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Japan’s Abandoned Homes Turn Into Foreigner’s Dream Haven

by Violet Dawson
0 comment

These deserted homes mark up to 13.8% of all homes in Japan.

Akiya is Japanese for ‘abandoned houses’ that have been vacant for a long time with owners moving to cities. A decline in the population and relocation to a city are the two main reasons for the homes to be empty.

There are 8.5 million abandoned houses in rural Japan according to the country’s Housing and Land survey as of 2018. As per the most recent news, they rose to a fresh record of 9 million in 2023, which is 5,10,000 more than the record in 2018.

To put things into perspective, that’s one abandoned house for every 10 houses in Tokyo. If things continue to remain the same, there will be one third of Japan’s land left unattended. The record does not include rentals, vacation homes and other properties serving a specific purpose. 

The numbers are growing mainly in the rural areas where the population is shrinking. Wakayama and Tokushima were tied for the highest percentage of vacant homes in the whole of Japan at 21.2%. 

Sometimes an heir refuses to accept the home their ancestors left behind for them while others houses do not have a name or an heir or a relative to pass their home. They do not wish to sell the property out of family respect as well.

Alongside of this, Japan’s fertility rate declined for the seventh time in a row in 2022. Another motivation to leave the property behind is due to taxes and the overall financial burden that comes with owning a property. There could be many reasons for the abandonment of the houses but the result for all would be the same. 

While the Japanese usually value what is old when it comes to their belongings, traditions and artifacts, unfortunately the same theory does not apply to houses. For most Japanese, an old home is undesirable and a new one holds potential and brings luck for the future.

These deserted homes mark up to 13.8% of all homes in Japan. The structural safety of these old buildings is a major concern putting them at risk of pest infestation, collapse and many other problems. The Government has been emphasizing that these empty homes can impact scenery and can be extremely dangerous if they break down.

The recent records put the central and local government at the edge of their seat to take measures. Leaving these properties unattended could raise the risk of the buildings collapsing, tempering the safety of the public, hence, the only option is to demolish them or reuse such uninhabitable land. 

The authorities find it hard to trace the owners and are also restricted in taking measures to amend the situation. Japan’s property rights make it difficult for them to interfere in the matter. Before 2015, the Government could do nothing in the situation but post which, a new law was enacted. This allowed the local authorities to issue warnings regarding the risk of collapse and to demolish the buildings. 

Contrary, to fulfil the dream of owning a house, most Americans are crowding rural Japan where these empty houses are surprisingly and obviously priced low. For foreigners looking for a change of scenario, Akiyas are the best they could find as they are auctioned and sold for cheap.

While most Japanese do not prefer used homes, foreigners on the other hand, see a house that is cheap, rebuild and renovate it according to their taste, said a local.

A business opportunity also arose from this situation and an online site was founded named Akiyamart to make it easier for foreigners to find one for themselves. To further help and coordinate the buyers with property, municipalities across the country have started a web page known as ‘Akiya Banks’ where all the listings are compiled.

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