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The antique shop in the middle of a highway

People refusing to sell their homes to urban developers -- so they end up having highways and skyscrapers built around them -- is one of those things that happens often enough that it's 'no longer weird,' as Chuck would say. But here's an early example, from the mid-1960s.

Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964, and launched massive urban construction projects in anticipation of the games. Thousands of people were offered money to sell their homes to make way for new highways. Almost everyone took the offer of cash. But one elderly couple refused to move.



Although it has not yet become a tourist attraction, this house, an antique shop, standing bravely alone at the junction of three busy highways, is a source of amusement to passersby, of irritation to hurried motorists and the local police, a headache to the Tokyo Municipal Government and a simple matter of pride and principle to the 81-year-old owners and sole inhabitants.
When the new highways were being projected, owners of houses on the chosen sites moved away more or less willingly, but this old couple decided that the indemnity offered was not enough for a home containing a lifetime of memories.
The old man boned up on his law and discovered that he could not be forcibly ejected, and that although he may be a nuisance, his house could not be considered a traffic hazard as it is plainly visible to the naked eye. There have, in fact, been no accidents up to now simply because traffic slows down to take a better look at the incongruous, isolated building.
So the local police agency turned to the Metropolitan Highways Corporation who, after one and a half years of vain negotiation with the stubborn couple, have now thrown the matter into the lap of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
In the meantime, the old couple have lost all but the most intrepid of their customers, for few dare to cross a busy highway at the risk of life and limb and, for the same reason, there are days on end when the old couple cannot get out of their house to do the necessary shopping. But old people, they say, need little sustenance.
The incessant blare of car horns and the overbearing odor of exhaust-gas fumes which would drive a younger couple to surrender, fall on age-deafened ears and insensitive nostrils, disturbing them neither during the day nor at night. For old people, they say, need little sleep.
The offer of money to remove themselves and resettle in a new home is no temptation to them, for their days of adventure are over and all their memories are enclosed within the four walls of this tiny building.
-- The East, vol 1, No. 5, 1965, p.54-55.
Posted By: Alex | Date: Thu Jun 21, 2012 | Number of Comments: 4
Category: Buildings and Other Structures
More weirdness from the WU archive:
Comments
Listed in chronological order. Newest comments at the end.
No fear of that happening in the US any more. The Great Land Grab is in full swing.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 06/21/12 at 12:03 PM
Reminds me of "Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean". Life and progress just sort of pass by the Judge until he's irrelevant. I wonder what the site looks like after 47 years.
Posted by KDP in Madill, OK on 06/21/12 at 04:50 PM
That is 48 years ago so they are long gone and so is the house I bet. The dozers probably showed up before the last one of the couple to die's corpse was cold. You are right about the whole land grab thing here too Expat.
Posted by patty in Ohio, USA on 06/21/12 at 06:52 PM
Yep, here we call it "Eminent Domain" and the petty B's just take your land. Originally intended to allow the government to secure land for things like roads, BUT now they can use it to provide land for their favorite developer to build a mall and make more PAC donations.
Posted by steve-e on 12/05/12 at 11:45 AM
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