Myth of Homeownership in Japan

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Rina YAMAMOTO, The University of Tokyo, Japan
It is commonly believed in Japan that the “my home” myth (the phrase “my home” refers to owning a home of one’s own and/or pursuing a family-oriented way of life) is widely accepted among the many Japanese who prefer living in the suburbs. However, this perception is now less accurate than it was half a century ago. As a result of the recent tendency for the Japanese to live in dense city centers rather than in the spread-out suburbs, more and more high-rise condominiums have been constructed for the Japanese middle class. Despite the general fall in the population nationwide, population growth in urban areas has been accelerating since the 1990s. To determine whether the “my home” myth still remains influential in the Japanese society, this study examines how homeowners have been transformed in contemporary Japan. Using an empirical survey of high-rise condominiums, it investigates changes in the residents’ image. During the 1960s and 1970s, the most common image of residents was that of a nuclear family, with a full-time housewife and a white-collar husband, together with their two or three children, living in a nice suburb. However, this image gradually changed over the course of the 1990s and onwards. The resulting new image is not related to any particular person or a small group, like a family, instead it is an image of an anonymized body which is sensitive to various components of housing and the texture of materials. These findings suggest that it is difficult to sustain the “my home” myth in contemporary Japanese society, given the general transformation of the Japanese middle class. The results of this study provide new insights that can help understand the issues related to housing, such as gentrification, urban density, and dwelling disparities.