Tag Archives: land development

Japanese nail house (dingzihu – 钉子户)?


Building penetrated by an expressway 001 OSAKA JPN.jpg
Building penetrated by an expressway 001 OSAKA JPN” by ignisOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In the last few years, the phenomenon of the “nail house” (dingzi hu – 钉子户) has become rather frequent in China, as land acquisitions are ubiquitous and residents are usually not satisfied with either with the land seizure or the compensation package. Apparently, the term is a pun coined by developers to refer to “nails that are stuck in wood and cannot be pounded down with a hammer”.1 The existence of this phenomenon suggests that the best way for residents to protect the rights to their homes is to make them their stronghold. This course of action, however, is not risk-free, as many sad events have proved over the last few decades of meteoric development.

Reading about nail houses, I came across this photo of the Gate Tower Building in Osaka, also called the Beehive because it always seems busy. A highway passes through its fifth to seventh floors, of which it is the tenant! Cars pass through the building when exiting the highway.

As explained by Wikipedia2:

 “The elevator passes through the floors without stopping: floor 4 being followed by floor 8. The floors through which the highway passes consist of elevators, stairways and machinery. The highway does not make contact with the building. It passes through as a bridge, held up by supports next to the building. The highway is surrounded by a structure to protect the building from noise and vibration.”

However, the building didn’t exist at the time of the construction of the highway. In fact, both constructions were planned almost at the same time, and the property rights’ holder of the planned office building (who was the owner of the land) and the highway corporation negotiated for five years to reach this arrangement. It was facilitated by a reform in regulations allowing for the development of highways and buildings in the same space, something termed “multi-level road system” in its English translation.

I’m not familiar with the Japanese property rights system but I wonder why the government did not seize the land through expropriation. The construction of highways typically meets the requirement of public use. At any rate, the agreement shows a lot of creativity on the part of both parties and the government to make the best use of limited resources without compromising the interests of everyone involved. It’s also a good compromise to avoid the so-called tragedy of the anticommons, which occurs when property rights’ holders can’t reach an agreement and land remains undeveloped.

  1. See article about holdouts on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holdout_(architecture)#Nail_house []
  2. See article about the Gate Tower Building on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gate_Tower_Building []

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Post-doctoral Fellow: Political economy of land development in China’s metropolises

Post-doctoral Fellow: Political economy of land development in China’s metropolises
Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences, The University of Hong Kong (China)

Applicants are invited for appointment as Post-doctoral Fellow in the Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences, from September 1, 2014 or as soon as possible thereafter, but not later than February 28, 2015. The appointment will be made for a period of 3 years.

We are seeking energetic and productive candidates to strengthen our ongoing research on China’s urban and regional development. Applicants should have research experiences in one or preferably more of the following key subfields in the study of China:

  • political economy of land development in China’s metropolises;
  • central-local relations and land finance;
  • urban internal restructuring and redevelopments of urban land;
  • mega-events, local debts, and uneven urban developments;
  • privatization of SOEs and redevelopment of their land.

A Ph.D. degree in Geography or a closely related discipline (politics, sociology, economics, planning, etc.) and a demonstrated record of relevant scholarly publications are required. Relevant field work experience in China is desirable. The appointee will participate in an interdisciplinary research project concerning land development in China’s metropolises: A political economy perspective under the University’s strategic research theme on contemporary China studies.

Information about the Department can be obtained at http://geog.hku.hk.

Enquires about the post should be addressed to the project leader, Professor George C.S. Lin (e-mail: gcslin@hku.hk) or Mr. Tommy Liu (e-mail: twkliu@hku.hk), Executive Officer, Department of Geography.

Applications close on 30 April 2014.

A highly competitive salary commensurate with qualifications and experience will be offered. The appointment carries leave, and medical/dental benefits.

Applicants should send a completed application form, together with a C.V., by e-mail to geogjobs@hku.hk. They should also arrange for submission, to the same email address as above, three references from senior academics, who are familiar with their academic and research background, skills and experience. Please indicate clearly “Post-doctoral Fellow in Contemporary China Studies” in the subject of the e-mail.

Application forms (341/1111) can be obtained at http://www.hku.hk/apptunit/form-ext.doc. Further particulars can be obtained at http://jobs.hku.hk

or at http://geog.hku.hk/about_JOB.html

The University thanks applicants for their interests, but advise that only short-listed applicants will be notified of the application result.


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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