Japan Is Giving Away Free Abandoned Homes

Have you ever wanted to acquire a huge rural house for next to nothing? Perhaps it’s time to visit Japan, where some communities giving away free abandoned homes.

Free and incredibly inexpensive Japanese dwellings are classified into two groups; free akiya (空き家), or abandoned houses, and local government-driven town development plans. Both basically provide homes for near to nothing but have two significantly unique histories and objectives.

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Akiya or ‘vacant homes’

Akiya (空き家) in Japanese means ‘vacant home’ and it’s the moniker given to a residence that is deserted, neglected and generally let to rot. Take a journey outside the inner suburbs of Japan’s heavily populated cities and you’ll see clusters of akiya with rooves teetering on the point of crumbling in and their big empty rooms unused for decades.

The akiya phenomena is becoming a big concern. A 2013 government investigation indicated that over eight million residences across Japan were empty. Almost a fifth of these residences have been vacated forever and are owned by landlords with no intention of selling or renting.

There are several causes for the profusion of abandoned properties. To begin with, an increasing number of young people are deferring having children, while the elderly are living longer lives than ever before. People aged 65-74 (6.6 percent of the population) outnumber those aged 0-14 (6.5 percent), and when elderly homeowners die, there aren’t enough new families to take their place.

Another explanation is that Japanese homeowners are superstitious, therefore “stigmatized” houses – those where a suicide, murder, or, more often, “lonely death” has occurred – are difficult to sell. The belief is so entrenched that there is a website called Oshimaland that lists stigmatized places (as well as what happened there) that people should avoid.

For these reasons, some municipalities and landowners have little choice but to give away their homes for free in order to keep them from becoming victims of graffiti or homes to wild animals and plants. In the intention of persuading would-be renovators to take up an abandoned akiya, several local governments have given incentives to persuade potential owners to give the dwellings a new lease of life and ideally build something that would benefit the greater community.

You may locate available foreclosed homes on an akiya bank, which advertises foreclosed properties for sale. There is no one central bank, however there are bank records available on websites such as Most sites are in Japanese, but with the assistance of a translation program, it’s not difficult to figure out that 0円 equals $0.

The free housing program at Okutama

If you’re seeking for a new affordable house that takes significantly less maintenance while yet being close to the city excitement, go no farther than Okutama, a village in the western outskirts of the larger Tokyo Metropolis. Okutama hopes to attract young families with their new low-cost rent-to-own housing option. According to REthink Tokyo, the Okutama program requires owners to pay a monthly rent of 50,000 yen (about USD 440), and after 22 years, the property is yours for the grand amount of $116,160, with no mortgage, loans, and a convenient one hour and 45 minutes by train from central Tokyo.

The affordable residences do have a few requirements, such as potential owners being under the age of 43 and having children in junior high school. Larger families are also seen favorably. Unlike akiya houses, these are brand new, ready to move into, and built to last for generations.

As rural Japan battles an aging population and cities contend with densely crowded turmoil, it’s reasonable to expect similar cities to pursue the Okutama approach to foster community development and a less city-centric lifestyle.

Buying outrageously inexpensive real estate is surprisingly common in Japan. Those who want to live out their James Bond remote island ownership fantasies might do so for as little as a few thousand dollars. Entire islands off the coast of Mie Prefecture were on the sale for 22 million yen, which translated to a meager US $207,240 at the time. Saga Island, a series of three islands for sale at the time for 30 million yen or US $94,000 per island, was also on the market.


You see, my love for Japan is not only based on personal experience; it's based on a deep admiration for Japanese culture, history, and traditions. Thank you, Japan, for being a constant source of inspiration, joy, and wonder in my life. I may never be able to express my love for Japan in person, but I hope that through my blog and my writing, I can share a small piece of my admiration and devotion with the world.

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