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The model house sat on an empty patch of brown land along a commercial stretch of road in southern Ibaraki Prefecture. Few people would have identified it as a model house. It had a forlorn, out-of-place look to it. Technically, it was a mobile home — “trailer house,” in Japanese parlance — propped up on car jacks and with a small porch attached to the entrance.

It had been imported from Canada but incorporated design changes, presumably done to attract local buyers. One very small room had tatami mats, and the kitchen — more like a nook situated between the tiny living and dining rooms — didn’t have an oven, a standard in North America. Nevertheless, the house was more Western than Japanese: baseboard heating, painted rather than wallpapered walls, carpeting, shower but no bath. It looked cheap and was cheap, a little more than ¥3 million. The most expensive model in the company’s line was ¥7 million.

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