The Basics of Buying an Abandoned House in Japan

  • First published: 2024-01-02
  • Last updated: 2024-01-21

Japan, with its rich history, stunning landscapes, and unique culture, has become an increasingly popular destination for foreigners seeking more than just a vacation. The possibility of owning an abandoned house in Japan is exciting, but it's crucial to be aware of the challenges involved. This article covers some of the key considerations when buying an abandoned house in Japan.

Understanding the Appeal:

Abandoned houses, known as "akiya" in Japanese, are properties that have been left vacant due to various reasons, such as economic downturns, urban migration, population decline, or inheritance issues. Many of these houses boast traditional Japanese architecture and offer a glimpse into the country's past. For foreigners, the appeal lies in the opportunity to own a unique piece of Japan and immerse themselves in the local lifestyle.

Challenges and Considerations:

While the idea of owning an abandoned house in Japan is exciting, it's crucial to be aware of the challenges involved. Some properties may require extensive renovations, and navigating the legal and bureaucratic processes can be complex for non-Japanese speakers. It's also essential to understand the cultural significance of abandoned houses in Japan. Many of these properties have been neglected for decades and are in a state of disrepair. They are often located in close-knit communities where neighbors have known each other for generations. As such, it's vital to be respectful of the local culture and to understand that your new home is part of a larger community. With that in mind, activities such as turning abandoned houses into Airbnb rentals may not be well-received by the neighbors.

Research and Location:

Before embarking on your akiya adventure, thorough research is essential. Different regions in Japan offer distinct cultural experiences and varying property market conditions. Consider factors such as climate, proximity to amenities, and the local community when choosing the location for your new home. Also, Japanese culture places great importance on neighborhood harmony, so it's advisable to visit the area and meet the neighbors before making a purchase. Unlike in many Western countries, Japanese houses are not numbered sequentially, so finding the exact location of a property can be challenging.

Legalities and Paperwork:

The legalities of purchasing abandoned houses in Japan can be intricate, involving both national and local regulations. It's crucial to have a good understanding of the paperwork involved, which may include land surveys, zoning regulations, and compliance with building codes. Additionally, unpaid taxes and inheritance issues can complicate the process. Engaging a bilingual lawyer can be immensely helpful in navigating these complexities.

Renovation and Restoration:

Abandoned houses often require renovation and restoration work to make them habitable. Hiring local contractors and architects who understand traditional Japanese architecture is advisable. Most Japanese houses are built using wood, which is susceptible to damage from earthquakes, typhoons, termites, and mold. While renovations may be a substantial investment, the result can be a home that seamlessly blends modern comfort with traditional charm. Also, depending on the location and condition of the property, you may be eligible for government subsidies to help with renovation costs.


Owning an abandoned house in Japan is not just a real estate venture; it's an immersive journey into the heart of Japanese culture and is not without its challenges. As a foreigner, thorough research, local assistance, and a passion for preservation are key elements in transforming neglected properties into cherished homes. With the right mindset and guidance, buying an akiya can be a rewarding experience, allowing you to create your own unique chapter in the story of Japan's architectural heritage. So, if you're ready to embark on a cultural adventure, an abandoned house in Japan might be the perfect canvas for your dreams.