“Collective Domestic”: Reconfiguring Patterns of Shared Inhabitation and Occupation in Contemporary Japan

Prof. Julian Worrall1

1University Of Tasmania, Launceston, Australia

One of the social phenomena to have emerged in post-bubble Japan is the “precariat” – a floating class of predominantly urban and generally young people, neither in full-time education nor in stable full-time employment. A subset of this group can be characterised as creative freelancers or “freeters”, who seek to construct identities linked to artistic or social goals outside conventional patterns of employment and family, replacing these with various combinations of self-realisation, affective communities, and shared enterprise. This refusal of conventional models and inherited norms also extends to the forms and modes of habitation.  This contribution would explore a selection of experimental forms of housing and habitation drawn from the past decade or so in Japan, and discuss them in relation to changing conceptions of publicness, privacy, labour, and enterprise. Examples may include artistic collectives such as Shibuhaus and Chim-pom; co-housing and community living models such as Kankan Mori; the intensive reoccupation of abandoned rural dwellings as exemplified by BankArt House in Kiriyama village in the Echigo-Tsumari Art Field; architect-led propositions at a neighbourhood scale, such as Riken Yamamoto’s “Local Community Area”; and spaces of collective occupation emerging in the post-disaster landscapes of Tohoku, exemplified by Toyo Ito’s “Home-for-all” initiative. As yet unknown exemplars may also emerge on my annual Japan return in January 2020.


Julian Worrall is Professor of Architecture at the University of Tasmania. An architect with a doctorate in urban history from the University of Tokyo, his research spans both design-based and historico-theoretic approaches, and is broadly concerned with the construction of “alternative modernities” as seen through the study of the built environments of East Asia, particularly those of Japan.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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