In the past, ordinary Japanese lived in rented houses while their richer brethren built homes on land they bought or leased.

But all that changed during the rapid economic growth of the 1960s and early '70s, when the government actively promoted the sale of residential land in lots as a way of powering the economy along.

For most people then, it duly became almost the goal of life to buy their own suburban house. As well, with residential land prices relentlessly rising -- from an indexed 3.57 in 1960 to 18.7 in 1970 and 52.7 in 1980, according to official figures with 1990 as the base year of 100 -- it made good economic sense to buy.