Saturday, January 25, 2014

Japanese people live in a "rabbit hutch"

Many young people may have dreams of acquiring a house in urban areas where opportunities and amenities are concentrated. However, realizing the dream is difficult in Japan because of a problem with space. To resolve this space problem, Japanese have changed their lifestyle and culture.
Japanese live in cramped conditions because of shortage of living space. Indeed, the country is small and three-quarters of its land area is mountainous. Another reason for cramping in Japan is the concentration of young people in urban areas. In fact, more than half the population lives in the south coast of Japan’s main island from Tokyo to Kobe. In this area, the central government, almost every large industrial institution, universities, major publishing and communications groups are located. This concentration of opportunities and amenities cause young people to live in urban areas, and huge numbers of Japanese have migrated from rural to urban areas. Although the government tries to devote a share of resources to creating jobs, academic facilities and entertainment in urban areas with provincial cities, most Japanese youngsters still continue to dream of living in cities.

Because of the shortage of the living space in urban areas, finding space is difficult and young Japanese typically have to live in a small house deserved to be called a “rabbit hutch”. Even if people live in such a “rabbit hutch”, the housing cost is expensive and tends to be lower the far away from a central area. Therefore, young Japanese have patience to live in small houses at a distance from a central area and have a strong incentive to undertake long commutes. The crowded trains and buses for interminable hours allow people to get an affordable small room in an unheated apartment building.
In the  “rabbit hutch”, they have a trouble with how to fit all household equipment into a small space. This cramping shifts the way Japanese decorate and equip their homes, the way they live and behave at home. Although they do not have enough space, people are avidity acquiring appliances, and the appliances they want have changed as technology has advanced. These appliances have changed their lifestyle to be more convenient and westernized than before, for example, most of Japanese sleep on a bed instead of the floor. Another major change is the composition of the Japanese diet because cooking equipment has also changed. The Japanese diet was traditionally better balanced, but along with eating habits toward western-style foods and greater variety, the number of children who are overweight have increased and they are inferior to prewar kids both in strength and in their ability to do physical exercises.  Furthermore, the changing equipment has also reduced the wife’s work at home and they devote to work outside, social and recreational activities.
A “rabbit hutch” has not only a problem with space but also has social effect and is causing family transition.  One of the social effects is that the number of elderly Japanese who live with their children is steadily dwindling. Even though elderly Japanese want to live with their children, many younger Japanese desire to live in a modern house in urban areas, and maintaining a home large enough to accommodate two generations is financially impossible. As a result, many elderly Japanese live in rural areas by themselves or settle in retirement communities. In addition to separation of elder people and young people, the members who live in the same house also tend to separate. Because privacy in such a “rabbit hutch” is impossible and many Japanese people do not have private rooms and gardens, children go to commercial playgrounds, outside facilities, libraries or tutoring schools. Recently, the reliance on outside facilities has increased, and housework has been reduced because of appliances and people tend to go outside; as a result, the members of family go their separate ways.  This fragmentation might be eroding the traditional group orientation of Japanese so that youngsters have individual choice and they are more interested in self-gratification as the goal of life than caring for other people.

Consequently, most Japanese want to live in urban areas even if this means living in a small house because urban areas have more opportunities and amenities than rural areas, and this desire induces change to their culture and affects traditional social interaction.

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