Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The house on the hill

In our area, there is no more land to build on. Houses are so close together that the roof of one house can be tucked under the eaves of the adjacent house. 

Oh I suppose it would be possible to clear a patch if through complicated negotiations you could obtain permission to knock down a temporarily dormant factory on the other side of the river, but who would want to live surrounded by factories on the other side of the river? 

So, to build a house it is necessary to somehow create more land, and this is what our new neighbor did. He bought the side of the cliff which descends into our little valley and at what must have been bone-chilling expense filled it out with concrete. It was like taking a sphere and filling it out so it had the shape of a cube, so he could build on the top of the cube. The whole exercise must have cost as much as a house itself.

So then his three-story house went up on land that hadn't existed before. The front door was a foot from a well-trafficked road, and the house must rattle every time a large truck comes by. There is no sidewalk between the house and the road: the fenders of passing cars clear his mailbox by inches.

The house at the top of the hill is not really part of the neighborhood, but towers above it like the keep of a castle. Over time, we got to at least recognize our new neighbors, the family living up there next to the highway, but they never came down into the valley and we never went up there except to put the garbage out next to the road for the garbage truck to pick up.

Japan's overall population is aging and dwindling, but Tokyo continues to grow. Next, we'll be building houses on top of houses, on top of apartment buildings, in fact it has already happened. At  some point somebody's going to put up a huge balloon, anchor it with cables to a small patch of land, and suspend a house from it. The children in this house will shinny down the cables in the morning to go to school and their classmates will envy them for being able to start the day so adventurously.

- Emily Underwood    

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