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  • 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.