Couple transforms deserted Japanese house into guesthouse

Editor’s Be aware: Join Unlocking the World, CNN Journey’s weekly publication. Get the most recent information in aviation, foods and drinks, the place to remain and different journey developments.


He’d spent years backpacking all over the world, and Japanese traveler Daisuke Kajiyama was lastly able to return house to pursue his long-held dream of opening up a guesthouse.

In 2011, Kajiyama arrived again in Japan along with his Israeli associate Hila, who he met in Nepal, and the pair set about discovering the proper location for his or her future enterprise.

Nonetheless, there have been a few main obstacles of their approach. To start out with, Kajiyama had little or no cash to talk of after years of globetrotting round locations like Korea, Taiwan, India, Nepal, Guatemala, Cuba and Canada.

He additionally occurred to have his coronary heart set on a conventional Japanese home, sometimes generally known as kominka, that are often handed down over generations.

“I wished to have a conventional home within the countryside,” Kajiyama tells CNN Journey, explaining that he was decided to search out two homes positioned subsequent to one another, in order that he and Hila may dwell in a single, whereas the opposite can be a guesthouse that they’d run collectively. “I had a imaginative and prescient.”

Daisuke and Hila Kajiyama transformed an abandoned farming residence in Japan into a guesthouse.

When he was unable to search out something that met his necessities, Kajiyama determined to shift his search to incorporate the rising variety of deserted properties within the nation.

As youthful individuals ditch rural areas in pursuit of jobs within the metropolis, Japan’s countryside is changing into stuffed with “ghost” homes, or “akiya.”

In accordance with the Japan Coverage Discussion board, there have been 61 million homes and 52 million households in Japan in 2013, and with the nation’s inhabitants anticipated to say no from 127 million to about 88 million by 2065, this quantity is more likely to improve.

Kajiyama was driving round Tamatori, a small village positioned within the Shizuoka prefecture, between Kyoto and Tokyo, surrounded by inexperienced tea plantations and rice fields, when he got here throughout an aged girl farming, and determined to method her.

“I mentioned ‘Have you learnt if there are any empty homes round right here?’ And he or she simply pointed,” he recollects.

He seemed over on the space that she was signaling to and noticed two uncared for homes aspect by aspect – a former inexperienced tea manufacturing unit and an outdated farmer’s house – positioned near a river.

Each properties had been uninhabited for at the least seven years and wanted an enormous quantity of labor. Kajiyama requested the girl to contact the proprietor to search out out in the event that they’d be fascinated with promoting.

“The proprietor mentioned that nobody may dwell there, because it was deserted,” he says. “However he didn’t say ‘no.’ Everyone was all the time saying ‘no.’ However he didn’t. So I felt there was a small probability.”

Japan's countryside is littered with ghost houses, known as

Kajiyama returned to go to the homes round 5 occasions, earlier than going to go to the proprietor himself to barter an settlement that may see him use the outdated inexperienced tree manufacturing unit as a house, and convert the farmer’s home into the guesthouse he’d all the time envisioned.

Whereas he was eager to buy each of the properties, he explains that the traditions round house possession in Japan imply that he’s unable to take action till it’s handed right down to the son of the present proprietor.

“They mentioned ‘if you happen to take all of the accountability your self, you’ll be able to take it.’ So we made an settlement on paper,” he says.

Each he and Hila have been conscious that they’d lots of work forward of them, however the couple, who married in 2013, have been thrilled to be one step nearer to having their very own guesthouse in a perfect spot.

“It’s a really good location,” says Kajiyama. “It’s near town, nevertheless it’s actually countryside. Additionally individuals nonetheless dwell right here and go to work [in the city].

“The home can also be in entrance of the river, so while you fall asleep you’ll be able to hear the sound of the water.”

In accordance with Kajiyama, the method of clearing the home, which is round 90 years outdated, earlier than starting the renovation works was one of many hardest elements of the method, just because there was a lot stuff to kind by. Nonetheless, he was in a position to repurpose a few of the gadgets.

Throughout the first 12 months, he spent lots of time connecting with locals, gaining data concerning the house, and serving to the native farmers with farming for the primary 12 months or so.

He spent around $40,000 renovating the house, completing much of the work himself.

Though he wasn’t vastly skilled with renovation work, he had spent a while farming and finishing constructing whereas he was backpacking, and had additionally taken odd jobs fixing peoples properties.

He accomplished a lot of the work on the guesthouse himself, changing the flooring and including in a bathroom, which he says was a marriage current from his mother and father, at a value of round $10,000.

“I’m not likely an expert,” he says.” I love to do carpentry and I take pleasure in creating issues, however I’ve no expertise in my background.

“From my a number of years of backpacking, I noticed so many attention-grabbing buildings, so many homes of attention-grabbing shapes and I’ve been amassing these in my mind.”

Kajiyama was decided to maintain the home as genuine as potential by utilizing conventional supplies.

He saved cash by amassing conventional wooden from constructing corporations who have been within the means of breaking down conventional homes.

“They should spend the cash to throw it away,” he explains. “However for me, a few of the stuff is like treasure. So I might go and take the fabric that I wished.

“The home is a really, very outdated model,” he says. “So it wouldn’t look good if I introduced in additional trendy supplies. It’s completely genuine.”

He explains that little or no work had beforehand been finished to the home, which is kind of uncommon for a house constructed so a few years in the past.

“It’s completely genuine,” he says. “Normally, with conventional homes, some renovations are made to the partitions, as a result of the insulation is just not so sturdy. So that you lose the model.”

Yui Valley welcomed its first guests in 2014.

He says he obtained some monetary help from the federal government, which meant he was ready to usher in a carpenter and likewise benefited from Japan’s working vacation program, which permits vacationers to work in change for meals and board, when he wanted further assist.

After doing a little analysis into Japanese guesthouse permits, he found that one of many easiest methods to accumulate one can be to register the property as an agriculture guesthouse.

As the realm is stuffed with bamboo forests, this appeared like a no brainer, and Kajiyama determined to study all the pieces he may about bamboo farming in order that he may mix the 2 companies.

“That is how I began farming,” he says.

In 2014, two years after they started engaged on the home, the couple have been lastly in a position to welcome their first friends.

“It was a good looking feeling,” says Kajiyama. “After all, this was my dream. However individuals actually admire that it was deserted and I introduced it again to life.”

He says that internet hosting friends from everywhere in the world has helped him to remain related to his former life as a backpacker.

“I keep in a single place, however individuals come to me and I really feel like I’m touring,” he says. “At this time, it’s Australia, tomorrow it’s the UK and subsequent week South Africa and India.

“Folks come from totally different locations they usually invite me to hitch them for dinner, so generally I be a part of somebody’s household life.”

Sadly, Hila handed away from most cancers in 2022. Kajiyama stresses that his beloved spouse performed an enormous half in serving to him obtain his dream of getting a guesthouse and says he couldn’t have finished it with out her.

“We have been actually collectively,” he provides. “She created this place with me. With out her it might not have been like this.”

Whereas the three-bedroom guesthouse, which measures round 80 sq. meters, has been open for round eight years, Kajiyama continues to be engaged on it, and says he has no concept when he’ll be completed.

“It’s by no means ending,” he admits. “I’m midway, I really feel. It’s lovely already. But it surely began off deserted, so it wants extra particulars. And I’m getting higher at creating, so I would like time to do it.”

The guesthouse has three bedrooms, which are available to rent for around $120 a night.

He explains that he’s unable to finish work on the house whereas friends are there. And whereas the property is closed in the course of the winter, he spends two months as a bamboo farmer and often spends a month touring, which doesn’t depart him a lot time for renovations.

“Typically I don’t do something,” he admits.

Yui Valley, which presents actions equivalent to bamboo weaving workshops, has helped to convey many vacationers to the village of Tamatori through the years.

“A lot of the friends come after Tokyo, and it’s such a distinction,” he says. “They’re actually comfortable to share the character and the custom in our home.

“Most individuals have dreamed of coming to Japan for a very long time they usually have a really quick time right here.

“So that they have such a good looking vitality. I’m comfortable to host on this approach and be a part of their vacation time. It’s very particular [for me].”

Kajiyama estimates that he’s spent round $40,000 on the renovation work thus far, and if the suggestions from friends, and locals, is something to go by, it appears to have been cash nicely spent.

“Folks admire what I’ve finished,” he provides. “In order that makes me really feel particular.”

As for Hiroko, the girl who identified the home to him over a decade in the past, Kajiyama says she’s shocked on the transformation, and is amazed at what number of worldwide vacationers are coming to Tamatori to remain at Yui Valley.

“She can not consider how way more lovely it’s 1717994672,” he says. “She didn’t assume it was going to be like this. So she actually appreciates it. She says ‘thanks’ rather a lot.”

Yui Valley, 1170 Okabecho Tamatori, Fujieda, Shizuoka 421-1101, Japan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *