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Essay

There's no place like home

By Rebecca Quin

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After years of moving between teeny-weeny studio flats, slightly grubby share houses and friends' futons, I've finally moved into a proper house. While there's no furniture to speak of (I'm sitting on the floor as I type this) I feel like I have a place to call home.

My first place in Japan that I lived in was a 1K Leopalace. A lot of foreigners choose Leopalace as the apartments come furnished and you don't need to have a guarantor. The rental contracts are fairly flexible in that you can choose temporary or long-term tenancy, and they have English-speaking services. It's a very convenient setup.

Inside, the flat was small but highly efficient. It was amazing how every inch of space was used. I visited friends who also lived in a Leopalace and the layout was always very similar.

But what struck me most about these apartments was how recently and quickly erected they seemed. It was as though the construction company had assembled a flat-pack chair from Ikea. My particular block was only two years old. And I was always seeing new Leopalace apartments going up here and there throughout my town.

As much as I liked it, my flat did feel flimsy — especially during a typhoon or earthquake when the whole building would shake — and I think this was because it was very new.

When people ask me how old my house is back in England they are always surprised to hear me reply that it was built in the 1950s. Actually, for England, that's quite a young house. Compared to England, most of the flats and houses in Tokyo are brand new. Apparently in Japan, after 30 years a house is deemed unlivable. Just three decades and it's time to tear the house down and replace it with a new one!

This isn't the only reason why houses are replaced so often. High humidity in many parts of the country makes houses worth less. Also, older houses and apartments are often seen as unsafe if they don't comply with the latest earthquake standards.

In the U.K., it's the contrary. The older the house, the more prestigious it is. It has more “character” and the historical features inside add value. Many people purchase older properties in order to fix them up themselves. This is called property development and there are big bucks to be made by renovating a place and selling it later for a profit.

My new house is, in fact, very old. It was on the market for several months because nobody was attracted by a house from the Showa Era! But that's exactly why I fell in love with it — it has a really unique, distinctly Japanese feel about it. After all, home is where the heart is.

わが家に勝るものはない

これまでワンルーム・マンションやシェアハウスなどを転々としてきた筆者がついに一軒家を購入した。引っ越したばかりでまだ家具もない状態だが、マイホームに暮らす喜びを実感している。

The Japan Times ST: October 14, 2016

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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