One of the things about Japan that always intrigues me is the architecture and physical monuments that have withstood time for thousands of years. I come from the US, a country with one of the shortest histories. The oldest structures were built only a few hundred years ago, and even they have been burned or destroyed overtime due to warfare and/or natural disasters. Japan too has seen its fair share of natural disasters wreaking havoc on its man made beauty, but attempts to restore things to the way it was originally in the form of careful renovations has managed to preserve these parts of history quite well.
The oldest structure in Japan is the Horyuji Temple in Nara, and it was built in 607 AD. There are many temples that date back thousands of years ago, and there are also many residential houses that were also built a long time ago. But a problem with older wooden houses and structures though is the exact reason why they had to have been reconstructed and repaired time and time again: earthquakes. Strong earthquakes can be devastating in Japan, and older structures that are not earthquake resistant are prone to their destructive rage. This is part of the reason why Japanese houses are built with a short life expectancy in the first place. The apartment building I used to live in in the states was over 150 years old, but the most houses in Japan are not expected to last more than 60 years with correct upkeep. And the average house will only last 30 years.
There was even a series of laws passed in the 1960s and 70s to tighten safety standards for building. In 1878 a New Anti-seismic Design Code came into effect, which focused not only on preventing the collapse of buildings during earthquakes but also on how to secure the safety of the people inside them. Newer houses are definitely safer to reside in, but you sacrifice a piece of architectural history.
Japan’s old houses are slowly disappearing to earthquakes, fires, natural wear and tear, and deliberate tearing downs, and my generation may very well be the last to get the opportunity to step foot into pieces of Japan’s past, and I find that fact a little saddening. I really love older Japanese homes, and I hope their designs can still be used in the future.