In a country where houses are built in close proximity and where the majority of people still hang out their washing to dry, sunlight (nisshō) can be a big deal. The term "nisshōken" means "a right to sunlight" and as citizens, most of us probably expect that our right to sunlight is protected by law. However, as reader Y found, that isn't exactly the case. In fact, getting any concrete information on sunlight rights in Japan seems to be a challenge.

Y and her family have lived in the same residential area for more than 30 years, enjoying good relationships with their neighbors. Last year, however, things changed when one family moved out, selling their land to a building firm for development. The old house was torn down, and a new one was swiftly erected and subsequently sold to brand-new residents. To Y's dismay, the new house has adversely affected the amount of sunlight their home and garden receives. Another neighbor has been similarly affected.

The local city office said there was nothing they could do. Y's family then consulted a lawyer and tried to negotiate with the building firm, but their overtures were ignored. As far as the building firm was concerned, they had made their money and moved on. The legacy of this unfortunate situation is that Y and the other neighbors cannot bring themselves to associate with the new residents, who were not actually responsible for the design of the troublesome house.