Tag Archives: akiya

Memo: Generational Home in Okayama

Posted as a comment on an article about someone’s kominka (trad Japanese house) project, sharing here so don’t lose it… ya know “the record” or posterity or amusement (with mild edits).

Hello from Sunny Okayama where my wife Ryoko and our new baby live on ancestral land in a “cottage” (kinda shotgun house slapped together) next to the parents who renovated Grandma/Grandpa’s kominka about 4 years ago keeping all the original touches but doing some practical and comfortable upgrades.

We are staying in a big tatami room while doing some changes to the cottage – lovely sliding doors, changed form original but maintaining aesthetics, engawas (where i sit now) now have thermal glass windows but also open fully for the fresh breeze.

We’re now bringing this full circle as we use the old sliding doors to the cottage reno, plus re-wrap the tatami mats rather than tossing out, plus adding an efficient wood stove (my wife is an arborist so always has wood gathered) – don’t get much snow but does get chilly and summer’s of course are hot and humid – plus adding a new room, moving kitchen into a more open location and whatnot. Also added a new ofuro bath so the 3 of us can bathe together #heaven.

Unlike the parents’ house, the cottage is sorta slapped together but we resisted a tear down and start again and making incremental changes. (Funny the parents said “you will just live in our house when we pass away” to which i replied, “you are 65 year old healthy Japanese so that means 30 years from now!”

Anyhow, the property also has a magnificent 150+ year old “kura” grain barn with massive wood beams, mud walls and 3 thick doors with cast iron puzzle keys. This has turned into my art studio and music lounge (needs a few little upgrades for safety and power/lighting) and a “naya” tool shed for wife’s business which also has loads of Grandpa’s heavy duty pre-war farm tools (including probably 6 pick axes!).

Documenting loads of this life (amongst other projects) if curious. Not a plug, just me saying “right on with your awesome project”.

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See Hannah Kirshner’s Lessons in Sustainable Living From My 100-Year-Old Japanese Farmhouse also aded to Akiya Resource round-up dossier

“Akiya” abandoned, cheap/free* houses in Japan / annotations, resources, riffs, musings, stories

an Akiya (abandoned) building (former post office?) with a splendid postbox – taken from one of many sites i’ve dug around, sorry can’t remember which one… so many! if this is your photo, please tell me and i’ll add credit.

+ Cheap Houses Abound in Japan + 

memo: have resources to add/ recommend? please drop a comment or contact – of course there are loads, this will get ya started. 

Background Riff

So many vacant houses in Japan – millions! “Akiya” houses (free/cheap abandoned houses)Sometimes the owner is unknown – sometimes there are mysteries, sometimes houses have businesses attached, sometimes from way back in Meiji or Edo period! Sometimes someone died in odd circumstances within, sometimes just died.

Often very very messy, always requiring work, a lot sometimes. 

Materials, labor and disposal can be really expensive in Japan so good to remember (speaking generally for anyone else who is reading along, not just you :-)). But hey, you are crafty right? Ha, its a whole other style of construction than “western” places. Tile roof! Foundations, plumbing, electric all different, Sometimes need boundary surveyed.

Importantly: Also, just cause you own a house, doesn’t mean you get a visa.

The situation in brief: The big cities are growing and the countryside is shrinking, fast. Young folks move away to the big city to work, old folks stay in country, working til they grow old and in Japan, folks grow very old. They die, the heirs are unknown or simply refuse the “inheritance” or they try to think they will go back and fix it up and enjoy the legacy but year after year paying property tax, they finally realize they won’t ever fix it up. Property/houses is generally/always a depreciating asset in Japan. 

Anyway, the laws of changed significantly in the last year allowing local governments to appropriate more easily so there’s loads and loads of these available, does definitely take some hunting around though. Indeed! It’s definitely a scavenger hunt…

Continue reading “Akiya” abandoned, cheap/free* houses in Japan / annotations, resources, riffs, musings, stories

Diary: Maniwa Out n About / hot springs hotel, bowling, agri-garden and lonely stations

Coffee stand, cute and tiny (clad with olden board) at the Agri-garden market area in town of Maniwa

Ryoko was teaching a tree-trimming workshop at a community centre for seniors in the logging town of Maniwa so I rode the bus to meet up. We stayed at a hotel for a couple of nights, went bowling plus i took some strolls to contemplate the change nature of rural Japan while Ryoko was working, oh and we found a quirky coffee shop/art gallery.

Let’s address each of these check points separately:

Bowling and Hotel (pleasantly lost in Showa)

First the hotel, the Maniwa Riverside was the sort of “once grand but now rather shabby” hotel i kinda dig.

Laden with memories a la Grand Budapest hotel. They were making a good effort though the rooms were unfancy and the carpets not changed since sometime in the Showa time. Importantly, there is an onsen hotspring bath with was the main reason. Nice outdoor bath too. No secret i love love love soaking in hot water. 

The hotel included breakfast which was a bit odd but the onigiri (rice balls) were hand prepared. Also hard boiled eggs with salt, pickles (yum) and a few various pastries and miso soup.

Continue reading Diary: Maniwa Out n About / hot springs hotel, bowling, agri-garden and lonely stations