I took this picture on Sunday, February 5, 2017. I've lived in my neighborhood here for almost 25 years. In all of that time I have never known this building to be occupied or in use. It's a 2-storey Showa era building that faces directly onto Nakano dori, a busy north-south thoroughfare. It’s very representative architecture of a certain period of modern Japanese history. It looks like it once might have had a shop of some kind on the ground floor with a residence above on the 2nd floor. As the population of Japan is slowly declining and aging there is a related problem of abandoned or vacant buildings. I wonder if this is one of those. I also wonder is the skeleton of a forgotten senior citizen who died alone might be upstairs - maybe mummified in an old, dirty futon with 1980s newspapers piled in the corner. We sometimes read about exactly that kind of thing in buildings that are inspected before demolition starts.
Japan’s tax system lends itself (provides an advantage) to vacant properties. The loophole is known, and a government committee is considering it. Prime Minister Abe wants to use new home construction to help fuel economic recovery like what occurs in the United States, but there seems to be a conflict at work here: new home construction in an environment that already has a significant vacancy rate. Instead of hearing news about the government’s new home policy I’d rather hear news about a plan to demolish vacant or abandoned homes, and possibly return the land to nature (gardens, agriculture, park, woods).
Vacancy seems to be a commonly under-reported phenomenon. Think of the fantastic skylines you can see of the great Asian cities: Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Singapore. What is rarely mentioned or even revealed is that about 25% of the residential and commercial architecture you are seeing is actually vacant, unoccupied, unused, idle, non-performing. Maybe it’s because of secretly poor economies, or maybe a 25% vacancy rate is a normal function of a normal economy (like 5% unemployment is considered “full employment”). I don’t know. But I do know that when I see these great cityscapes I am looking at a lot of unused space, idle or wasted money, and publicity propaganda.