Japan’s Housing for the Middle Class


Hello World, something
that has fascinated me ever since I moved to Japan
six years ago is Danchi. Now the kanji for Danchi
literally means group land. However, what it’s really describing, is government housing
complexes like those behind me. Now the inspiration
comes from the Soviets. So their government housing, which probably accounts for
the utilitarian design you see. Now what I like about Danchi, is that they were often
built as communities, rather than stand alone complexes. That’s why it’s common to see day cares, community centers,
stores, and parks nearby. And the reason I think I came across so many of them during
my urban explorations, is because they are often
connected to the greenways that I like to bike and walk along. Now while Danchi is the term used for these apartment complexes, it doesn’t mean they’re
all government owned or that they all serve the same purpose. Many are managed by local governments and are intended for low income people. So social housing. While some are owned by companies as a way to provide housing for employees. What I’ll show you today
though is the units designed for the middle class, or market housing, which are owned and operated by the semi-public entity called UR, or UR in Japanese. UR’s original name was Nihon Jutaku Kodan. The name changed several times and now
it’s called the Urban Renaissance Agency. And it was them that were responsible for the initial designs of Danchi, both for themselves and
the local governments. That’s why I went to UR’s museum to show you how they looked
like when it all started. And if you’ve been into modern
Japanese apartment buildings, a lot of these design features
will look quite familiar. There’s the sliding doors, called fusuma, which can be opened up
when having a party, or closed off to make
a small private room. The kitchen units, despite
the changes in appliances, still look relatively similar, with the sink, stove, and
cupboards sharing a single wall. And according to UR, it
was them that suggested a new housing style, the
so-called DK dining kitchen style to separate the dining room and bedroom. So when you see those
Japanese housing listings with DK in them, like 2DK
for a unit with 2 bedrooms and a dining room and a kitchen, you know where that usage came from. The separation of the bathing room from the toilet was also done. Although at this time, having a private bath was still a luxury as most people went to bathe at public bathing houses called sentos. While some units had the traditional Japanese style squat toilets, or washiki, others had Western style toilets installed. Seeing the history museum was great, but I wanted to see what more
recent designs looked like, so UR got me into one of
their complexes built in 2006. Keep in mind that the
units you saw previously and the units you are about to see today are ones designed for
middle income earners. Unlike some previous places I saw, where the grocery stores
were right at the bottom of the building, this place
has a commercial center that’s right at the edge. The one disadvantage I
saw of this planned space is that the nearest major train station is about a 30 minute walk away. It is on a bus route though, but generally if you’re working
in the main areas of Tokyo you’d probably be looking
at a 45 to 60 minute commute by train and bus. But let’s go into a unit and see what a two bedroom place looks like. At the entrance there’s
the ubiquitous genkan, where you take off your shoes
and then enter the home. Once again, you have your
toilet, bathing, and sink and laundry areas all separate, which allows multiple people
to use them at the same time. And oh yeah, it’s BYOWM, bring
your own washing machine. There’s the kitchen
that takes up one wall, and then another blank wall can be used for furnishings you bring yourself. And of course there’s
space to place a fridge you bring on your own, which is also standard
practice for Japanese housing. Some rooms are separated by
fusuma, or sliding doors. And this room here has more privacy, but also doesn’t get much light since it’s facing the outdoor hallway, and not much of a view since the window is frosted for privacy. One thing you’ll notice is
the lack of tatami rooms, which were once a standard, but now are becoming rarer in new builds. And here’s the balcony, where
you’d hang dry your laundry. Even in the most experience units you’ll still see this kind of setup. Dryers just aren’t a big thing in Japan. On the balcony you’ll
also find the fire escape that you can use in case of an emergency. I find there’s very little wasted space in terms of corridors and everything can be easily compartmentalized. It’s quite different from
the open floor planning you see in modern Western places. Outside of the units, there’s
the easy access panels that let service people
get to all the utilities. There’s also service panels
inside of the unit as well. A fascinating unit I saw was one designed with separate entrances. I didn’t film it well, but to
the right of this tiny kitchen is a sliding door
connecting to the main unit. I think it’s originally meant
for a couple taking care of an elderly parent, but nowadays it seems equally
as useful for a couple still housing an adult child of theirs. Standard in any Tokyo apartment building
is the bicycle parking. What comes at an extra
cost is the car parking. This is the recycling and
waste disposal center, where everything is sorted
out by the residents. One thing that was mandated for the area was that they build in a green manner, so you’ll notice the green roofs that also have solar panels on top. In this community of buildings, you’ll also find a community room, like over here, as well
as a daycare center. Unlike some previous
communities they built, which had space for grocery stores and other retail units on the bottom, this design has retail
housed in its own building. Surrounding it you can
see the schools as well. Something I haven’t talked about yet is why UR is quite
attractive to foreigners. One of the main features of UR units is that they are first come, first serve, with no extra costs. What kind of costs, do you ask? Well, on top of a deposit that
can be a month or two’s rent, many non-UR rental apartments
will charge for things like key money, which is a
kind of thank you money to the property owner
that costs a month’s rent, renewal money, which can be a month’s rent every couple of years,
and a guarantor fee, which can be half a month’s rent. And let’s not forget the
realtor agent’s fee as well, which would be another month’s rent. Even if you can come up with all that, it still depends on if the owner or management company likes you, as I showcased in my
video about why foreigners have difficulty renting in Japan. With UR, you only pay
that refundable deposit; there’s no other fees. This is due in large part to UR being a semi-governmental agency that has set up a fair system in place. This means that their main
criteria for getting in is if you can afford to pay the rent, which requires you to prove your income and meet the minimum income thresholds. Unlike social housing, where
you can’t make too much money or else you don’t qualify,
it’s the opposite. For the lowest rents, you
need to have an income that’s four times the cost. As rent gets more expensive, the income test is less stringent, until you reach a cap of
400 thousand yen a month. Once you make more than
that amount a month, you can rent anything UR has to offer. UR housing is definitely
not for low income people, but I think it can be a
solid option for people in the middle class. For my family, when we
first moved to Japan we did consider UR housing, but there were alternative
affordable options in the area we were looking
at that we ended up choosing. But for other foreigners living in Japan who don’t have a fluently
speaking Japanese spouse like I did, UR can be one
of the only solid options for a middle income family. The problem is that in the big cities, there’s not a lot of UR housing and the spaces can be competitive, with popular places gone the
day they come up for rent. This is because nationwide,
there’s only about 700 thousand UR units, which account for about
one and a half percent of the 52 million households in Japan. Hey, welcome to me editing. I realized after watching
this over and over that I wasn’t clear
that I was talking about social housing from this point onwards. So here’s me telling you, all stats and images you will see, is about low income or social housing, not middle income or market housing, okay. What about that low income social housing I was talking about? They do have many more units, 2.16 million in fact, but it’s so competitive that
a lottery system is in place. The latest numbers from 2014 gave a one in six chance
of getting a spot, but in Greater Tokyo, it was 1 in 16. The chances of not getting
in is trending down though, so that seems like positive news. When I first started making this video, I had mistakenly thought that there were a lot of new Danchi being built. However, what I was mostly witnessing was the rebuilding of old units. So while 17 thousand
units were built in 2016, most of them were rebuilds,
not new construction. The truth is that since the building peak in the early 1970’s, Danchi construction has
been on the decline. And nowadays, the Japanese
population is following suit. On that happy note, thanks for watching, see you next time, bye. What is market housing, social housing, or just public housing in
general like where you’re from? (music) Hey again, so there was this chunk right in the middle of the
video that you didn’t see because I cut it. It was all about the experimental design that UR was testing. And the reason I cut it is because I didn’t want you to think that this was the average housing. It was just experimental stuff. However, it’s the end of the video and what’s the harm in showing you the kind of neat stuff
they were working on? Although this was about
like 20 years old or so, so it’s not necessarily cutting edge. But, still neat I thought. So check it out. What really struck me
while getting the tour around the museum was that the agency wasn’t simply trying to
build functional housing, but they were trying to create
better living environments. One such environment they
were trying to improve was the sound environment. Unfortunately, I really
mucked up the audio recording, as I had a wireless mic on
the presenter at all times. So when she was on the floor
above dropping things… (object dropping) I could clearly hear everything. What she was showing was how they test different materials and designs to minimize sound transmission. The door has rubber around the edge,
so it’s sealed tightly. There are alternating horizontal slats called louver, so the sound doesn’t go through,
but the air can. So compared to a regular door
the sound proofing is good. What I was shown next was
UR’s experimental designs, which are about 20 years
old if I remember correctly. This was a unit designed
to be barrier free, for those in a wheelchair. We named this kitchen system a cockpit kitchen So like a cockpit in an airplane. It’s designed so that you can reach
everything while sitting down. The edge of the counter is easy to grab and you
can use it to move around in a wheelchair. Your legs can fit perfectly under the
sink and it’s easy to wash dishes. The water is turned off right now, but normally
when you’d push the button it’d come out. The counter is high, so on this side and on the other side there are
small working counters. So you can easily bring the cutting
board on the side you prefer, and prepare your food. This kitchen is actually installed in
Shinjuku Comfort Garden in Kawadacho. In that housing complex they
have 17 experimental units. And as far as I know, it was the only ever that one building that these special units were built in. In this three tatami mat room, in the daytime, you can use this
as a chair or bench, drink tea, and chat (with company). At night you can open this and take a bath. And this has a wooden cover as well, that reveals a toilet when you open it. So this apartment is designed
as a liveable space. These units over here are part of a different project called KSI. S stands for skeleton, meaning that they’re
providing a shell for the I, which is the infill, or the interior. Basically, it’s a design
that allows the building to be constructed in a uniform way, while still giving architects the freedom to customize the interior
the way they like, placing interior walls,
kitchens, and bathrooms in any manner they choose. One example of the tech they
built to accomplish this is this flat wiring for lighting above, that can be hidden under wallpaper. Another aspect is the piping and wiring, which can easily be routed
around the subfloor. Unlike regular pipes which need slopes to move their contents, these ones can do the job while flat, which allows for more
freedom in design choices. All the utilities can be managed from the exterior of each unit, something that is true of units I see in modern Japanese
buildings today as well. This unit is still KSI, but since they were experimenting
with different things you could do with the design, it looks drastically different
from the previous one. The whole idea of KSI
was that the buildings can be designed for multi-use, and cater to people like single seniors, to people with disabilities, to families. So many people can sit here,
like when you have a party. All right, so this is
really the end, bye-bye!

100 Replies to “Japan’s Housing for the Middle Class”

  1. If you're interested in Japanese Housing, a made a playlist of all the videos I've made about the topic https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwBDd34gIIWnOWKVxvjgoalT66U3Jq10d

  2. I think it all looks rather depressing. Outside as well as inside. I live, on my own, in a social housing unit. The unit has 82 3-bedroom and 8 4-bedroom apartments. There are 4 units on this street. My apartment has 3 bedrooms (1 large, 1 relatively small and 1 tiny), a large kitchen, a large living room, a small shower/laundry room and a seperate toilet. Through the centre, there's some sort of hallway. I live across the street from a large mall. There is a police station and a large hospital behind the mall and at the end of the main street (that seperates the apartmentblock and the mall), there's a fire department. It's a green area and the apartments are quite cheap. One major disadvantage however, is the weather. Because of the way these units were built, there is always more wind. And small tornadoes aren't uncommon. It's almost impossible to decorate the balcony and enjoy that space.

  3. How Looks like the Anime houses/apartments are real looks in real life home in Japan, nice housing but i prefer to live with own lawn than apartments where you were not sure if your neighbors are Well discipline and clean

  4. How did you managed to be fluent in japanese since its the most hardest language?
    Here in the uk open plan living room and kitchen with no divider is becoming popular to save space in small houses

  5. japans housing is way more advanced than what we have in israel. hard to think those two nations are close in nominal gdp/capita

  6. It’s always interesting to see social housing in other countries, in Sweden there are no social housing to not segregate people, instead supplement with social security who not have afford to live in a home by own means 🙂

  7. Hey, 6:54, it's Kyde and Eric, I love those guys. Totally underrated J-vloggers and they do a wonderful job of visiting out of the way gems in Japan.

  8. thats very common to see in eastern and center europe, and it never stands on it's own, there are couple of those big blocks around community facilities, like a preschool, shops, etc

  9. As for the U.K, in my observation, we are blessed to have council houses for low income families, I think it is also in a lottery basis due to long waiting lists. For the middle classes, there are lots of new build flats/apartment complexes and houses especially in South East region of England due to increasing demand. Prices are also increasing, but the government is quite good with helping potential buyers such as restricting investors and aiding with the deposit.

  10. The units are essentially a single "large" room, with the kitchen taking a corner, the bath, toilet, and sink taking another. The living area is opened during the day to make a large open space, but the center panel doors can be closed to make two different rooms. The newer apartment shown was about 40 square meters, or about the size of the master bedroom in my old Miami condo. The main room is also divided because the smaller sections are easier to heat or cool. It gets very hot and humid in the summers, and quite cold in winter. In the past, a family of 4 (or more) would live in a 40 square meter Danshi apartment, with everyone sleeping together.

    "Middle Class" is a vague term in Japan where most people identify as being in the middle class. The typical family in Japan earns about $45,000 per year when the father (usually the only income earner) is 45 years old. An odd thing about Japan is that there is no "keeping up with the Joneses." Most people are content to live modestly, and few buy things to show them off. Your average Japanese salaryman earns quite a bit less than his American counterparts, and despite the cost of living in Japan, having a stay-at-home wife, and saving for their kids' university tuition and their own retirement, he will die without any debt, and leave behind money for his wife and kids.

  11. Honestly the cockpit kitchen is an amazing concept as a wheel chair friendly units. The accessibility in many apartments for people with disability seems very limited though.

  12. great info! as a lot of this kind can be so obscure for foreigners.

    i've never lived in low-income public housing but have lived near to or adjacent to such properties fairly often, over the years, in a few different American states..and i've lived in one rent controlled sub-let in a beautiful neighborhood in one of the Scandinavian countries. but i've had many friends & acquaintances who have lived on low income public housing properties.

    wondering if there's a stigma about it in Japan, as there is in the USA. many units are in apartment buildings – both high and 'low' rises.. some towns have local laws that don't allow high rises, although many require 10% of some multi-family unit properties set aside (% can vary, per city/state/programs, in America)..set aside for low income renters or buyers.. always more details but those are the 'highlights.' 🙋🏾

  13. I live in UR – lots of young teachers/public workers/civil servants live in UR complexes. I’ve actually lived in two different UR complexes. My old one was more lower income, and elderly oriented as it was farther out of the city in a more rural area. All the rooms still had tatami and was fairly old. I really love the complex I’m in now though – very large, very new, and in a more family oriented complex very close to city center (not Tokyo).
    What I found very funny is that I was moving with my Japanese husband, but they actually wanted ME (the foreigner) to be the main contract holder, as I was a civil servant working for the BoE, where as he was an independent contractor. It was the first tine I ever heard of a Japanese rental place preferring the foreigner to be the main contract holder over a Japanese person!!

  14. Wow no wonder we have alot of Japanese travelers tourists. If usa helped itself and Citizens we also could save and travel too. Help USA and global economy…duh
    Rent is through the roof!!!

  15. Also not mentioned, when moving into a property rented by many chain realtors, you'll also have to pay all the credit card fees up front (approx 24×2.5-5%) and direct transfers from bank accounts aren't common.

  16. The design feels cold -not homey at all. Too modern & no character. Holy cow that panoramic city shot – where's the trees? Too many buildings. Nope couldn't live without a dryer. No Japan for me!

  17. I always have a fascination with seeing the inside of houses and apartments, and it's only gotten stronger since coming to Japan. Apartment hunting was so satisfying for me because of that. XD And things like this as well…

  18. That Ghost in the Shell SAC frame caught me off gaurd. Took me 4 times of pause/unpause to catch it at the :30 second mark. LOL

  19. Wow its interesting how Japanese public housing isn't mired in violence, rampant crime and drugs. Then again a strongly homogeneous society made up of people with relatively high group IQ's on average and a strong in-group harmony has builds this type of peaceful and relatively low crime society.

  20. Wow! The experimental units at the end… They're really going the mile. They're not just shoving as many housing units together as they can and making people live with whatever space they're given. They're really thinking of different needs for different people and how (possibly) a single space can be used and arranged to fit the different needs. Super impressive!

  21. I'm in America and the things you show about Japan, the culture and beauty makes me want to visit for like a half year for the experience of it all. The video on the prayer doorways I find equally interesting and would love to pay tribute around New Years one time and it's now on my bucket list.

  22. the middle class houses are high class houses to me, guess i live in a low class house then

    Damn i wish i lived in Japan

  23. how tall are the doors and ceilings? thats a lot of money for a tiny place that you have no lawn, street access, elevators ……..no thanks.

  24. That odd moment when I realize rent is cheaper for a 'Meh' apartment in Japan than a real POS apartment in Seattle or Portland

  25. And the average cost ( – the add-ons) is? Also what’s the deal with the anime single frame flash at the beginning (:30). Was that intentional? Sry I’m new here so maybe that’s just something u guys do? Well whatever the case thanks 4 the helpful video.

  26. Wonderfull place its so clean !👍 Not like my contry im from france and appartements are disgusting and dangerous for healt. And u paid 600 euro by Month. If u want a good apparemment u need so much money for living in paris. Sorry for my english i was a idiot in english classe room lmao.

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