Despite the small lots, the houses are invariably detached and line up side-by-side with a narrow gap between them. In Japan, this is due to an ordinance stipulating that only one structure can be built on a lot, and a civil law that requires the exterior wall to be set 0.5 meters back from the edge of the lot. Though the size of the houses is the same in a subdivision, there is a vast range of subtly different colors and shapes. Hiroshi Naito has described this type of landscape as "spineless," but a subdivision that has done its utmost to express its individuality within plots of land of the same size is indicative of the fact that an egalitarian civil society and a functioning democracy exist in Japan. Yet, at the same time, within this standardized community, people remain divided and isolated.
from Tokyo Metabolizing