Monday, March 24, 2014

Apartments in a Megacity

Flashback...  [1997/3/18 - 7:20 a.m.] - As I write this, I'm sitting in my old, cheap one bedroom apartment (about US$700 a month, which is rather cheap for Tokyo), sitting in front of a window that I can't see out of.  Why not?  It's made of the type of glass used in shower doors - it lets in the light, but you can't see anything through it.  If I open it, I can see the next building - and a beautiful building it is, painted brown, with square windows.  It's best attribute being that it's only two stories high, so I can see the sky if I look up from my second floor window.
   Actually, all sarcasm aside, just the fact that the morning sun hits one of my windows is something not to be taken for granted in this city.  One of my friends lives in an apartment where there are just two windows; one in the kitchen, and one in the bedroom (glass doors to the balcony), and none in the middle room, so the (electric) light must be on anytime day or night to use the forever dark room.  The bathroom?  No windows (but vented of course).  My apartment, on the other hand, gets a lot of light, with six windows on three sides of the apartment.  An advantage of living in a small apartment building.
[2014/03/24] - A lot has changed since 1997 regarding what is typical for a Tokyo apartment.  It used to be that apartments anywhere reasonably near central Tokyo were almost always small by definition, with large apartments being very expensive.  In a sense, that's still true, but what's changed is that they have been building high-rise residence towers (essentially vertical gated communities) all over the central area of Tokyo for many years now, and the type of people who used to be willing to suffer any level of commuting pain to get out to a house and yard in the suburbs are now investing in a chunk of high-rise in the form of a purchased condominium instead.  Meanwhile, I've moved into an apartment with a windowless central area myself.  Maybe someday I'll be rich and join the sky-dwellers in a condominium somewhere convenient.

But even back in 1997, the dream of a home in the sky was already the new residential dream for Tokyo, as is evident from this paragraph I wrote on that March day in 1997:

[1997/3/18] - The perfect life in Tokyo?  That would be something like this:  An apartment in a new high-rise with a balcony overlooking one of the more attractive areas of the city, and another house or apartment about an hour or two from Tokyo via Shinkansen.  You would have enough money to regularly eat out at the infinite number of expensive restaurants, and you would have both the money and connections necessary to get good seats at the best concerts.  Every weekend you would leave the smoke for some clean air in the country.  Because you've got it set up with work that can be done at home, you could just stay in the country for a couple of weeks at a time when you're sick and tired of life in the MegaCity....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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