Tag Archives: farmhouse

Event: Kominka Summit, April 2022, Kyoto

To: Friends in (mostly rural areas of) Japan

Re: Minka Summit 2022 (not just for Kominka) in Kyoto-fu

Memo: Folks from a very pleasant FB group called “Kominka Japan – A Resource for Traditional Japanese Residences” are putting on an event in rural Kyoto Prefecture towards end of April with workshops, speakers, presentations and a “mall of vendors“ focused on acquiring, renovating and building/living/community-sparking houses around Japan.

While the group’s main focus is traditional kominka farmhouses, there are members doing a variety of projects ranging from akiya scores to machiya townhouses to general fixer-uppers. Also tours of area houses and food vendors from local farms on the slate.

Three days with various reasonable pricing for one day, three day and/or optional dinner/speaker event + discounts/free for students, elders and kids.Held in mostly outdoor spaces and primarily in English but with various translation arrangements to accommodate. it’s grass roots / volunteer driven event and seems like a great chance to meet other folks homesteading in Japan.

Details and registration: https://kominkajapan.org/

More about Akiya (abandoned / unused houses) and other resources about acquiring and renovating “classic” houses in Japan

Japan Generational farm house and cottage story

+ Introducing our compound in Tsuchida, Okayama +

I joined a Kominka (trad Japanese country home) renovation, acquisition & enjoyment group and made a video introduction – sharing here in case you are curious.

‘Tis a little intimidating cause a load of people are doing incredible detailed projects in remote locations with all sorts of hand-tools and techniques but hey, i am adding to the generation story of our land – its all about the cycles.

Riff includes parents’ renovated farm house and our “cottage” under construction.

In brief: Both of these homes were empty from the 1990s until about 7 years ago when my (arborist/jazz singer) wife re-opened the cottage, the parents followed and the dilapidated old farm house was reno’d keeping all the beams, much character and details.
Now the cottage (which sits where other buildings did in the past) is getting a big new room plus a load of other upgrades to add to the story. A mix of trad joinery and materials and a few touches from the parent’s reno (genkon doors etc) and also insulation, woodstove, tea ceremony area, and big doors out to the carport as i hope our place becomes the local hangout for our son Ichiro’s pals in years to come.

Also a peek at wife’s Naya toolshed and glance at garden. Oh yeah, i also ramble on about my “origin story” of coming to Japan in early 1990s and working as a mushroom farmer in Tottori before running away and hitchhiking from Shikoku to Nagano where i first experience renegade inaka living.

Very pleased to add to my local community and respect the work of the ancestors.

the “Sistine Chapel” of kura granary barns

PS If curious i have time-lapse video of the roof raising and other artifacts from the kura which is now my arts and crafts studio and music lounge.

panorama of the backyard with garden, kura barn and bamboo grove

 

 

“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! The general term you’ll hear is “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, or 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? Keep in mind, its a whole other style of construction than “western” places. Tile roofs! Foundations, plumbing, electric all different and sometimes you’ll need boundary surveyed.

Importantly: Foreigners can buy houses/properties in Japan BUT just cause you own a house, doesn’t mean you get a visa. CheapHousesJapan Newsletter has a great overview (appropriately called: Can A Foreigner Buy Property In Japan? read this first).

Plus:

  • immigration to Japan is *extremely* difficult, so the pithy “Millennials, you are going to Japan” headlines are very overstated to say the least
  • these cheap/empty/trad places are usually quite remote and require a lot of work. “No big deal, right? I’m handy!” is first hunch but keep in mind, the cost of upgrading can be verrry high (gotta have cash since no mortgage or home improvement loans for you unless you are well established) and building skills are very different than “western” houses.
  • in snowy areas (where many/most of these houses are, not beach front or modern/urban), keep in mind the houses are uninsulated and literally made of curvy logs, complicated joints, sticks, mud and paper
  • also worth noting that internationals often look at Japan like we could fit the whole country in our “back pocket” without realizing most of the population lives in the megasaki-opolises between Tokyo > Nagoya > Osaka and 90% of the country is blissfully rural and mountainous (a lot of it quite like Cascadia really) and can require long drives on twisty roads to get to services

Handy Vocab:

  • Akiya = abandoned/unused houses, see also,
  • Akiya banks = directories managed by municipal govs seeking to find residents for akiya (often to prevent eyesores, demolition and/or  revitalize areas)
  • Minka/Kominka = traditional houses of various styles and eras
  • Machiya = traditional townhouses (usually narrow and deep)
  • Administrative Scrivener (行政書士 or gyoseishoshi) = your ace to do the transaction
  • Kura / Naya = various types of out-buildings on compounds/farms
  • note to self: add more terms here

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. When they die, often 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. In other words, property/houses is generally/always a depreciating asset in Japan.

Anyway, the laws of changed significantly in recent years allowing local governments to expropriate more easily so there’s loads and loads of these houses available, does definitely take some hunting around though. Indeed! It’s definitely a scavenger hunt… so this dossier is a clearinghouse of resources, stories, articles, musings, directories, etc.

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