Japanese Cities

    Japan is a notoriously cramped nation. The commercial pressures to utilize land efficiently entail that little is set aside for the gardens, parks, or open spaces. Well, perhaps this post should be re-titled: “Something that Japan IS Learning from the West” because the Japanese retailer Muji is attempting to put Western town planning practices to use…

  • Kura Storage Spaces

    Japan’s house building industry is characterized by intense competition. With so many young families choosing to build new homes, volume house builders come up new innovative features to outcompete rivals’ products. Although these features often seem gimmicky, one idea that seems to be a must is the half-height storage level, or “kura” space. Two families…

  • Terrace Housing – Why is it uncommon in Japan?

    Western visitors are often struck by the density Tokyo’s small houses. Often a gap of only 40 centimeters (15″) separates two houses – barely wide enough for a person to squeeze between. Windows often look into these dark gloomy voids. Seeing this depressing site throughout Japan’s towns and cities leaves me to wonder: why haven’t…

  • Veranda – Balconies Serve Utilitarian Functions in Japan

    Living in Europe and America balconies seemed like an added amenity or even a luxury. In Japan they are sustainable and utilitarian extensions of domesticity. One thing that distinguishes run of the mill Japanese homes from their Western cousins is an inordinate number of balconies. Many Japanese houses have a balcony (or veranda as they…

  • Heating Japanese Homes

    I previously sung the praises of Japan’s ingenuity in the bathroom, but now I’d like to turn to a part of the home where the Japanese designers and builders still have something learn from their Western counterparts….

  • Ofuro – The Wonderous Japanese Bath

    A Culture of Bathing In a land where hot water seems to bubble up from volcanic hot springs at every turn, it is little wonder that bathing is an integral part of Japanese society. When the country urbanized, the tall boiler chimneys of public bath houses (called sentos) popped-up throughout dense residential quarters of Japan’s…