What lives between apartment walls

“The outer walls are made of wood, the partition walls of bamboo and paper, the floors of straw mats. I would also like to add that the Japanese warm themselves on open braziers, and therefore at least a quarter of a million braziers stand on these paper walls and on the straw mats in the capital of the empire in winter. If you add the frequent hurricanes and small tremors ... you can imagine that every four to five years these houses are rebuilt as a result of devastating conflagrations. ''

With this vivid description, which can be read in the minutes of the Reichstag of April 11, 1878, the MP Georg von Bunsen pleaded for the approval of funds for the construction of a "stone building" for the new embassy of the German Reich in Tokyo. Bunsen had been to Japan as a member of the Prussian East Asia Expedition of 1860/61, so he knew what he was talking about.

Little has changed in the whims of nature to this day. Frequent earthquakes, around a dozen typhoons a year, which are often accompanied by extensive floods, humid heat in the summer months and overwhelming amounts of snow in large parts of the country in winter form the framework for living in Japan.

Cheaper, but at risk

But how much you have to suffer from such injustice of nature depends very much on where and how you live. The greatest differences exist between rural areas and metropolitan areas. In the countryside - which is rarely flat in Japan, because four fifths of the island kingdom consists of mountains - residential properties are usually larger and cheaper, and the population is older.