We took in the new Heart Island Shinden public housing complex a few weeks ago, which is scheduled to start accepting residents sometime in November. Heart Island Shinden is essentially a strip of land between the Arakawa and Sumida Rivers where they come the closest to each other, and though the closest stations are Oji on the Keihin Tohoku Line and Oji Shinya on the Namboku subway line, both of which are in Kita Ward, Heart Island Shinden is in Adachi Ward. It’s more than a 20-minute walk from either station, even if you move fast, so most people take a bus.
Even before the new complex was built, the area was already home to a number of apartment complexes, both private and public. In fact, it’s a veritable forest of mini-skyscrapers. The one we visited is operated by UR (Urban Renaissance), the main semi-public housing corporation in Japan. We live in a UR building that was completed in 2000, and in the decade since then we’ve often visited newer UR buildings to see what improvements they’ve made. What we’ve found is that which each new project ameninites get added but the basic problem with Japanese apartment living–namely, impractical layouts–remains, due to a habit of prioritizing 3-dimensional efficiency over baseic livability. In other words, floor plans are dictated by box-like patterns that allow developers to maximize space and fit as many units as possible given the land area and height of the building. The two wings of the HIS complex are 9 stories and 14 stories, which is about the same as the other buildings in the area, thus indicating that there is a height limit. (The building we live in is 38 stories) (more…)