Pieces of broken wood dangle and sway like autumn leaves from the window frames of vacant homes in the Inariyato district in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, where taped-over mailbox slots tell a story of abandonment.

More than 50 houses and apartments, almost 20 percent of the quaint residential neighborhood of narrow streets and stairway paths leading into green hills, are empty here, an hour's train ride south of Tokyo and 900 meters from the Yokosuka naval base, home of the U.S. 7th Fleet.

But that hasn't stopped developers from building at least eight new apartment blocks in Yokosuka in the past two years.