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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Japan's Skinny Apartment Buildings

Less than a foot (0.305m) wide?
Does Japan hate fat people?

Despite its love affair with the art of o-sumo (sumo wrestling) that has made it its national sport, if you were to look at this blog and this blog entry alone, you might think the country had something against the horizontally-challenged.

I don't know if that's a real term or not, or even if it makes sense, but in my head it sure does.

Regardless, this blog offers the skinny on Japan's  ultra thin buildings - it's living and work spaces.

Lots of cities around the world have one, and it ends up becoming a bit of a local landmark. But Japan seems to have more than its fair share.

Buildings that seem to have an inner width of less than eight-feet are prevalent enough for some photographers to amass quite a wide collection. In fact, some pundits - like myself - would say that if you were to take a photograph of each skinny building in Japan and place them atop each other and lay them sideways, it would be wider than the individual width of many of these buildings.

Now I didn't take any photos of such skinny buildings while in Japan, and I'm not going to steal all of these photos from the web, suffice to say that the one up above came from the website listed below... as such, please visit the site HERE for an intriguing look at some very cool architecture that happens to be skinnier than any building I have ever seen here in North America.

I mean, seriously... look at the width of the hallway above. I have a 48-inch (1.22m) chest. If I tried to walk straight through, I would get stuck. Cripes, can you imagine if a body met a body coming through the rye? Number one, you'd better pray it's a good-looking member of the opposite sex (if that's your thing), because the two of you are going to be mashing groins - and not in a fun way.

I know that there is supposed to be a lack of land to build upon in some urban areas of Japan. And I know that the Japanese people as a whole aren't overly tall or big-boned. And I know there is the precedent of the capsule hotels, but to actually have a home this small is ridiculous.

I had a three-bedroom LDK (living room, dining room, kitchen), plus two balconies, a large laundry and bathroom area in my $320 (~Y26,500 Yen)-a-month apartment building in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. Of course this was between 1990-1993, so surely that whole city has run out of room to build affordable housing, what with all of the rice fields and 7-11's that populate the place. There were literally four 7-11's within a one kilometer radius of my apartment building. While I could not necessarily throw a rock and hit a rice field from my location, I could probably do it in four throws. Five maybe... as the old arm ain't what it used to be. Afterall, Ohtawara does translate into Big-Rice Field-Field—they have so  many fields that they had to mention it twice.

But why Japan? Why make such skinny apartments? Is it because people work so hard and for long hours that they are never at home? I mean, 7-1/2 feet wide (2.29m)? There are sexual positions in the Kama Sutra which could never be undertaken owing to a lack of space (not to mention flexibility).

Really... one good Godzilla swat from his rubbery tail, and a whole swathe of skinny buildings would collapse faster than the Icelandic or Irish economy! Hmm. Beware of economic disaster in countries starting with the letter I... which if you actually look at that letter, it's about as wide as some of these Japanese buildings.

Stop the elevator, this is my floor... uh, can you scoot over a little so I can get out? Oh god, I have groceries... I'll never make it to my apartment! Oh well... at least I'll have food to eat here in the hall until I can lose weight due to starvation... and then and only then perhaps I can shimmy to my apartment if I still have any energy or life left in me.

Cripes... all I know is that sometimes after I eat a few foods I shouldn't eat, I get bloated. I'd never make it down the hall to use the communal toilet. And then everyone is going to be sorry as I soil myself in the hallway.

Check out the photo above. In Japan, I was unable to get shoes that fit me, as my Size 10-1/2 US (30cm) were not commercially available... I believe they stopped at size 27cm in Japan—a 9US, I think.

Now look at the girl in the photo... do you think she has a size 9 - in Men's?! No way. Even if she had a large foot for a Japanese woman, let's estimate that she is wearing a Size 8, which is the equivalent of a Size 6 Men's shoe. I'm going to guesstimate that she has feet that are seven-inches long... with maybe three inches of space between her feet and the walls. That's 10-inches (25.4 cm) for my amateurish calculation of the width of the hall.

As a comparison, the width of my body appears to be 18-inches (facing you) and about 12 inches (30cm) thick at my chest. Forgetting about the fact that I have a well-muscled rump, I'd never actually be able to traverse the hallway to either get to my apartment or get to the washroom. I could never visit anyone there. Ever. Hmmm... maybe this is a plot to keep out the gaijin (foreigners), who are generally taller, thicker and even fatter than most Japanese folks. Nawwww. I don't believe the Japanese architects are that devious at all! Really... I don't.

Anyhow... enjoy the photos of the skinny buildings (in the Link near the top of this blog - 7th paragraph) and be thankful you aren't skinny enough or desperate enough to have to live in one.

I have bookcases wider than the interior of some of these places... and my king-sized bed? Dame dayo (Totally useless)! Really, though... what sort of furnishings do people use in a rabbit hutch like these thin joints? I have a hunch - but probably not as great as the folks living there.

Andrew Joseph   
And no - Japan does not hate fat people.

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