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Concrete Lovers, This Is What Social Housing Looks Like in Japan

団地

“Block No. 4, 2-3-2 Honmachi” (in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture). Photo by Nevin Thompson.

In Japan, there are blogs devoted to documenting train interiorsmanhole covers and even cake. So it should come as no surprise that there is a Tumblr and a blog devoted to danchi (団地), the clusters of utilitarian ferro-concrete public housing projects where so many Japanese people have lived since the end of World War II.

This danchi blog provides a rare glimpse into how many people live in Japan, even today.

The term danchi can have negative connotations in Japanese, akin to “the projects” or “social housing” in English. Formerly speaking, these are all known as koei jutaku (公営住宅), or public housing in Japanese.

As discussed on American web forum MetaFilterWalking in the Danchi !! is a Japanese-language blog devoted to sharing images of housing estates around Japan. The blog is frequently updated, and features photos of housing blocks from all over Japan, including Kyoto, central TokyoOsaka and many other parts of Japan. The posts include information about the specific address of the tower blocks, and when they were built:

Screenshot from Walking in the Danchi !! Tumblr blog.

Tamachi Ekimae Apartments (1966)
Shiba, Minato Ward, Tokyo
Photo taken in 2016

Screenshot from Walking in the Danchi !! Tumblr blog.

Osaka Kadoma Public Housing (1967)
Kadoma, Osaka Prefecture
Photo taken in 2017

The photos capture some of the details familiar to anyone who has ever lived in an apartment in Japan, such as omnipresent ferroconcrete and heavy-duty metal apartment doors that look like something more typically found in a submarine:

Screenshot from Walking in the Danchi !! Tumblr blog.

Naha Municipal Tsubogawa-East Apartments (Built 1985-1992)
Tsubogawa, Naha (Okinawa Prefecture)
Photo taken in 2016

The photos also capture more recent efforts to beautify the typically stark, utilitarian landscapes that typify public housing estates in Japan.

Screenshot from Walking in the Danchi !! Tumblr blog.

Osaka Kadoma Public Housing (1967)
Kadoma, Osaka Prefecture
Photo taken in 2017

Screenshot from Walking in the Danchi !! Tumblr blog.

Osaka Kadoma Public Housing (1967)
Kadoma, Osaka Prefecture
Photo taken in 2017

Writing for the Japan Times, Philip Brasor provides a useful primer on public housing in Japan, including government housing policy since the Second World War, who qualifies for public housing in Japan, as well as how less government investment in public housing in recent years, combined with the rise of precarious work and declining wages is leading to evermore income disparity in Japan.

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