Renovating a 30-year old house into a zero-energy home

If you want a well-insulated house in Japan you usually need to build it yourself. If you are looking at an older house to buy or rent, insulation is usually lacking, unless the original owner decided to go the extra mile to create a home with insulation. For the majority of older homes, however, they tend to be built cheaply and can be cold in winter and hot in summer.

The construction and home building industry in Japan has come a long way in recent years with active efforts to create zero-energy homes. There are a lot of options now for double or triple-glazed glass windows, non-aluminum frames, insulation and thermal breaks.

These insulation options are not just limited to new construction, it is possible to renovate an existing home to make it a zero-energy home.

One of these projects was recently completed in Daizawa near Shimo-kitazawa Station in Tokyo.

Nara prison hotel to open in 2020

The 109-year old former Nara Juvenile Prison in Nara City will be converted into a hotel by 2020. On May 26, Japan’s Ministry of Justice announced that a group of 8 companies, led by Solare Hotels and Resorts, was the successful bidder for the project.  A total of 3 groups submitted bids back in January.

The prison was built in 1908 and is the only surviving example of the Five Prisons of the Meiji era. The red brick prison was designed by architect Keijiro Yamashita. Yamashita worked for the Ministry of Justice from 1897 to 1930, and designed many prisons across the country.

Homat Woodville converted to condominium

The former Homat Woodville apartment building, now called Woodville Azabu, in Nishiazabu has been converted into a condominium with apartments to be sold off individually as tenants move out.

Sales started in February 2017 with three apartments offered for sale. All three were immediately sold, including a 185 sqm (1,991 sq ft) apartment priced at 298,000,000 Yen (approx. 2.64 million USD). Additional apartments ranging from 141 sqm (268,000,000 Yen) to 178 sqm (328,000,000 Yen) were later offered for sale.

For Sale: 2-Bed apartment with designer renovation in Ichibancho

We have details on an early listing for a two-bedroom apartment with a stylish designer renovation in Ichibancho, Chiyoda-ku. The apartment will go on the open market later in the week.

Price: SOLD


The 114.95 square meter (1,237 sq.ft) corner apartment was given a tasteful and refined makeover by Kagami Reform in October 2016, and has a new kitchen, bathroom, wood flooring in the living/dining, tiled entrance and new carpeting in the bedrooms.

The living room features an open plan kitchen with plenty of storage, a pantry, dishwasher, oven, gas cooktop and bar sink. There is the option for the apartment to be sold semi-furnished.

Relocating a traditional Japanese house

A kominka relocation in Chiba. Image via Kanazawa Architectural Design Office.

Finding land with a traditional Japanese building for sale in the right location can be close to impossible regardless of budget. But, there are a number of these old traditional kominka available for purchase and removal across the country. If you find the right piece of land you may be able to relocate an old house of your choosing to the land.

These buildings can be bought for next-to-nothing. The real cost is in the actual relocation, although you may be surprised to find out that relocation costs may be similar to the cost of building a brand-new, average home.

NTT flips condominium building in Azabujuban

IKSIKS Azabujuban 1

NTT Urban Development and renovation company Rebita have converted a 27-year old former expat rental apartment building in Azabujuban into condominium units for individual sale.

The building, now called IKSIKS Azabujuban, is a 6-storey building completed in 1989. It was originally called Sun Palace Minamiazabu, and apartments were renting for around 3,300 ~ 3,500 Yen/sqm per month until recently. Several apartments are still occupied by tenants and won’t be available until the tenants agree to move out.

NTT acquired the building in 2015. Renovations were completed at the end of last month, and three of the thirteen apartments in the building are already under contract.

50-year old house renovation in Setagaya

Setagaya House 1

From a typical buyer’s perspective in Japan, ongoing improvements in earthquake-resistant construction methods, insulation and new bathrooms and kitchens means that newer homes ultimately win out over older houses. However, there has been a growing trend of renovating older homes. These renovations are proving popular with Japanese buyers who may have once only considered new construction.

Late last year, renovation company ReBITA Inc. completely gutted and remodelled a 50-year old house in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward. It was listed for 65,800,000 Yen (approx. 653,000 USD) and promptly sold. This is the 15th detached house that ReBITA have flipped. 

Top house flippers in Japan’s real estate market

Intellex’s Aoyama Renovation Studio

The Remodelling Business Journal published a ranking of the top property flipping real estate companies in Japan. These companies specialise in buying up second-hand homes and apartments, renovating them, and then reselling them to individual buyers.

In top spot was Gunma Prefecture-based Katitas Co., Ltd, with 3,034 re-sales over the past 12 months. Apartments only made up 5% of their properties traded, with the majority of sales being detached houses in regional areas. The average property was sold for 13,000,000 Yen (approx. 126,000 USD), and the average age of the property was 32 years. The company focuses on updating the bathroom and kitchens, as well as expanding car parking spaces in the properties they flip. They also conduct termite spraying and include a 5-year pest control warranty on the homes they sell.

Retro buildings popular with retail tenants

Although many retailers prefer newer construction, there are some stores in Japan that specifically look for the older, character-filled properties to complement their brand. Sterile retail space is being eschewed for pre-war or 1960s vintage buildings and homes that can be converted and renovated into trendy, one-of-a-kind spaces.

Cafe Conana Jiyugaoka

Cafe Conana, Jiyugaoka

In April 2015, Cafe Conana opened a branch in Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku. The cafe is in an old terrace house that was completely renovated with exposed ceiling beams, and a light and bright interior. Dropped ceilings were removed to expose the skeleton of the house. Rafters were painted white, and natural wood has been used throughout.