We live in suburban Tokyo. Ten minutes' walk from the railway station the buildings are mainly stand-alone houses, packed closely, some with small gardens, but with little space for the sun's rays to reach. Where the light does make it through, it is frequently filtered out by layers of shutters, opaque windows and thick curtains. In the background are low-rise apartments, with high-rise buildings dotted along the skyline. Block after block this metropolitan landscape repeats itself with little to distinguish one neighbourhood from another.