Why oddball domestic architecture thrives in Japan

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Why oddball domestic architecture thrives in Japan
Bakoko's Onjuku Surf Shack, Onjuku, Japan / © Bakoko

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Why oddball domestic architecture thrives in Japan
Bakoko’s Onjuku Surf Shack, Onjuku, Japan / © Bakoko

In a culture obsessed with real estate, where newspapers tirelessly chart rising and falling property values, and Grand Designs is a Sunday-night staple, it’s startling to imagine building your dream home in the full knowledge that it will be worthless within 25 years.

The Japanese real estate market is as foreign to our own as it is possible to imagine. Forget “renovators’ delights”, heritage overlays or neighbourhood character. Forget, also, any thought of what a future buyer might like. Japanese home owners build their domestic dreams knowing that no one else will ever want to inhabit them. Alarming in one sense. Architecturally liberating in another.

When Tokyo-based architect Alastair Townsend set out to explain why oddball domestic architecture thrives in Japan, the West was intrigued. His article for the arch daily online journal last year – titled Why Japan is Crazy About Housing – prompted a visit from CNN, sparked some determined Google map-hunting by architecture enthusiasts and generated an online discussion that continues to draw comment. []

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