Japanese apartments tend to be smaller

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Motoki Oohashi works on US naval base Yokosuka by Tokyo. He is very familiar with all that USS aircraft carriers, battle-cruisers and theirs tiny living conditions. That is why we asked him for this topic.

This issue deals with the subject of micro-housing. We know the Japanese trends of the 1970s with significant examples of Nakagin Capsule Tower or Asakusa Hotel. It’s a wild idea for Europeans, but everything is done and it works. How did these trends get the Japanese market?
It’s very rare to see micro-housing in these times Japan with a recent typology. However, we have a unique accommodation which is called „Capsule Hotel“ as you mentioned; a budget hotel where guests are accommodated in capsules about the size of a railroad sleeping compartment. The room size of Capsule Hotel is capable for only one person can sleep. I have stayed Capsule Hotel several times in the past, but it’s comfortable enough to sleep. One space (room) has a small TV and air conditioning. You can stay there around Y 2,000 (USD 20) to Y 4,000 (USD 40) per night.

Are the experiences of these experiments somehow transferable to European cities, especially cities with a high population density (Amsterdam, Paris, Lyon)?
I would not say experiments, it is a standard housing, here in Japan, and I believe that micro-housing is transferable to other European cities, no matter the size and density.

Where does Japan head these days in terms of sizes end dispositions of apartments?
In the reflection of the rise of land cost, Japanese apartments tend to be smaller and more optimized space and have higher story (floors). There’s no enough parking area, so that many apartments have a parking space on 1st floor and the apartments start from 2nd floors.

Centres of the Central European cities with about 1 million inhabitants are exhausted in 30 years according to urban planners and sociologists. Perhaps a similar philosophy like in Japan, will work here. Will the housing be reduced or can you predict the arrival of the new philosophy to live? Are the ideas that we already read about, as living in vertical gardens or, e.g. the idea of migrating houses, real, in fact?
I don’t think new philosophy is coming, nor migrating houses, or other crazy residential projects in certain period of time. This is very a futuristic vision.

How could be compared the character of housing in Japan with the similar size cities as Prague, Munich, and Vienna?
I think the biggest difference between Japanese and European housing is earthquake-proof structure. Earthquake frequently happens in Japan. As the measure of earthquake, the basement structure is constructed very strong, so that it’s not destroyed when earthquake happens.

Finally, a bit of a question about numbers: How much does it cost to imagine an average of 1 sq m of apartment in the built-up area of Tokyo?
In average, the land cost is USD 12,783 per sq m, say, in Tokyo.

Are these prices sustainable in the long run?
I believe these prices will be increasing after 2020 when Tokyo Olympic is held. In preparation for accommodating the foreign visitors, more and more hotel capacities are now in progress. This construction rush certainly influences the rise of land cost.

Martin Klejna, P6PA+Architects, s.r.o. / Photo: Motoki Oohashi

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