Nisshoken – Japan’s Sunshine Rights

Tokyo in the sun

Photo Credits: mrhayata on Flickr

Recently while I was reading the book Life in Tokyo, I came across a section that described a strange building law that required every Japanese citizen a basic right to sunshine.

I’m not sure if this is still in practice or not, but here’s what it’s all about.

The Japanese Right to Sunshine

I can’t say when the law of nisshoken was passed, but at it’s core it makes it illegal to take away a Japanese citizen’s right to have access to sunshine from where they live.

Since many Japanese hang their laundry and futons out on their balcony to dry, it’s a pretty big thing to deprive them of their access to sunshine.

Of course, much of Japan is known for it’s heaven reaching skyscrapers which no doubt block out a lot of sun. So what do builders do?

Tokyo Skyline

Photo Credits: rdesai on Flickr

Apparently, builders were allowed to come to a settlement with residents who would be deprived of sunshine by the construction on a nearby building. According to the 1986 National Geographic article Tokyo: A Profile of Success a onetime compensation could be agreed upon that could range from $420 to $1260 for each hour of sunlight lost during a winter day.

So if an average winter day had 8 hours of sunshine, a builder could be paying up ten thousand dollars for the right to take away the sun!

This compensation would increase dramatically if any young children were effected. The article mentioned one builder who was shocked to discover that his building was going to completely overshadow a neighboring kindergarten playground. Apparently he compensated for this oversight by building a playground on top of his skyscraper. So don’t worry parents your children will have plenty of sunshine as they play atop our 100 story building!

Apparently safety is not a Japanese right.

Is this law still in practice?

Girl looking at sun beams

Photo Credits: Sushicam on Flickr

That is the million dollar question.

It’s surprising difficult to find out if this law is still in effect, with most of the references to it coming in articles in the late 80’s.

I did come across a book on the Japanese legal system that was published in 1997 and updated in 2002 that mentions nisshoken:

While Japanese courts have created a right to sunshine (Nisshoken), thereby affording some minimal protection against undue interference, effective injunctive relief is rarely available and damages are usually low.

Ahh, legal books. That’s why no one ever buys you.

And this from the 2007 article Japanese Real Estate: Does the Government Help or Hinder Development?

Two significant legal considerations for developing land in Japan “sunshine rights” and tenant rights – were created after World War II, during the furious race to rebuild Japan. The concept of “sunshine rights” (nisshoken) guarantees that all residents in surrounding buildings will continue to receive a specific amount of sunshine in their existing houses/condos after a new adjacent development is completed. This limits what can be built, as developers are required to consider carefully the effects of their development.

So as far as I can tell, the law is still around but it’s probably rarely enforced. And considering the massive amount of skyscrapers currently in Tokyo, this law would be costing builders a fortune.

So if you’re from Japan, please let us know more about this mysterious nisshoken!

3 Responses to “Nisshoken – Japan’s Sunshine Rights”

  1. Tweets that mention Nisshoken – Japan’s Sunshine Rights | i heart japan - Travel tips and info about Japan --  on February 4th, 2011

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  2. Travis  on February 5th, 2011

    I just received this info from a Japanese friend:

    I think the law about “Nisshoken” is still effective normally. I have studied a little bit about this when I was a junior high school students. In the big cities, those who want to build a big and high building have to research Nisshoken of people who live around there. When they don’t do this research and are gone to court, they will lose and pay the residents a lot of money. Nisshoke is very common right in Japan.

    So it looks like it’s still enforced.

  3. livinginJapan  on April 30th, 2014

    Not enforced in an ordinary neighborhood when traditional homes up to 10 meters high are concerned. I think they consider it when there is a larger condo built, but for an ordinary residential area where we are..we had no rights and now live int the dark. I am furious and still in shock considering the offending developer just swooped in and built on spec. (not for a customer) and all surrounding property owners have been here for 38 years. Disgusting. City office claims they have no responsibility to us (but they sure like us to pay our taxes.)

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