HOME IS WHERE THE ART IS
Breathing New Life into Old Homes (January 21, 2004)
Modern wooden houses in Japan are said to last about 30 years.
But rather than rebuilding their homes at the end of this period, there is an
emerging trend for people to remodel their homes to suit changing family needs.
Aside from the facts that renovating is cheaper than rebuilding and that the former
generates less waste, another factor that cannot be dismissed is the impact of
a popular weekly television show in which actual houses are beautifully made over.
Eager to get the most out of the trend, homebuilders are beginning to focus on
driving demand for home renovation.
|An old house than see new life after renovation
TV Show Ignites Boom
The boom in home renovation is believed to have been set off by a nationally broadcast
TV program on housing that has enjoyed high viewer ratings for over a year. The
prime-time show is aired for an hour every Sunday evening. In it, skilled architects
dramatically make over houses that the families living in them find inconvenient
or problematic, impressing both the families and the viewers.
Focusing on the family that requested renovation and the architect who has been
assigned the job, the show reports in documentary style the two months during
which a house is revamped. The problems that clients have with their homes are
various: To give a few instances, requests have come in from parents who need
more space in the house because their coresiding son will be marrying and his
wife will be joining the family, a son whose mother has become ill and bedridden,
a family whose ties have been torn apart because of a small living room, and a
family suffering from lack of sunlight due to the erection of a building next
door. The point of the program lies in how the architect faces the challenge of
solving these problems. The TV crew stays around the house throughout the duration
of the project and documents the process in detail.
When the show started in April 2002 it did not go down well, as the public wondered
what was so exciting about watching worksites on television. Eventually, though,
viewers seem to have found it interesting after all, and now the show boasts viewer
ratings in the twenties in spite of the fierce prime-time competition.
With every call for requests, the TV station hears from nearly 300 families. The
staff members actually visit and survey the homes and select families that are
seriously troubled. Whereas most TV shows on housing zoom in on unique residences
and comfortable home living, this one focuses on the human drama that unfolds
as a house is reborn. The inhabitants' faces transform when they see their homes
renewed, making the show seem like a tale with a happy ending. As the producer,
Iwata Jun, puts it, "The drama that arises from the encounter between an
ordinary family and a skilled professional is what won the support of viewers."
Homebuilders Get In on the Act
In Japan over the past six postwar decades, old houses have been demolished one
after another. It was widely believed that old houses are inconvenient to live
in and that old things are of no value. But in recent years antique architecture
has come to be seen with renewed enthusiasm, and a growing number of people are
repairing and inhabiting ruined farmhouses and empty nagaya
(row houses). In the Mukojima-Kyojima area of Tokyo's Shitamachi (old downtown)
district, young artists and architects are moving into vacant nagaya.
The area is experiencing rebirth as a cultural hot spot.
It cannot be denied that the prolonged recession has also been a prominent factor
behind the current boom in home renovation. One successful business by a major
homebuilder involves revamping old houses into an "as good as new" state
at half the cost and time as actually rebuilding the house. And then there is
the fact that demand for new houses is shrinking due to a declining birthrate.
Homebuilders are relocating more personnel from their new housing operations -
hitherto their main concern - to their renovation operations.
At a recent symposium on housing, one expert gave the view that demand for home
renovation will jump in coming years, noting, "In terms of a marathon analogy,
the current boom in home renovation is still at the two-kilometer point and is
yet to gain real momentum. According to estimates given by a leading economic
research institute, the home renovation market grew 0.9% from 2001 levels to ¥7.12
trillion ($64.73 billion at ¥110 to the dollar) in 2002. Furthermore, the
institute expects the market to expand 17.1% compared to 2002 levels by 2010 and
33.9% by 2020, reaching ¥9.54 trillion ($86.73 billion). Faced with a fast-growing
market, homebuilders are drawing up strategies and gearing up to meet the new
demand in haste.
Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
(October 30, 2002)
THE HOUSE OF THE FUTURE
(April 11, 2002)