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(CNN)   We've seen stories of rural Japanese houses going cheap. An American couple found something special   (edition.cnn.com) divider line
    More: Cool, Japan, House, Permanent residency, large country house, Real estate, 130-year-old home, Japanese architecture, free houses  
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2532 clicks; posted to Business » on 28 Feb 2021 at 6:12 PM (10 weeks ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook



36 Comments     (+0 »)
View Voting Results: Smartest and Funniest
 
2021-02-28 2:23:49 PM  
What a beautiful home.
 
2021-02-28 3:07:56 PM  
The perfect couple for such a wonderful treasure. Kudos to them for recognizing it and all of their hard work.
 
2021-02-28 4:30:09 PM  
Good for them. Living in Japan was easily the most fun 2 years I've ever had. By far.
 
2021-02-28 6:20:10 PM  
OLD NEWS IS OLD - Published 11th June 2020

//also pretty sure that this is a repeat
 
2021-02-28 6:27:08 PM  
In a land where homes can be had for as little as US$20,000 or even free, they bought a home for US$250,000.

I mean, that's nice and all, but how much square footage? It's rural Japan... are there services like broadband available? $250k might be reasonable, it might be high... there just isn't enough information to tell, and honestly, the article introduced more questions than answers and completely ignores the suitability of these less expensive homes.
 
2021-02-28 6:38:27 PM  
If it didn't come with a bamboo deer scare, can it really be a Japanese house?

/Donk
/Donk
/Donk
 
2021-02-28 6:40:55 PM  
Such a deal? It's probably haunted by that Ring chick.
 
2021-02-28 7:02:23 PM  

LesserEvil: In a land where homes can be had for as little as US$20,000 or even free, they bought a home for US$250,000.

I mean, that's nice and all, but how much square footage? It's rural Japan... are there services like broadband available? $250k might be reasonable, it might be high... there just isn't enough information to tell, and honestly, the article introduced more questions than answers and completely ignores the suitability of these less expensive homes.


They explain.

They're more like kites with a roof than houses.
 
2021-02-28 7:14:41 PM  

MurphyMurphy: They explain.


"If we had children, a kominka would not be an option," says Kimberly.

I'm not clear on that part of the explanation other than children would break things, like the paper doors.

I mean, literally millions of Japanese people had children in homes of this style.
 
2021-02-28 7:19:22 PM  
Yes. I think I remember when this article came out.

You will find this in the "craziest foods I ever ate" thread, too, but here is the deal. People have been living in Japan for thousands of years now. Modern Japanese people are pretty much just like you and me. So articles about some white people going somewhere and "discovering" things are cute and everything, but ... oh forget it.

Where I am right now, it is below freezing. Japanese architecture was mostly wood pegs and grooved fittings, with a hard frame exposed to the elements and an inner paper and matchstick inner frame "living area." And that living area would be a bedroom, dining room, living room. You had a HIBACHI in the middle, and ventilation from the drafts was more than sufficient to keep you from asphyxiation. You slept on the mats near the hibachi. It worked. It was simple, but pretty efficient.

And that is great to think about in the summer time as you relax in rural Japan and wonder why anyone needs air conditioning.

So you see foreigners come to Japan and move into a structure built a century ago. They knock out the false ceilings, "open up" the place by getting rid of non-bearing walls and adopting an "open plan." They destroy the outbuildings and cut down the trees to the north and west to give a nice open feel to the outside and let in more light in late afternoon.

So winter comes, and the winds come howling in from Siberia, to the northwest, naturally. The walls are not insulated and will not hold heat. The ceiling is actually the roof, which is thatched and porous, OR it is ceramic and heat conducting. You MIGHT have a wood stove, but you have no place to keep the wood or a chainsaw because you destroyed the outbuildings. So you burn about 10 liters of kerosene a day trying to keep from freezing.

That will cost you 400 bucks a month.

But because you liked that natural wood look, you will also need a bout a kilowatt of lighting for your shack. The walls just suck the light in like a black hole. If you like Japanese baths, then you can heat about 25 gallons of water to about 40C and keep it there. If you insulate it, you will get mold.  Your toilet will be in a separate room, so keeping it unfrozen will take mon, hon.

So all that great rural living turns into a nightmare. Hipsters beware. History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.

Yes. There ARE WAYS to avoid all the pitfalls, but you will have to ask the old locals how to do it. And who has time for that?
 
2021-02-28 7:37:19 PM  

2fardownthread: So all that great rural living turns into a nightmare. Hipsters beware. History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.


This. One might think these cheap (or free) houses are a bargain, but there's a damn good reason why they're that way. If the locals don't want it, why would you?
 
2021-02-28 7:41:11 PM  

mrmopar5287: MurphyMurphy: They explain.

"If we had children, a kominka would not be an option," says Kimberly.

I'm not clear on that part of the explanation other than children would break things, like the paper doors.

I mean, literally millions of Japanese people had children in homes of this style.


When they get freaky in the bedroom, the kids will hear daddy shoutout his safe word.
 
2021-02-28 7:44:44 PM  

2fardownthread: History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.


Thanks for that earworm.  I'm gonna share with the rest.

Godzilla Blue Oyster Cult Music Video HD
Youtube muUZjovOFRg
 
2021-02-28 7:46:02 PM  
Kind of getting a kick because I was looking at some bizarre Tokyo real estate over the weekend.

There is a 300k dollar house RIGHT NEXT TO a rail line. It is about 1200 square feet, but only about 5 meters wide. Oh sorry. That is the LOT. The structure is only about 3 meters wide. So it is a long thin structure. It is what Japanese people call a pencil house.

Tiny homes wind up being designed to fit in a property of a certain size, so you do not get mobile tiny homes in Japan. But you get a lot of hyper-designed, hyper-efficient tiny homes in urban areas. It is complicated. They are not designed for homeless people.

Urban theory holds that land values are higher near a city center because such locations provide a higher value of service. Tiny homes are a way of getting a high level of service with a small footprint. Houses get larger as you move outward from inner cities, and then explode in size beyond the suburbs. Those are the sizes foreigners like. But SURPRISE!!! Those are the homes that have the lowest service levels, the lowest level of upkeep, the worst location, etc. The level of service gets so low that, at some point, it goes negative and the home is basically free.

A challenge for modern urban planners is this problem: Do you expand services to raise land values in rural areas? Or do you reduce service levels to discourage people from settling in rural areas? After the 3 11 tsunami, the former was tried, with mixed success. The latter appears more likely as a response to population decline and climate change.

So if you would like to live in a tiny house in a rural area, you are likely to be a hipster complaining about how society does not need you and you do not need society, and you would basically be right.
 
2021-02-28 7:55:09 PM  

trialpha: 2fardownthread: So all that great rural living turns into a nightmare. Hipsters beware. History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.

This. One might think these cheap (or free) houses are a bargain, but there's a damn good reason why they're that way. If the locals don't want it, why would you?


Yeah. Well. Some people like that. Not to say that people can't adapt. But many times, people are not sure why they do the things they do. You will find TONS of videos on YouTube of people living in campers or vans or just in tents. And TONS of videos on people who want to renovate homes. All the impulses are there. OFF GRID LIVING. People want to experiment with different lifestyles.

The mistake is in thinking that the Japanese people "had it wrong." To enjoy the lifestyle of people who lived in that house, you basically need to ADOPT that lifestyle. Otherwise you are a tourist, and tourism is expensive.

Part of me wants that simple rural life, but it requires effort that I have not been trained for, and have not been adapted to. I have spent my life adapting to other things. You have to get into stuff like this with eyes wide open, and with 110% humility.
 
2021-02-28 7:59:00 PM  

2fardownthread: So it is a long thin structure. It is what Japanese people call a pencil house.


We call them "single-wide" here in the USA.
 
2021-02-28 8:00:17 PM  

TedCruz'sCrazyDad: mrmopar5287: MurphyMurphy: They explain.

"If we had children, a kominka would not be an option," says Kimberly.

I'm not clear on that part of the explanation other than children would break things, like the paper doors.

I mean, literally millions of Japanese people had children in homes of this style.

When they get freaky in the bedroom, the kids will hear daddy shoutout his safe word.


Ah, gotcha. It's the typical American prudish attitude about sex. That makes sense.
 
2021-02-28 8:13:30 PM  

MurphyMurphy: LesserEvil: In a land where homes can be had for as little as US$20,000 or even free, they bought a home for US$250,000.

I mean, that's nice and all, but how much square footage? It's rural Japan... are there services like broadband available? $250k might be reasonable, it might be high... there just isn't enough information to tell, and honestly, the article introduced more questions than answers and completely ignores the suitability of these less expensive homes.

They explain.

They're more like kites with a roof than houses.


Yes. Seriously. A lot of the traditional inner walls of homes were thick paper (not cardboard, but say... parchment) attached to a frame with glue. Often it was "sized", with the paper providing rigidity to the frame. The frame members were of about 1.5 times pencil diameter. Floors are straw mats. Ceiling is roof, but you could have a drop ceiling to create an air gap between the ceiling and roof.

One step up from that would be two layers of thin cardboard with a light particle filler in a lacquer frame.

One step up from that is, say, 3/4 inch cedar planking (exterior) and an air gap, with lathe and stucco (interior). No insulation.

So, ideally, you would have that rough outer wall and progressively more "delicate" interiors as you moved inward to the living area.

I lived like that for several years. It is ... well.. respectable. The house is lacquer and cedar and paper. It is clean and smells great. The houses create careful, quiet, shy people. The house itself is ephemeral. The life inside creates the warmth, not the house. Needless to say, a person needs to appreciate that. A loud, reckless person would destroy that structure in more ways than one.
 
2021-02-28 8:30:19 PM  

mrmopar5287: 2fardownthread: So it is a long thin structure. It is what Japanese people call a pencil house.

We call them "single-wide" here in the USA.


A three story singlewide in the middle of a metropolis.

My father grew up in a trailer. He was self-conscious about it his whole life. When I came to Japan, I had a colleague and we were discussing some various housing problems Japan had. It was a seminar, more or less, and he brought up that some Americans lived in trailers and everyone had a good laugh. They looked at me and I think I made some clever comment about tornado magnets.

But trailer homes are amazing when you think about it. They are a perfectly rational solution to a problem that has not been solved worldwide. But Japanese people can not wrap their brain around the concept. Why?

Land is so expensive that the home cost is trivial. If you can afford the land, you can afford to put something nice on it. And if the land is cheap, the service level is so low (by definition) that you would be better off renting an apartment. Someone will come along and say that Japanese value "ancestral homes" and all that, but not really. Maybe I have never seen a sleeper-trailer in Japan. RVs are very scarce. Maybe mobile homes don't exist.
 
2021-02-28 8:31:32 PM  

TedCruz'sCrazyDad: mrmopar5287: MurphyMurphy: They explain.

"If we had children, a kominka would not be an option," says Kimberly.

I'm not clear on that part of the explanation other than children would break things, like the paper doors.

I mean, literally millions of Japanese people had children in homes of this style.

When they get freaky in the bedroom, the kids will hear daddy shoutout his safe word.


That's how people lived for literally most of history, in Europe as well. Poor people often didn't even have more than one bed.
 
2021-02-28 8:36:48 PM  

adamatari: That's how people lived for literally most of history


I'm saying. All the frontier housing in the of log cabins and dugouts in the USA were typically single-room homes. Families then had plenty of children.
 
2021-02-28 8:40:06 PM  

mrmopar5287: MurphyMurphy: They explain.

"If we had children, a kominka would not be an option," says Kimberly.

I'm not clear on that part of the explanation other than children would break things, like the paper doors.

I mean, literally millions of Japanese people had children in homes of this style.


Foreigners sending their kids to Japanese public schools?

The horror.
 
2021-02-28 8:41:43 PM  

2fardownthread: But trailer homes are amazing when you think about it. They are a perfectly rational solution to a problem that has not been solved worldwide.


I think a lot more about manufactured housing (not trailers with wheels) because there is a company right down the road from me that does fairly upscale modular housing manufacturing: https://www.homewayhom​es.com

People of modest means in the USA can purchase what amounts to a double-wide trailer, but it's a better quality manufactured home that is installed on either a slab or a brick crawlspace. I don't know if manufactured housing is a uniquely American industry, but it seems to solve a problem for a sizable number of people.
 
2021-02-28 8:55:29 PM  

2fardownthread: But Japanese people can not wrap their brain around the concept. Why?


Not exactly the single/double-wides the US knows, but Japan has more 90%-factory-built prefab houses than any other country.  They're perfectly familiar with that concept.

But, in the post-WWII regime, they *are* really averse to buying a 30 or 40 year old house, with them being basically worth their land value and a new (often prefab) house going up.  Modern Japanese culture is also a lot more averse to used cars, used clothes, used... anything.
 
2021-02-28 9:10:06 PM  

2fardownthread: Land is so expensive that the home cost is trivial.


I find it amusing that this keeps coming up, given how absurd housing is in other countries. Last I heard, you can apparently still buy a house (or, more accurately land + cost of building a new house) in the suburbs of Tokyo for the equivalent of $500k. Now, it won't be a particularly big house by non-Japanese standards, but still perfectly suitable. You'll also get the benefit of a functional mass transit system, so being out in the suburbs won't be much of an issue.
 
2021-02-28 9:48:37 PM  

trialpha: 2fardownthread: Land is so expensive that the home cost is trivial.

I find it amusing that this keeps coming up, given how absurd housing is in other countries. Last I heard, you can apparently still buy a house (or, more accurately land + cost of building a new house) in the suburbs of Tokyo for the equivalent of $500k. Now, it won't be a particularly big house by non-Japanese standards, but still perfectly suitable. You'll also get the benefit of a functional mass transit system, so being out in the suburbs won't be much of an issue.


Well you have to add in the cost of the kaiju insurance if you're building in the city.
 
2021-02-28 9:57:57 PM  

trialpha: 2fardownthread: Land is so expensive that the home cost is trivial.

I find it amusing that this keeps coming up, given how absurd housing is in other countries. Last I heard, you can apparently still buy a house (or, more accurately land + cost of building a new house) in the suburbs of Tokyo for the equivalent of $500k. Now, it won't be a particularly big house by non-Japanese standards, but still perfectly suitable. You'll also get the benefit of a functional mass transit system, so being out in the suburbs won't be much of an issue.


I think housing pricing in Japan is very rational and more or less follows a hedonic model. You basically find a place to live based on the valuation of your time, and according to conveniences.

There is no mortgage interest reduction in Japan (mostly), so people pretty much buy the housing they need. I know of a family of five living in a two bedroom plus kitchen and bath apartment because it is in a location that has everything they need. Suburban life is pretty good. You get a pretty steep drop off in services once you pass the burbs.

One thing I left out of all my meanderings above is that if you want a Mexican gardener or housekeeper, forget it. You would be surprised what size homes people choose when they have to heat and clean them based on Japan's energy and labor prices.
 
2021-02-28 9:59:24 PM  

LesserEvil: In a land where homes can be had for as little as US$20,000 or even free, they bought a home for US$250,000.

I mean, that's nice and all, but how much square footage? It's rural Japan... are there services like broadband available? $250k might be reasonable, it might be high... there just isn't enough information to tell, and honestly, the article introduced more questions than answers and completely ignores the suitability of these less expensive homes.


I didn't see total square footage, but it's a 3/4 acre plot with multiple 150 year old buildings in incredible shape.  Depending on the specific area I could see it going for that.
 
2021-02-28 10:08:56 PM  

UncleDirtNap: trialpha: 2fardownthread: Land is so expensive that the home cost is trivial.

I find it amusing that this keeps coming up, given how absurd housing is in other countries. Last I heard, you can apparently still buy a house (or, more accurately land + cost of building a new house) in the suburbs of Tokyo for the equivalent of $500k. Now, it won't be a particularly big house by non-Japanese standards, but still perfectly suitable. You'll also get the benefit of a functional mass transit system, so being out in the suburbs won't be much of an issue.

Well you have to add in the cost of the kaiju insurance if you're building in the city.


It is true. The Kaiju rates are really high near port areas, near the Ginza, and near the Diet buildings. If you read the fine print, you find that life insurance does NOT cover acts of war, and for property insurance, Kaiju are usually written out. You have to buy special insurance in Akihabara.

Himeji castle had to be entirely rebuilt in 1601 and in 2015 after Kaiju attacks. They rebuilt it using funds from James Bond movies and royalties from CIvilization V and reruns from The Shogun series.
 
2021-02-28 10:18:40 PM  

zeroflight222: LesserEvil: In a land where homes can be had for as little as US$20,000 or even free, they bought a home for US$250,000.

I mean, that's nice and all, but how much square footage? It's rural Japan... are there services like broadband available? $250k might be reasonable, it might be high... there just isn't enough information to tell, and honestly, the article introduced more questions than answers and completely ignores the suitability of these less expensive homes.

I didn't see total square footage, but it's a 3/4 acre plot with multiple 150 year old buildings in incredible shape.  Depending on the specific area I could see it going for that.


Sure. And it did. But it is usually difficult to use rural properties for collateral. Both the buyer and seller think they got a great deal. The seller got the cash, though, and the buyer gets "the property." I very much doubt they got a bank to lend them much for the property.

I would take the cash because someone will be buying this property for a lot less one of these days, after all the nice has been stripped out.

If there is interest in this subject on Fark, I can find all kinds of weird arrangements people are making.

The areas affected by the tsunami 10 years ago have a lot of GREAT new infrastructure and need residents.
 
2021-02-28 10:34:27 PM  

TheSubjunctive: 2fardownthread: But Japanese people can not wrap their brain around the concept. Why?

Not exactly the single/double-wides the US knows, but Japan has more 90%-factory-built prefab houses than any other country.  They're perfectly familiar with that concept.

But, in the post-WWII regime, they *are* really averse to buying a 30 or 40 year old house, with them being basically worth their land value and a new (often prefab) house going up.  Modern Japanese culture is also a lot more averse to used cars, used clothes, used... anything.


What you say in your first paragraph is entirely true. Japan has tons of prefab and modular construction. They wrote the book on it. It is the MOBILE part that they don't get. I told a group of Japanese people that Americans relocate for work or other reasons on average every five years. They were amazed. MOBILE HOME is the alien concept.

Therefore, they build small homes, even tiny homes, but they are pricey and do not have wheels.

I don't see much aversion to older houses, or used things, even. There are huge chains selling used and overstock appliances, etc. Books, tools, clothes, cars. You used an interesting time period for homes. 30--40 years

At about 30--40 years, all the stuff that makes a house expensive has been used up. Your heating, AC, lighting, kitchen appliances, water heater, etc. have all been depreciated and will be needing repair or replacement. Your outside siding, windows, roof, and various trim will likewise need replacement. Maybe flooring and interior trim.

So fashion aside, you can go buy a new house with all the modern conveniences, or you can buy a 30--40 year old house and have it be a fixer upper, OR you can get by with the old stuff as it crumbles to dust. And if the dust is what you are after, you buy a 150 year old home and enjoy.
 
2021-02-28 11:10:22 PM  

2fardownthread: Otherwise you are a tourist, and tourism is expensive.


This is a succinct version of what I tell people about how cheap it can be to live in the Tokyo burbs, which is basically "live as close to a local lifestyle as possible."  Living 45 minutes outside of the Tokyo loop is functionally cheaper than living 30 minutes outside of Denver. (I use "functionally" to distinguish that it includes some intangibles like commuting/travel ease, healthcare quality, inconspicuous neighbors, low crime, etc.).  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the minimum possible cost per month and yet maintain any quality of life in Denver burbs is much higher than Tokyo burbs (I'd put it at nearly double).
 
2021-02-28 11:46:00 PM  
There's a house in my neighborhood for sale for 500 bucks. Land included. I kind of want to buy it just to use as an office, but I'm afraid it's going to fall on my head
 
2021-02-28 11:54:45 PM  

kyuzokai: 2fardownthread: Otherwise you are a tourist, and tourism is expensive.

This is a succinct version of what I tell people about how cheap it can be to live in the Tokyo burbs, which is basically "live as close to a local lifestyle as possible."  Living 45 minutes outside of the Tokyo loop is functionally cheaper than living 30 minutes outside of Denver. (I use "functionally" to distinguish that it includes some intangibles like commuting/travel ease, healthcare quality, inconspicuous neighbors, low crime, etc.).  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the minimum possible cost per month and yet maintain any quality of life in Denver burbs is much higher than Tokyo burbs (I'd put it at nearly double).


Yep. You are winding me up. This is true. All of it. And you could go down by line item and write a paragraph on each.

In fact, I did. Then I thought better of it and erased it.
 
2021-03-01 12:08:24 AM  

kyuzokai: 2fardownthread: Otherwise you are a tourist, and tourism is expensive.

This is a succinct version of what I tell people about how cheap it can be to live in the Tokyo burbs, which is basically "live as close to a local lifestyle as possible."  Living 45 minutes outside of the Tokyo loop is functionally cheaper than living 30 minutes outside of Denver. (I use "functionally" to distinguish that it includes some intangibles like commuting/travel ease, healthcare quality, inconspicuous neighbors, low crime, etc.).  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the minimum possible cost per month and yet maintain any quality of life in Denver burbs is much higher than Tokyo burbs (I'd put it at nearly double).


Literally 10 minutes ago, I received an appeal to donate money to a Denver area public school because they do not have enough money for musical instruments. The school is within a couple of miles from three country clubs.

You know. What is land worth? What does it reflect? People should think about this.

There is a theory that ultimately all the value of land is taxed away by government because land is fundamentally parceled and allocated according to fiat. We live, we die, but property goes on to be used for this or that, and taxed according to its use.

So one could say that land pricing in Japan reflects starkly decreasing values in rural areas because those areas show little likelihood of producing value beyond a natural state. To someone brought up in an era of speculation, that must look very tempting. But it entails taxes, obligations, social responsibilities, etc.
 
2021-03-01 3:29:59 AM  

2fardownthread: mrmopar5287: 2fardownthread: So it is a long thin structure. It is what Japanese people call a pencil house.

We call them "single-wide" here in the USA.

A three story singlewide in the middle of a metropolis.

My father grew up in a trailer. He was self-conscious about it his whole life. When I came to Japan, I had a colleague and we were discussing some various housing problems Japan had. It was a seminar, more or less, and he brought up that some Americans lived in trailers and everyone had a good laugh. They looked at me and I think I made some clever comment about tornado magnets.

But trailer homes are amazing when you think about it. They are a perfectly rational solution to a problem that has not been solved worldwide. But Japanese people can not wrap their brain around the concept. Why?

Land is so expensive that the home cost is trivial. If you can afford the land, you can afford to put something nice on it. And if the land is cheap, the service level is so low (by definition) that you would be better off renting an apartment. Someone will come along and say that Japanese value "ancestral homes" and all that, but not really. Maybe I have never seen a sleeper-trailer in Japan. RVs are very scarce. Maybe mobile homes don't exist.


Trailers and camper vans are for populations where people move a lot or are otherwise "rootless".

Japan doesn't strike me as having a bunch of hobos, migrant farm workers, Roma, or Travelers.
 
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