Photos Of Free or Cheap Abandoned Houses in Japan

Monica Gray - September 15, 2023

To some, buying an abandoned house doesn’t sound appealing. After all, you might wonder why it was abandoned in the first place. In Japan, they look at the idea of abandoned or vacant houses a little bit differently than we probably do. They call these houses Akiya, which translates to an abandoned house in rural areas of Japan. The conditions of the houses vary drastically, some can be in tip-top shape, while others look like they may crumble at any moment. Another term the Japanese like to use for other types of homes is Kominka, which translates to “old home,” and these may also be abandoned.


In one instance, the local government launched a system allowing the transfer of vacant houses free of charge to new residents. Once the deal is made, they pay both the former and new owners a subsidy for any expenses. They began this project to increase the population and prevent these old houses from collapsing on themselves. Even though these houses may be free or cheap, they come at a high cost to repair and maintain.

Cheap Houses Japan

Despite this, there are several success stories where people found their dream home. Tom Fay, a foreigner from the UK who bought an Akiya in Japan, talked about his experience. He bought the house for six million Yen or $40,500. In an interview, he said his house “needed a new roof, lots of new floors, a new bathroom and kitchen (the old toilet had been in a separate building outside), new windows, and a full makeover.” After seven months of repairs, he could finally move in. He went on to say, “The full renovation will end up costing quite a lot more than the price of the house. There will still be a lot to do over the years to come to get it exactly as I want it, but that’s half the fun of moving into a kominka I think.” If you’re up for the challenge, then an Akiya might be the perfect project for you.


A 1920’s Wooden Building

This gorgeous Akiya is selling for a whopping 2.5 million Yen or $16,900. It’s a single-story building with six bedrooms and a storage room, all located across 1,034.78 meters square. It was originally constructed more than a century ago, in 1920. This house holds a lot of history (Koryoya)


Western And Vintage Mix

This Akiya for sale blends a mix of Western style and style from the Meiji era into one home. It has multiple gardens and spacious rooms, ideal for turning it into a large family home or a guesthouse. You won’t find couches or rugs like that anywhere else! (Instagram).


An Old Folk House

If you want a home that retains the wisdom and history of the past, then this is the Akiya for you. Upon entering, there’s a large dirt floor entrance. As the description on the seller’s website puts it, there’s a “nostalgic lattice door separates the entrance and the back door. The windows in the Japanese-style room also have latticework, making it feel like you’ve returned to the countryside. Thick beams also run through the building, giving it the charm of an old folk house.” It’s recommended to go for these sorts of houses with high ceilings, called “Ranma shoji,” which gives the impression they’re cold in the winter. Keeping it closed in the winter keeps you and the house warm, and opening it in summertime keeps you and the house cool. Best of all, it’s only five minutes to the sea and close to a national site called Itaretsu Hachiman Shrine (Nakagawa Juken)

Kumano Juet

A Home In The Mountains

For four million Yen or $27,000 (USD), you can have a secluded, cozy Akiya in the mountains. This affordable price also gets you rice fields and forests near the vacant home. The construction date is unknown, but it’s at least over 100 years old. The land area spans across 324.98 meters squared in the area of Kiwa-cho in Kumano City. Sellers claim the original owners used to run an inn in the building a long time ago, and when renovating the building, they cut off its pillars. It has a spacious garden and is located near a bus stop (Kumanoi Junet).


This Town Home

Located near Yamachosuji, in the central area of ​​Takaoka, this home may have small-town vibes, but that doesn’t mean you’ll feel any more isolated. As the seller puts it, “You may become familiar with it by shopping at a private store, or you may have never been in one before, but let’s try it and adventure.” If you’re up for an adventure, then maybe this Akiya is for you. There’s also a large Japanese-style room for holding handicraft classes and having people over. We can’t imagine a better life in Japan (Takaoka kurashi mo so).

Yabuakiya Bank

This Century-Old Home

Originally built in 1920, this home holds a lot of character. There’s also a main part of the building that was built in 1986, so you’re getting a mix of different styled decades. If you have kids, then you’ll love to learn it’s less than a kilometer from a nursery school and less than two kilometers from an elementary school. Green shrubs surround the home and it’s located in a friendly neighborhood (Yabuakiya Bank)


A Meji Era Kominka

In Japan, there’s another term for “old house,” and that’s Kominka, which is what you see here. This Akiya is located on the west side of Tatsuno city. Adjacent to the home, you’ll find a spacious garden and a traditional-styled fence. The home is kept in its original state, which you’ll notice in its pillars and beams. It’s a one-hour train ride from Shinkansen (Instagram).

Japan News

A Family Heirloom

Toshio Nakahashi’s mother previously lived in this two-story wooden Kamiichi home. Upon transferring it to a new owner, he said, “I received an inquiry three days after listing my property on the website and was able to transfer it within a month.” For more than ten years, the home sat vacant on the lot, risking deterioration. He said, “I wanted to give away my house. It’s fine that I didn’t get anything for it.” The demolition would have cost him millions of Yen, but with the government’s new project in place, he was able to give it away for free (Japan News).

City Ureshino

Same Class As The Statue Of Liberty

Builders constructed this Akiya in 1885. The sellers claim it’s an old folk home that’s in the same class as the Statue of Liberty in NYC. For a price of 5 million Yen, or $33,800, you can live in this peaceful area of Shiota Town. According to the sellers, “What is amazing about this property is that it was built in the 18th year of the Meiji era. Meiji 18 is also the year that the Cabinet system was started and Hirobumi Ito was appointed as the first Prime Minister, and the year that the Statue of Liberty arrived in the United States from France.” This home holds more history than your modern-day home in a popular city in the USA! Nearby is the Izumi Shikibu Park, where the famous cherry blossoms bloom in spring. The seller suggested using the front yard and turning it into an old folk house cafe. Now’s your last chance to buy a home like this, as a lot of them are disappearing (City Ureshino).


The Komatsu City Home

This vintage Kominka property is in a rare location, only ten minutes from Shinkansen station. It’s also near an airport with domestic and international flights, which is a great option if you’re an avid traveler looking for an escape once in a while. The home is in its original state, with a vintage carpet, photographs, and cozy rooms perfect for working and reading. Even though it’s a good investment, this home will need a little bit of TLC before it’s fully livable (Instagram).

City Takeo

A Home In Need Of Love

If you’re looking for a passion project, then this Akiya in Japan is your go-to. Originally built in 1955 and renovated in 1975, it has an eclectic mix of decade styles. It’s within the city planning area and includes a warehouse, garden trees, and garden stones. The home is also in a special warning area that’s prone to landslides, which means there are conditions for new construction and renovations. If you’re part of a big family, then there are enough rooms and areas in this home for you (City Takeo).


A Traditional Thatched Roof Home

This home was partially renovated in July 2023, so you know you’re already getting a good deal. While most Akiya homes need to have a great deal of work done on them, this one is well on its way to having liveable conditions. For example, unlike some other homes, this one already had a toilet that was connected to a sewage system. There’s a spacious attic, perfect for a home theater, art gallery, and exhibition space. Before you can truly utilize your home, three small storage spaces will need some repair. In about an hour, you’ll reach downtown Kyoto City (Instagram).

Cheap Houses Japan

Buying Two Houses

Another success story comes from Homeowner Shenike bought two Akiya houses in Japan for less than $21,000. Though she could afford the price, it came with a lot of work. During an interview with Cheap Houses Japan, she said, “This house is 68 years old. The walls were a mixture of mud and bamboo while the floors were either very old tatami which I hate or soft wooden floors. I found a Japanese contractor (sent from heaven) who was kind and willing to work with us even though he doesn’t speak English. It would have cost us about ¥5,000,000 cash to do both floors so my partner and I decided to only complete the first floor so that we could move in ASAP.” The renovations cost more than she bought the homes for, though it was worth the price (Cheap Houses Japan).


A Home With A Lot Of Character

This Akiya offers a panoramic countryside view from the second-floor Tatami room, according to the seller. Nearby is Gojo City, which offers exciting adventure sports like kayaking and rafting, and the World Heritage Site Koyasan, dating back 1200 years. The view and location make this home worth the affordable price (Instagram).


A Japanese-styled Styled Teahouse

This Akiya has a Samurai-style stone wall fence and wooden architecture, giving it a full-on Japanese ambiance. It’s one of the more traditional houses for sale since constructors have not changed any of its interior design. Whether you keep it the same or revamp the interior is up to you (Instagram).


A Location In The Misty Mountains

Doesn’t living in a quaint and charming family home, high in the misty mountains of Japan, sound incredibly appealing? With this Akiya, you’ll have views of cherry blossoms blooming and fragrant ume trees growing in the backyard. In the 1960s, a well-respected town carpenter built this home for his family, allowing for ample light and wind to flow through the space. Throughout 2022 to 2023, constructors made extensive renovations with high-quality, hand-made, natural materials. According to the seller, you’ll have “a rare combination find, this elegantly renovated Dominika offers picturesque Japanese countryside living in a stylish and comfortable environment” (Instagram).


A Traditional Old Guesthouse

Located only 1.5 hours drive from Kyoto, this Akiya was recently renovated in 2021. Originally, the homeowners used it as a cafe and guesthouse. It still holds its traditional charm, with its thatched roof and blossoming cherry trees. It’s located near a tranquil area with few visitors, called “Kayabuki no Sato.” In summer, you’ll have lush greenery, and in autumn, vibrant foliage. Throughout the year, this beautiful home will capture the essence of every season (Instagram).


This Home Is Move-In Ready

If you’re looking for an Akiya that’s modernly refurbished and ready to move in, then take a look at this one. Originally built in 1935, this Akiya comes with a spacious living-dining room and a total of 4 Tatami rooms. The home also has five Western-style rooms and an annex. With two sets of bathrooms and toilets, it makes it convenient and easy for your friends and family to stay over. According to the seller, you’re only a 40-minute drive to downtown Kyoto and less than ten minutes to Mitsui Outlet Park Shiga Ryuo (Instagram).


Live In A Previous Restaurant

Considering this Kominka used to be a cafe-restaurant, its previous owners renovated it in 2018. They also repaired the walls and floors, so this Kominka is ready for you to move into. It sits in the center of the old residential area of Nakamoto Town, where an old farmhouse sits diagonally across the street. The Tango family previously owned the farmhouse, and famously made a living with their textile business for generations to help with the expansion of sales channels overseas (Instagram).


A Kominka With A Whole Lot Of Land

This one-story Kominka house has over 1,500 square meters of property, which is ideal for homeowners looking for an outdoor project. It’s close to a train station that’ll get you to Tokyo within an hour. The home itself needs renovation, but it has roof tiles on the building still in wonderful condition (Instagram).


An Old Akiya Folk House

Built nearly 200 years ago, this old folk house sits on large land, with plenty of room for a home garden. You can enjoy rural life in proximity to hot springs and ski resorts, spacious rooms, and a Western-style room. It comes to $27,000, and the previous owners left the home in April 2010. It needs some repairs but is otherwise live-able (Iekatsu-Kitagawa).


A Kominka Home In Proximity To A Beach

If you’re someone who needs to be near the ocean, then check out this Kominka. This part of Kyotango City has tons of abundant nature, including the sea and mountains. It’s only one kilometer from the downtown area and five kilometers to Kotobiki Beach, known for its “singing sand.” Constructors built the home in 1942. The home has a courtyard garden and a garage, which can double as a guesthouse with proper repairs (Instagram).

Cheap Houses Japan

Buying An Akiya Without First Seeing It

While we wouldn’t recommend what Coline did, which is buying a home without first seeing it, she was lucky. Originally from France, she fell in love with Japan during a visit and decided to invest in an Akiya. Some things she plans on renovating include, “Fixing the roof leaks, updating the electric system and doing the connection to the sewage system. The final part of the renovation will be about the traditional elements, tatamis, doors, and wooden structure.” Again, she bought the house for a cheap price but will spend a lot of money on renovations. She said, “I hope all this will cost between 50,000€ to 100,000€. I already have a few quotations done by the previous owners, that’s what I based my budget estimations on. I also plan to do a lot of things myself.” If you’re looking for a project like Coline was, then buying an Akiya might be a great investment (Cheap Houses Japan).


The Grand Japanese Villa

Just take a look at that superb hallway, and imagine yourself walking down its halls. This Kominka is located in Sanjo City, only an hour’s train ride from Tokyo. It’s only a five-minute drive to Sanjo City, which is an area known for its highly advanced metalworking technology. Even though it’s so close to a bustling downtown center, it feels secluded and quiet. Constructors built this Kominka in 1990 and renovated it in 2021, hence the reason it looks so new. It’s ready to move in to use as a home, guesthouse, or vacation property (Instagram).


A Kanazawa Machiya

This machiya, which is an old traditional home that once also functioned as a shop, was built during the Meiji era in 1902. It functioned as a confectionary before the owners turned it into a guesthouse. It’s within walking distance to the Higashi Chaya District. With two different entrances suitable to accompany two groups of guests, you can turn this vacation home into a family place or a guesthouse (Koryoya).


A Petite Home

Following the grand villa is a petite Japanese Kominka. This two-story home was originally built in 1931. The garage and Kura storage date back to 1868. The previous homeowners recently added the kitchen and bathroom area, which you can use as is, without needing to renovate it. Until the summer of 2022, the owner lived in this house, so it’s only recently abandoned. You’re less than a five-minute drive to the Yuwaky Onsen and a twenty-minute drive to downtown Kanazawa City (Instagram).


An Akiya On a Little Island

Located near the fishing port on Toshikima, you’ll need to take a ferry to get to your home. If you’re up for an adventure to the largest remote island in the city, then by all means, grab this house. It takes roughly 20 minutes to get from the ferry to this home. Constructors built it in 1969 and cost 9 million Yen, or $60,100 to own (Toba).


This Historical Japanese Sukiya-Style Villa

Doesn’t living in a historical Japanese home sound appealing? This Kominka was once owned by Taniguchi Toyosaburo. He was the previous head of the Toyobo Corporation and a famous businessman during the Show era. According to the sellers, “Toyobo is now one of Japan’s top manufacturers of fibers and textiles.” Perhaps owning this home will inspire you and spark you to build your own business! This home is a ten-minute walk to the Atami Sun Beach and close to nearby train stations. Lush greenery surrounds the villa; even though you’re in the heart of a bustling city, it’s tranquil. The most appealing part of the home has to be the fresh hot spring water you can access right inside the home (Instagram).


The Farmhouse Kominka

Located in a mountain area only twenty minutes from central Kanazawa City, this Kominka boasts a total of twelve rooms and a Kura storage unit. Those twelve rooms are spread across two stories, built with high-quality Zelkoba wood. The original owner used to own forested land in the region, hence the building material. You’re getting a completely natural home! (Instagram).


This Single-Family Home

Built-in 1961, this Akiya costs 3 million Yen, or $20,000, which is affordable in house terms. It’s a simple home, with rooms spread across two stories. It has most of the basic amenities already in place, making it easy to move in right away. It’s a 12-minute walk from the nearest train station and only a few kilometers from the nearest elementary school (Akiya).


A Century-Old Kominka

Located north of Kobe city, this home has a garage, a Kura storage unit, a traditional Japanese garden, and two annexes. You’ll need a car if you want to live in this area. It’s a 25-minute drive to Tambasasayama Castle Town and an hour’s drive to Kyoto. Before the home becomes livable, though, it’ll need cosmetic and equipment upgrades. There’s enough land for home gardening and manicuring, so it might be time to think about starting your vegetable garden (Instagram).


Dating Back to 1886

This machiya rests in the downtown area of an old castle town called Daishoji. Built in 1886, this 136-year-old townhouse remains much in its original state. You’ll find fine materials and craftsmanship in this home, which has the potential to run you a profit if you decide to turn it into a guesthouse. You’re also in a great location, only ten minutes from the famous Yamashiro Onsen and Katano sandy beach (Koryoya).


The Kominka Tsuji Residence

This home is a rare find, as 16 generations of the Tsuji family lived here. Previously, it was a village headman’s mansion (Shoya). For 250 years, Shoya existed during the Tokugawa Edo period, and the families that served as the village headman during this period lived in this house. According to the sellers, there’s the main Kominka, and “a brewery, nagayamon gate, and a few storages. While the kitchen, bathroom, and toilets are recommended to be upgraded, this property is in livable condition and has not been vacant until recently.” You’ll get all the antiques with the property, in addition to over 23,000 square meters of forested land (Instagram).

Cheap Houses Japan

From Akiya To Guesthouse

Homeowner Gilles purchased an Akiya for under $10,000 and turned it into a cafe and guesthouse, with a lot of work and renovation. During an interview, he said, “It took us 4 months in the winter of 2019 with some work trips back to Tokyo to fully complete the renovation process, which turned out to finally create a cafe and Lodge place, beside our base.” Another successful passion project that was worth the time and money. He said, “The total cost combined came to about US $45,000 that includes also the electricity, water work, home center equipment, appliances, decoration, etc… But it doesn’t take into account all the actual work of the 3 of us working mostly every day for 4 months nonstop.” He now has a beautiful home, and business (Cheap Houses Japan).


A Two-Century Old Akiya

This Akiya in particular dates back more than 200 years, to the Edo Period. It previously belonged to the Muchi family, with a history of 71 generations over a thousand years. Next to this, Akiya is a temple called “Fukujuji,” with ruins of Ishikawa Castle nearby. You’re only a ten-minute drive to the Amanohashidate sandbar and beach, which has over 7,000 pine trees. Before buying, take note that because this home is registered as a tangible cultural heritage, there may be renovation guidelines (Instagram).


A Three-Century-old Kominka

We’re going another century back with this Akiya, which could be yours for a decent price. Originally built in 1702, this home has been fully renovated since two decades ago. According to the seller, it was “Once a “Jinya” of the Naito family from the Kameyama feudal clan in the Edo period, and has been operated as a Ryotei restaurant since.” It’s in a great location, only 20 20-minute drive away from the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter (Instagram).


A Kominka Home Near A National Park

If nature calls, then this Akiya is for you. It’s over 100 years old and sits in the inlet of Tsukumo Bay. This bay is part of a larger national and marine park with a beautiful coastline in a deep emerald green color. The name translates to “99 Bay” thanks to its 99 Coves. From spring to fall, you can enjoy fishing, sightseeing, snorkeling, and SUP, all within proximity of your home. If you own a boat, you’re in luck, since this home comes with its very own dock (Instagram).


A Double Whammy Kominka

With this deal, you’ll get two Machiya townhouses built in the early Showa era. They’re both near downtown Kanazawa. The previous owner used one as a shared home, and the other as a residential property. There’s a cute backyard with greenery and plants, which you can convert into a small garden (Instagram).


The Perfect Family Home

Take note, you can only purchase this Kominka home if you plan on living in it. Other uses, like converting it into a guesthouse or restaurant, need permission from the city. This Akiya is over 100 years old, and a one-hour drive from downtown Kobe. It belonged to a family that prospered as a cotton trader back in the late Edo period. It has a main house, garden, four storehouses, and a cow shed (Instagram).


A Home With A Karahafu Style Entrance

This Kominka is a rare find, as it combines different traditional styles into one home. You’ll commonly see this Karahafu-styled entrance in traditional architecture, like Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. It’s a 40-minute drive from downtown Nagoya city and dates back over 120 years (Instagram).


A Home From 1977

Despite this being a home dating back more than 40 years, it’s still a hidden gem. It’s located in an urbanized area and costs roughly 7 million Yen, or $47,000. You’ll get four rooms, plus an additional living room, kitchen, and dining room. It’s perfect for a big family with little kids, as you’ll each get your bedroom. It’s located in Toba City and needs quite a bit of renovation before it’s livable, though it’s worth the investment (Akiya).