For years 31-year-old Susumu Takigawa dreamed of owing his own house. Recently Takigawa realized his dream - and it has become something of a nightmare.
He, his wife, two children, parents and younger brother have all moved into the modest, five-room residence located one-and-an-half hours from central Tokyo where Takigawa works. The house measures 32 feet by 32 feet, leaving barely enough living space for each person in which to stretch out. Takigawa is beginning to wonder if the ultimate price is worth the fulfillment of his immediate desire.
He will be paying for the house - to the tune of $264 a month, or 40 per cent of his salary - for the next 20 years. The original cost of the house was $66,000. When the loans and their interest have been paid off, two decades hence, he will have shelled out more than $100,000 to make his dream a reality.
Takigawa's is a common fate in this country, where 10 million people are crammed into an area the size of California - more than four-fifths of which is uninhabitable mountains.
The situation is expecially severe in the jam-packed urban centers. Housing is the costliest part of living in Tokyo, the world's costliest city. The tremendous concentration of people in the nation's capital and the reluctance to build high-rise apartments due to the danger of earthquakes have led to astronomical land prices - $272 per square foot in residential areas and six times that figure in commercial sections.
The value of land combined with soaring construction costs have made the purchase of housing in the city affordable foronly an elitc minority.
And the situation is getting worse. It is estimated that in the past five years housing costs have risen by as much as 300 per cent. Surveys indicate that more than 40 per cent of the Japanese people are dissatisfied with their present housing. The principal complaint is that in order to buy a house or apartment. most people must settle for a place that is both uncomfortably small and inconviently far from the city in which they work. Even then, Japanese generally spend five times their annual income to purchase such housing.
Those who can afford to live in the city pay a big price for a small amount of space. A compact "2DK" apartment - which means two rooms with a dining room-kitchen - measuring 31 feet by 31 feet in fashionable, centrally located Akasaka costs $1.170 a month.
A similary well-situated apartment with four rooms, totaling 42 by 42 feet, can be purchased for $415,000 or rented for $1,885 a month. Virtually all Tokyo apartments come unfurnished.
The monthly rent, however, is only one part of a complicated payment system in Japan. First, there is the "shikikin," or guarantee money. This is the equivalent of two to five months rent paid in advance, which is eventually returned if the tenant fulfills his contract and leaves the apartment undamaged.
Then there is the "reikin," or thanks money. This sum, which amounts to two to three months rent, is preciation for allowing the family or individual to stay in the apartment.
For example; a four-room, 26-by-26-foot apartment, about the size of a large American living room, which might suffice for a family of four, rents for $755 a month. But on top of that there is four months "shikikin" $3,019, two months "reikin," $1,509, and $132-a-month for parking. Thus, in order to simply move into the apartment for the first the tenant must provide $5,415.
In a country with the world's third highest GNP, most advanced mass transit system and a conspiculously high standard of living in most areas, housing standards remain relatively poor. Yukihiko Hamazaki, a travel agent living in Tokyo, says, "Japan has reached a high level in eating, clothing and electronics. But in this one area, housing, we are very much backwards."
Two out of three households are crowded together at a rate of more than a person-and-a-half per room. Most Tokyoites live in tiny houses - some flimsy wooden structures - piled one on top of each other or in the enormous gray apartment building complexes that have sprung up on the city's outskirts. And, although it is everyone's dream to own their own residence, prohibitively high costs have made this impossible for almost half of Tokyo's 11 million residents.
The government claims to recognize that housing is Japan's most nagging social problem. Yet its efforts up until now have been sporadic and insufficient.
The construction ministry last year embarked on a five-year plan to build 8.6 million additional units by 1980, 3.5 million with government funds. The assistant director of the housing planning section of the Ministry, Hideo Yajima, says that by 1980 more than half of the nation's houses will be a government-established minimum of three rooms plus a dining room kitchen measuring 19 feet by 19 feet - the size of the master bedroom in many American houses - for a family of four.
He says that, according to the government's goals, by 1985 this will have improved to an average ot three rooms plus a living-dining room-kitchen and 26 feet by 26 feet total floor space for four people.