What is a danchi?
> Danchi (団地 lit. “group land”) is the Japanese word for a large cluster of apartment buildings of a particular style and design, typically built as public housing by a government authority.
I would not say that aboves wikipedia definition of a danichi captures it fully. Danchis have a long history, beginning in the 1920s (though then not yet called danchi as far as I know), being build to provide housing for the masses of people loosing their homes after the last big Kanto Earthquake in 1923.
Some very old danchi can still be visited in Tokyo - Aoyama, though the oldest has been torn down and now replaced with a shopping center.
(Excuse me while I go somewhere to scream.)
Danchi still exist all over Japan. I live in a danichi since 2009 – mine has been build in 1974 as one of the first of a set of danchi in a suburb of Yokohama.
So what is a danchi? Apperently a danchi is a housing complex, either build by a local government or a corporation. It can range from a set of 5 to 50 houses, maybe even more. It can be just a housing complex or even be a small city. (When I was a German teacher, a student once told me about a danchi that had its on set of supermarket, clinics and even kindergardens and schools. I have yet to find that place.)
I am very much facinated by the ideals and architectural extremism of Le Corbusier. I sometimes wonder if his ideas and ideals have informt the style and building of danchi’s in Japan.
The danchi’s I have visited so far range from coin lockers to a standard 70’s housing (like the one I live in) to danchis that are made up of 2 floor houses and look like a collection on one family homes.
I have seen some (and hope to buy one) really great books on the topic! Sadly not too cheap…
Why do I roam danchi’s?
Well, for more then 4 years I do live in a Danchi. Blessed, it is a great place to live. Also, my housing complex did not suffer after the 3/11 quake in 2011. I went around the houses and nothing.
That is another point: Danchi’s do reflect Japan. I want to point to two things in particular:
- When my Danchi was build in 1974, it was state of the art housing. People actually had to win a lottery to get a flat there. They where build for young families, that wanted to escape the crammed 1K or 1DK flats in old apartment buildings (they still exist, called アパトー [Apatoo, from Eng. Apartment]).
- Nowadays Danchi’s are filled with old people. One can still see some families, especially in Danchi’s which are well maintained, like my own, but I would count for 40% older inhabitants. This is the exact mirror of the Japanese society. Over aging. Younger families with money rather live in a Mansion (which is just a modern Housing Complex, usually in one to five Buildings). Danchi’s are for older people and those young families with smaller income.
Also: since Danich’s where build as small cities, or small communities, many do have amenities like small swimming pools (expect many photos of these, which nowadays are not used anymore; also check the photo above!) and other things. I try to find and document what is there.
Since I love old things and Danchi’s are among the oldest architectural structure still to be found in this great country, these are the places to go and find great stuff (and hey I found two camera in my Danchi’s trash![the second one still needs a lot of cleaning…]).
What is this?
This is might become some kind of photographic documentary. Or just a link list of my own photos.
I came to the idea, because I love photography, but I simply did not have the time to upload stuff with the quality I want to flickr. Also I did not have the money to focus on film, which is still my stick!
My hope is to do something like a “one photo per day” thing but with these guides (no rules, rules are useless, I break them):
- upload at least 1 (or as much more as useful) photo per day
- link only my own images (from flickr)
- photos must be taken inside of a Danchi (outside shots can be added as extra)
- try to do it for a year
I don’t care about things like a certain order or if all photos are from the same batch. This is mainly a self ass kick to finally do more with my 16 cameras again, but also an expression of my love for Danchi’s.
I expect to write some follow up posts with some info about each Danchi I visit. If anyone likes to contribute, contact me.
Why that title?
Well, I long love a certain track by Goldie. That’s the title there for you! Inner City Life.
Ongoing on my other blog