Housing, contemporary Japanese
Housing in Japan has changed dramatically in the past century as a result of rapid urbanization, population pressures, changes in family and social relationships, and the influence of Western architecture. Especially in large cities, many multiunit dwellings were built. From the latter half of the Meiji period (1868-1912) to the beginning of the Taisho period (1912-1926), population flowed from the countryside to urban centers, and many lived in nagaya-wood-frame tenements with shared communal facilities. Multiunit housing complexes first appeared in Japanese cities around the time of the Great Kanto Earthquake and Fire of 1923.
The first Western-style apartment houses in Japan may have been the "bunka apato" (1925) built in the Ochanomizu area of Tokyo. The housing built by the Dojunkai (Mutual Benefit Association), formed after the Tokyo Earthquake of 1923 to provide housing for victims of the quake, made Western-style accommodations widely available to the middle class. A typical unit had two rooms with a small kitchen and an average floor space of 33 square meters (355 sq ft). Apartment houses became increasingly popular in the 1930s, because they symbolized progress and offered convenience, better sanitation and maintenance, and greater protection from fire, earthquakes, and burglaries. Many early apartments were constructed of wood; reinforced-concrete apartment buildings came into their own only after World War II.
The gravitation of large numbers of people to urban areas in the 1950s era of rapid economic growth caused a severe housing shortage in the cities. The Japan Housing Corporation (JHC) was established in 1955 to build large-volume housing projects that would meet the pressing demand, and apartments and multistory housing complexes known as danchi were built throughout the country.
Public housing available throughout the 1950s was primarily rental units. From the beginning of the 1960s, however, private companies also entered the market to build medium and high-rise multi-unit dwellings - these have individual units for sale or rent and are known as manshon (the English word "mansion" was borrowed to distinguish them from the more spartan 1960s public danchi apartment buildings). The majority of these manshon are designed as family dwellings and have floor space of 70 to 100 square meters (753 to 1,076 sq ft).
The most common unit in early JHC housing was the 2DK, or two rooms and the dining-kitchen area. The JHC standardized apartment layouts, introducing the concept of the dining room-kitchen ("dining-kitchen" - DK), a space of about 8 square meters (86 sq ft) used for both cooking and dining. This soon became a popular feature. An enlarged DK is called an LDK, or living room-dining/kitchen area. These are often arranged so as to provide private space for parents and children or for husband and wife. Recently 3DK and 3LDK units designed for families have become more common, and manshon designed for people of different lifestyles became available. There was a rapid proliferation of one-room apartments (wan-rumu manshon) designed for single working people at one stage. Since the bursting of the bubble in the economy in 1995, housing prices have declined somewhat, but to purchase a single-family dwelling in the Tokyo are a still costs around seven times the annual income of a typical salaried worker (early 40s).
According to a study made by the Prime Minister's office, the rate of home-ownership in Japan for the year 2000 was 61.9%. The highest rate was for Toyama Prefecture at 82.2%, followed by Akita with 78.9% - Mie, 78.6% - Fukui, 76.8% - and Yamagata, 76.5%. The lowest rates of home-ownership were 44.4% for Tokyo - 52.9%, Osaka - 54.3%, Fukuoka - 55.0%, Hokkaido - and 55.8% for both Kanagawa and Okinawa. The percentage of people owning their own homes was lower in urban areas.