Saturday, October 19, 2013
Starting in the 1950s, to offset the housing demand created by the then-increasing Japanese population, the Japanese government began building giant housing developments known as Danchi (団地) which literally means "group land." In contrast with traditional Japanese architecture at the time, the Danchi were entirely utilitarian and almost completely devoid of style. The individual apartments of a Danchi are almost identical and a Danchi complex may consist of numerous identical buildings. Pictured here are buildings C36-38 of a single complex that I later discovered extends from C1 to C40.
Quite often Danchi are used to symbolize the loss of traditional culture in Japan as it becomes more westernized. I am aware of a Japanese TV drama that focuses on the difficulties of adapting traditional ideas of community and family to life in Danchi.
Despite their negative perception, Danchi do make it possible to live somewhat affordably in the more heavily crowded areas of Japan. I've read about a Danchi in the center of Tokyo where a one bedroom apartment costs $600/month which is really a steal. Similarly, my host brother lives in a Danchi in a suburb of Osaka for only $80/month. While they certainly lack style and individuality, Danchi do provide a means to live reasonably in a country where space is always at a premium.