Exploring the Phenomenon of Japan’s Empty Houses

Japan’s empty houses have been making headlines in recent years, as the country struggles to deal with a rapidly aging population and a declining birth rate. According to a 2018 report by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, there were approximately 8.49 million vacant houses in Japan, accounting for 13.6% of all houses in the country. This phenomenon has been attributed to a variety of factors, including changes in family structure, urbanization, and economic conditions. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons behind Japan’s high number of empty houses and what it means for the country’s economy and society.

Empty house in Japan | Credit: Wikipedia Commons

The Rise of Japan’s Empty Houses

One of the main reasons behind the rise of empty houses in Japan is the country’s rapidly aging population. As more and more Japanese people reach retirement age, they are moving out of their family homes and into retirement communities or nursing homes. This has led to a surplus of houses that are no longer needed, particularly in rural areas where young people are leaving in search of better job opportunities in the cities.

Abandoned house in Tokyo | Source: Medium

Another factor is the decline in Japan’s birth rate, which has led to a decrease in the number of young families looking for homes. In addition, changes in family structure have also played a role in the rise of empty houses. For example, many Japanese families are now smaller than they used to be, with fewer children and sometimes even single-person households. This means that there is less demand for large family homes, which are now often left vacant.

Urbanization has also contributed to the phenomenon of empty houses in Japan. As people move from rural areas to the cities in search of work and better opportunities, many small towns and villages are left with a surplus of vacant homes. This has led to a situation where some areas of Japan have more empty houses than people.

Abandoned house in Japan is fully furnished inside | Screenshot from Youtube

The Economic Impact of Empty Houses

The high number of empty houses in Japan has had a significant impact on the country’s economy. For one, it has led to a decrease in property values, particularly in rural areas where the surplus of homes is highest. This has made it difficult for people who own homes in these areas to sell them, as there are few buyers interested in purchasing a property in a shrinking community.

Another abandoned house in Tokyo | Source: shoppb.phase-5.net

In addition, the maintenance and upkeep of empty houses can be costly, particularly for older homes that require frequent repairs. This has put a strain on local governments and communities, which must find ways to manage the surplus of vacant homes.

The Social Impact of Empty Houses

The phenomenon of empty houses in Japan has also had a significant social impact. In many rural areas, the surplus of vacant homes has led to a decrease in population, as young people move to the cities in search of work and better opportunities. This has resulted in a loss of community and culture, as traditional ways of life are abandoned and replaced by modern urban lifestyles.

The surplus of vacant homes has also led to an increase in crime and vandalism, particularly in areas where the homes are abandoned and left unsecured. This has created safety concerns for local residents and added to the overall decline of some communities.

As is often the case with akiya, the sale price included the contents left by the previous owners. There were still dishes in the kitchen sink and trash piled on every surface. Fifteen television sets, tools, dozens of bottles and various other objects were cleared away. Picture is from March 2019.

Addressing the Issue of Empty Houses

The Japanese government has recognized the issue of empty houses and has implemented various measures to address the problem. One approach has been to encourage people to move back to rural areas, by providing incentives such as subsidies for home purchases and employment opportunities.

In addition, the government has also implemented measures to repurpose empty houses, such as turning them into community centers, art galleries, or museums. This approach not only addresses the issue of empty homes but also helps to revitalize local communities and create new opportunities for residents.

Another solution that has been proposed is to encourage foreign investment in Japan’s real estate market. This would not only help to stimulate the economy but also create a demand for empty houses and potentially increase property values.

Community-led initiatives have also emerged as a way to address the issue of empty houses. For example, some local communities have formed groups to take care of abandoned homes and turn them into community spaces, such as vegetable gardens or recreational areas.


The phenomenon of empty houses in Japan is a complex issue with far-reaching economic and social implications. As the country’s population continues to age and birth rates decline, the surplus of vacant homes is likely to persist unless proactive measures are taken.

The Japanese government has implemented various solutions to address the issue, such as incentivizing people to move back to rural areas and repurposing empty houses for community use. However, community-led initiatives and foreign investment may also play a role in addressing the issue and creating new opportunities for residents.

Ultimately, the issue of empty houses in Japan highlights the importance of considering the social and economic impact of demographic changes on communities and the need for creative solutions to address these challenges.

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