When I originally started the research that ended up with this document, I traveled to Japan for a slightly different reason – I was in pursuit of a hormone treatment not available in the US. The housing research came about as a natural result of my curiosity as I visited people living in quite cramped quarters. My doctor, Sinwo Dewa, was, at the time one of the very few physicians who even knew about testosterone as a hormone replacement vehicle. Dr. Dewa was the one who introduced me to a new form of testosterone – and was developing what he called bioidentical testosterone treatments. I visited his office daily and observed that he lived and worked in a very small space – an environment that westerners would probably see as too small. But it just wasn’t the doctor’s office that seemed so small. I visited a number of different stores and shops. One shop I remember vividly since I bought several rings of sterling silver there, one of which eventually became the ring I gave to my fiance when I proposed to her on my return to the states. This tiny jewelry shop’s proprietor had designed his tiny space in such a way to be able to display lots of his sterling silver jewelry ranging from rings to necklaces, pendants, brooches, earrings, chains, and charms without it seemingly over cluttered. In addition this elderly man took the time to explain all the fine points of using sterling silver for jewelry: affordability, durability, but also its brilliant white metallic luster and its ability to be highly polished for a sparkly look, if so desired. Anyway, the availability and use of space was so different from what would be acceptable back in the states that I became intrigued enough to begin this project. Once my treatments were underway, the project took on a life of it’s own. Hope you enjoy!
Once, the Japanese had a powerfully developed sense of community and connection to neighbors, in both city neighborhoods and the thousands of rural villages. As well, they lso had an ancient, even sacred, connection to nature, especially with trees and forests. However, urban living in Japan is such that most urbanites live in live in tiny box-like apartments in impersonal concrete high-rises, with very little actual connection to neighbors or nature. Land in Japan is so expensive that very few apartments include landscaping.
There are some cohousing projects that strive to change all of that.
Kyodo no Mori (“Forest of Kyodo”)
Located in the Setagawa district of Tokyo, Kyodo no Mori is a 12-unit, three story building located on a tiny, one fifth of an acre lot. The building features vine-covered balconies, solar-powered water pumping and solar heating, and a rooftop wetlands for graywater recycling.
On average, each unit is about 970 sq. ft. each. Most units are owned by residents, as opposed to rented. Shared space includes the outdoor space in the ground-floor courtyard, a second-floor terrace and a rooftop garden (complete with a barbeque grill surrounded by built-in seating for community cook-outs). This project, incidentally, was one of Japan’s first cohousing community.
One of the innovations of this project was borne early on. Inspired by the participatory process used by Danish architects during cohousing’s infancy back in the 1960s, Kyodo no Mori’s designers met with its future residents, and asked them to actively participate in the project’s creation by detailing what they’d like to see in their ideal apartments. The first phase of this participatory process involved querying individual households, then small groups comprised of several households, then lastly, the entire group. If a problem concerned one household, it affected the entire community, and solutions for all residents were therefore applied.