What's new

8.5m empty homes in rural Japan

thomas

Unswerving cyclist
Admin
14 Mar 2002
15,820
8,987
749
If you have ever dreamt of owning property in Japan, now is your time: with 8.5 million empty homes (空き家 akiya), some prefectures give them away for free and even offer renovation subsidies. So why not work from home in the Japanese countryside?

The report found 13.6% of Japan's 62.42 million homes were unoccupied. This was particularly pronounced in the prefectures of Wakayama, Tokushima, Kagoshima, and Kochi, all of which recorded home vacancy rates over 18%. [...] Cities like Tochigi and Nagano have "akiya banks." These websites, which are developed by the city or municipal governments, list abandoned homes. Some of them are available for as little as 50,000 yen ($455). The town of Okutama in western Tokyo even hands over aging and vacant buildings for free, per Nikkei. Some new residents have found creative ways to repurpose them, turning them into workshops and eateries.


 
I read somewhere that the population of Japan decreased by one million people last yeast, which absolutely amazes me.
 
By some 420,000 in 2020, according to Nikkei. Some of my friends and acquaintances acquired old farmhouses in Yamanashi and Nagano and converted them into besso and "bicycle stations". Depending on the condition and furnishing, some of them invested less than what a new sedan would have cost them (provided you enjoy frugal weekends in the sticks). With remote work becoming more accepted, it makes perfect sense to move into the country. We live in Kanagawa, on the (semi-rural) outskirts of Tokyo but I'd trade our place for some innaka property without thinking twice. :)
 
I read somewhere that the population of Japan decreased by one million people last yeast, which absolutely amazes me.
As Thomas said, the drop wasn't as high as a million. However, there were about 800,000 births last year compared with a population of 126 million, so it's obvious what's going to happen in future. And from what I've experienced of bringing up two children here, from super-expensive school rucksacks to university entrance exams that seem to necessitate cram school, I'm not surprised that couples are daunted by the prospect of having children. And a large proportion of people don't even become couples because they have no energy left after the demands made on them at their workplace. And I've seen virtually no attempts to resolve these structural problems.
 
Last edited:
By some 420,000 in 2020, according to Nikkei. Some of my friends and acquaintances acquired old farmhouses in Yamanashi and Nagano and converted them into besso and "bicycle stations". Depending on the condition and furnishing, some of them invested less than what a new sedan would have cost them (provided you enjoy frugal weekends in the sticks). With remote work becoming more accepted, it makes perfect sense to move into the country. We live in Kanagawa, on the (semi-rural) outskirts of Tokyo but I'd trade our place for some innaka property without thinking twice. :)
Yeah, was wondering why you aren't getting a place like that.
 
More on akiya by the Architectural Digest. The article explains why so many abandoned houses remain empty, despite plummeting prices:

  • While foreigners aren't excluded from buying akiya, there are a number of hoops to jump through that make owning one expensive if not impossible. Beyond renovation costs, a 1981 update to Japan's Building Standard Law also means these homes are considered fragile enough to require structural work to bring them up to code. Furthermore, property rights make it almost impossible for people to knock down these akiya and start fresh without approval from their (technical) homeowners, despite the fact that they want little to do with the property. Thus, the unwanted homes persist, stuck between renovation and demolition.
  • Despite those hurdles, the idea of buying a home and/or starting a business for such a low price has proved too good to pass up for some. With top-level buy-in from the government, there's always the chance that some of the legal obstacles to increasing rural homeownership could fall by the wayside. For now, though, many Japanese urbanites seem to feel that if a $500 home sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


Related links:




 
If you have ever dreamt of owning property in Japan, now is your time: with 8.5 million empty homes (空き家 akiya), some prefectures give them away for free and even offer renovation subsidies. So why not work from home in the Japanese countryside?




I live in Tochigi Prefecture. I've lived in Saitama, Nagano and Gifu Prefectures too. I've visited a number of others. I own a motorbike and have often explored and I can tell you, it is SO easy to see these empty houses once you're into the more rural zones. I've told friends about this time and again, they're literally everywhere!
 
Here's another story of a foreign couple renovating an old building close to Tokyo (in Fujino close to Jimba-toge, a wildly attractive area for hikers and cyclists) and a look at what it takes to settle in Japan's countryside.

Japan's Housing and Land Survey in 2018 counted 8.76 million unoccupied houses and the number is set to increase. Many local authorities have websites showing the unoccupied homes for sale to try to stimulate interest and sales. But for anyone looking for a piece of the country's rural heartland it pays to enter with an element of "buyer beware," according to Parker Allen of real estate consultancy Akiya & Inaka, which helps foreign buyers looking to purchase property in the countryside. "Land is the value, not the house," he says. "With a place that is 3 million yen ($25,900) you often need another 5 million yen to get it habitable. The best deals are on existing structures with minimal renovation. The existing structure is the thing that causes the unforeseen problems." Also, not all of Japan's countryside is seen as equal. Hotspots are within two hours of Tokyo or Osaka, making them accessible weekend boltholes. Complications, especially for foreign buyers, tend to arise when trying to secure loans and navigating local regulations around individual properties. Some rules require the home to be inhabited full time, restrict changes to existing structures or come with farmland that requires active use.

 
I've been watching this Australian guy go through the whole process, from purchase to renovation. His whole journey is fascinating. He's in Ibaraki, on the south end of the prefecture, so he is indeed within the hotspot mentioned above. It's tough to go super rural if you are raising bilingual or bicultural kids (I think). Maybe this is getting easier in the age of "remote" everything.

 
I've been watching this Australian guy go through the whole process, from purchase to renovation. His whole journey is fascinating. He's in Ibaraki, on the south end of the prefecture, so he is indeed within the hotspot mentioned above. It's tough to go super rural if you are raising bilingual or bicultural kids (I think). Maybe this is getting easier in the age of "remote" everything.

I have watched a number of his videos as well. Lots of insights into the potential pitfalls of rehabbing an abandoned house.
 
Slightly related: abandoned Japanese-style homes and rundown merchant buildings are becoming a prime source for repurposed aged wood to give it a second life as modern timber products. A think tank in Matsue, Shimane, where industry flourished in premodern times thanks to shipping trade and mining operations, has embarked on a project to use quality wood in new projects.

9.jpg

Photo credit: Mainichi Shinbun

The company, called Everyplan Co., is involved in revitalizing western Japan's Chugoku region by demolishing old traditional homes to prepare the wood for processing. Japan faces major issues because of its aging society and population drain in rural areas. Inside a vacant house in the mountain town of Kawamoto, a two-hour drive from the prefectural capital of Matsue, Motoki Moriyama, 41, of Everyplan looks up at the sturdy pine beams supporting the ceiling. "You can no longer get something of such quality," Moriyama said.

It's sad to see such old treasures being demolished. Alex Kerr to the rescue!


Millions of yen are needed to demolish an old house. Everyplan pays a portion of the costs, depending on the quality of timber, which is processed into furniture and modern interior building materials. In general, the large pieces of timber are sold as is, and it is still rare for the wood to be milled for ease of use. The company intends to exhibit the products at domestic and international trade fairs and sell them to construction companies. Everyplan sees opportunities to popularize the use of old timber, which was considered expensive until the surge in prices of imported lumber from the so-called "wood shock" caused by a global decrease in supply in recent years.




Everyplan:

 
Yes, it is sad. I thought the same when the same thing became popular here, taking down old barns to reuse their wood for new projects. However I am only sad when it was a building that was still in good repair, so many are like the building in that picture. Rundown and decaying, many times structurally unsafe. In those cases I am all for it as it not only reuses some of those materials but also removes an unsafe building which is often also an eye sore.
 
On 13 December, to address the issue of "akiya", a new law came into force that targets irresponsible property owners. The law allows municipalities to spot neglected houses with visible damages, such as cracked windows or leaking roofs. These houses will face tax penalties if the owners do not fix the damages. Municipalities play a crucial role in reducing the number of hazardous empty houses that spoil the scenery.


The real estate tax for residential land is reduced to one-sixth or one-third of the property's appraised value, depending on the size of the lot. Under the previous system, vacant homes at risk of collapse were designated as "specified vacant home" and lost their eligibility for the tax credit if the municipality advised improvements. Under the new law, municipalities can designate homes at risk of becoming specified vacant homes if left unattended as "poorly managed long-unoccupied homes." Those homes will all lose eligibility for tax credits, just like specified vacant homes. The aim is to encourage owners to promptly provide maintenance on their properties, preventing them from collapsing due to neglect by effectively implementing a tax increase. The land ministry established criteria to determine what constitutes a poorly managed, unoccupied home, including the condition of damaged or deteriorating houses and fences, from the standpoints of safety, hygiene and appearance.


 
It seems foreigners will repopulate the Japanese countryside: here's the example of 44-year-old Australian Ned Watson, who purchased an abandoned house in the vicinity of Narita Airport. The advantages of living in Japan are not needing to drive to do the most basic things, affordable healthcare, being able to buy alcohol 24 hours a day, and the lack of guns and violence (Mr Watson used to work in the US).


I went onto a Japanese real-estate site here, and they all basically have access to the same database. I set up the criteria I wanted: less than 10 million JPY (or SD 66,696), to get to Tokyo Station within 90 minutes by train, more than 400 square meters of land, and within a 15-minute walk to a train station. I wanted as much land as possible simply because they're not making any more of it. I live in a little town called Shisui, which is in Chiba Prefecture. I'm right on the border of Narita City, which is one of the major international airports. My house was 6.6 million JPY (or USD 43,941). My neighbours said many people came to look at it, but at the end of the day, I'm the one who ended up buying it. The house had been unoccupied for two years. [...] I'm looking for a new job right now. But because my cost of living is so cheap, $1,000 a month is basically all I need to be happy.


Mr Watson in Chiba



Mr Watson in Chiba

One could argue about Mr Watson's sense of fashion but not his reasoning. :)


 
Back
Top Bottom