As a popular saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum. And so, it would seem, do growing numbers of public housing complexes in Japan, whose vacancies have been filling up with foreigners, frequently fomenting friction with the natives.
Shukan Gendai (July 16) sent reporters around the country, to Tokyo, Osaka, Chiba and Saitama, for a look-see.
The first visit was in Tokyo's Koto Ward, to a tract of 806 units, the central portion of which is located seven minutes from the nearest train station.
The complex, originally built in the 1960s, has recently rapidly been filling up with Chinese nationals.
"I've been living here from two years ago," says a Chinese man, seated beside his wife on a bench in the shade. "Since I work at an IT company in Shinagawa, I was attracted to this place for its easy commute. And there's no requirement of a guarantor, or charges for 'key money' renewals. Plus no discrimination based on nationality. I like being around my own people; my wife and kids are pleased that they could easily make friends with the other Chinese residents."
To rent his 2LDK apartment, the man told the reporter he pays between 100,000 to 110,000 yen, at least 50,000 yen below the market rate for privately owned properties.
A Japanese in the neighborhood is quoted as saying that "Over the previous six months in particular, the pace of Chinese entrants has picked up rapidly."
The reason, explains Konatsu Himeda, a journalist on familiar terms with Chinese matters, is at least partly due to the severe lockdown restrictions in Shanghai, as the coronavirus pandemic has prompted more Chinese to move abroad out of a simple craving for freedom.
With this newfound freedom, however, comes cultural clashes. Walk past a nearby rubbish disposal point and you can see one of the problems.
"Those Chinese from the danchi (complex) come over here at night and throw away raw waste, which attracts scads of rats," an elderly Japanese woman complains. "If the waste isn't properly separated, the sanitation bureau won't take it away, so I have to separate the rubbish myself. But it's awful to have to do it in this heat."
Outside of a housing complex along Tokyo Bay, a Japanese resident complains about the sight of groups of young Chinese men in laborers' clothing, who hang out in front of a convenience store late into the night, gambling at card games.
"Walking past them feels scary," he says.
Another anecdote claims that some of the new arrivals' shops have gone so far as to adopt a "Chinese-only" policy, and even forced out local Japanese-owned businesses.
One of the larger complexes attracting Chinese, in Kawaguchi City, Saitama, consists of 2,454 units.
"We can't put a finger on the precise number, but I think about half the residents here are Chinese," says a director of the local self-government association. "Some people have described the place as resembling the notorious Hong Kong slum known as the 'Walled City,' but by posting instructions on rubbish disposal in Chinese and distributing a booklet explaining proper manners and behavior, problems continue to decrease."
On the nearby shopping street in Kawaguchi, a Chinese in his 60s who operates a variety store said he's been living there for the past 30 years.
"Unfortunately there are still people who hock up phlegm on the street or urinate in common areas like apartment landings," he said. "They think it's a waste to use water for flushing the toilet, so they pee outside. I try to understand their ways of thinking, and I've become sort of resigned to it."
Accompanying the article are photos of two signs posted on the buildings, one requesting residents not to throw cigarette butts off their verandas and the other, to refrain from transporting their bicycles inside elevators, as the tires leave oil streaks.
A cursory visit to a complex to Kadoma City, Osaka Prefecture, found Japanese residents voicing similar woes, to the effect that Chinese had "hijacked" the complex -- with all the usual complaints about rubbish and noise, as well as squabbling among themselves. The reporter was shown a photo of a residence from which a Chinese couple that had moved away, with its walls smeared with excrement from top to bottom.
An elderly Japanese resident said she had heard the couple had been harassed by other Chinese who remained in the complex.
"If things like this keep happening, more and more Japanese will flee," she sighed.
At urban housing complexes at least, peaceful coexistence between the new arrivals from China and Japanese natives may be an increasingly unlikely prospect.© Japan Today