The mysterious case of the Austrian-style townhouse

The thermometer needle remains firmly stuck on “Scorchio” (Japanese: スコーチヨウ. I’ve been telling everyone that this is the correct English term for very warm weather), and while I personally love the Japanese summer, it is energy-sapping and makes it difficult to stay focused on work. The daily grind has been made somewhat harder by the building site that’s appeared next door. The reformers are in town.

In Britain, any house under 10 years old is regarded as new; In Japan, they’re getting ready to slap a blue plaque on the wall after 5. Whereas the Englishman’s home is famously his castle, the Japanese regard houses as rather transient things. Which of course is completely understandable in a land prone to natural disasters. There is also – interestingly – a completely different tradition when it comes to things like old houses; one that reveals one of those subtle paradoxes about Japanese people. Most Japanese consider themselves to be staunchly secular, and yet most would also admit harbouring a lingering unease about inhabiting a space once occupied by someone else (no such problems for Mr and Mrs Beerhound, of course, as our love of a good deal overrides any other consideration!). The enthusiasm for new is not just motivated by aspirations to grandeur, but a deep-seated desire not to risk the ire of jealous or malevolent spirits clinging to the rafters of their former homes.

Anyway – I digress.

Building houses is big business here because having your new pad custom-built for you is not so unusual. Quite the opposite, in fact. And so it is that the owner of next door has decided to re-form his semi-derelict childhood home into a swanky new des-res. Consequently, there has been a great deal of crashing and bashing going on while they clear the old place and dig the foundations for the new one. Being, by nature, a nosy b*****d, I have been peeking out of the back window regularly to see what kind of palace will be springing forth from all this activity. And I must admit, I’m intrigued:

07082009409 For along with the expected foundations, has appeared an unexpectedly deep excavation. the purpose of which remains unclear. At first I thought it might be a swimming pool. But that would be incredibly unusual for a Japanese town house. Then I thought it might be an underground car park…a kind of motorised hoist that enables two cars to be parked in one space (quite common). But closer inspection reveals a second, deeper excavation in the centre of the first…the plot thickens. Basement bathroom perhaps? Or something else….

I am becoming concerned that the owner might in fact be a fan of the Josef Fritzl school of architecture:  Rest assured I shall be keeping a close eye on developments, and if I see any deliveries from the Yamamoto Steel Door & Soundproofing company, I’ll be straight up the police station.

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